Above photo of Lewis Hamilton, via Mark Thompson | Getty
From climate justice films to vegan celebrities, entertainment and purpose are going to have a *big* year.
Say what you want about this past year (and there’s a lot we can say), but 2020 produced many wins for the sustainability-minded: The release of David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet, Lizzo deciding to go vegan, and award shows serving plant-based meals to A-list honorees – not to mention all the animal rights speeches Joaquin Phoenix got to deliver. But what’s on tap for 2021? LIVEKINDLY caught up with some activists, filmmakers, and experts to bring you this forecast of the biggest entertainment trends with a sustainability focus to look forward to in 2021.
Films About Sustainability and Animal Rights Will Rule
The International Vegan Film Festival will host its fourth year in October 2021. Director Shawn Stratton is seeing health and nutrition-based films take a backseat to shorter animal welfare-type films, with filmmakers “minimizing the dramatic slaughterhouse scenes and focusing more on compelling storylines, like following an ex-employee who used to work in the meat trade.” And with the increase in animal sanctuaries opening, Stratton is also predicting submissions of that nature. The fest went virtual in 2020 and will likely be an online/in-person hybrid in 2021. Find out more about the festival here.
The End of Medicine, a collaboration between director Alexander Lockwood and producer Keegan Kuhn (What the Health, Cowspiracy), explores how our treatment of animals is leading to devastating health impacts in the form of pandemics and antibiotic resistance. The film is executive produced by Joaquin Phoenix and Rooney Mara and will be coming out in early 2021. Lockwood says the current pandemic has made the timing surreal. “We began filming in October 2019 before COVID-19 and COVID has really revealed to us the magnitude of this issue—that if we use animals as commodities, we place ourselves at risk,” he explains.
Meat The Future explores the world of cell-based meat. Director/producer Liz Marshall says it will have a wide release in 2021. This is one that Stratton showed at his 2020 fest. “We debated if we should even show this film as it is technically not vegan-themed as they are still using part of an animal to make their meat but what they are doing, if it works on a large scale, will save more animals than anything ever has, so we decided to show it,” he says. Find out more about the film here. You can also read our interview with Marshall here.
Nureongi is a challenging new documentary that explores the dog meat trade in South Korea and is directed by Kevin S. Bright, executive producer of Friends. “The documentary follows a proud Korean-American woman’s search to understand her homeland’s preservation of this tradition as she creates a foundation to rescue and re-home ‘meat dogs’ as pets in the U.S.,” says producer Ariana Garfinkle. “The film looks at all sides of a sensitive and controversial issue. The ambiguity of Korean laws, the livelihood of the farmers, the passion of the activists, and the harsh reality of the meat dog’s life and death are depicted against the backdrop of present-day Korea.”
They’re Trying To Kill Us, by, Keegan Kuhn (Cowspiracy, What the Health), follows vegan activist John Lewis, as he uncovers the intersections of diet, disease, poverty, systemic racism, and government collusion with industry. The project, says Lewis, “utilizes the incredibly influential power of hip hop to weave together an impactful story of deceit played out on the American people.” Read more about the film here.
Kip Andersen says since What the Health came out, he’s been forced to lay pretty low: “I’ve been almost basically in hiding. I’m not even on social media,” he reveals. Andersen will be back in 2021 with two big media projects, which he’s not allowed to reveal yet. But the answers about his absence will be addressed in these products and he promises his upcoming endeavors are going to be big.
Australia’s first Vegan Film Festival is launching May 28, 2021. “We received submissions from all around the world – 55% are focused on animals, 30.3% on vegan lifestyle/food, and 18.2% on climate action,” says deputy director Rebecca Burnett. More info here. Burnett adds that as Australia is second in the world for vegans, “now is a great time to capture local audiences that are vegan and pre-vegan and entertain them with films that don’t use veganism as the butt of jokes, and inspire people to take positive actions.”
Vegan Celebrities Will Continue to Use Their Influence
Lady Gaga teamed up with Oreos to “shine a spotlight on kindness and plant-based living from the ethics standpoint,” says Christina Perillo. These will be on shelves in January. Colin Kaepernick and Ben & Jerry’s are launching Change the Whirled pints in January. In addition to being vegan, the flavor supports social justice.
Kate Mara is looking to 2021 to continue her animal activism, including supporting the completion of a new sanctuary for orphaned chimpanzees with Liberia Chimpanzee Rescue & Protection. She is also working towards the passage of the Big Cat Public Safety Act with the Animal Legal Defense Fund, supporting animal protection organizations that stand against racial injustice and, “continuing to highlight the many benefits of vegan living.“ You can find our interview with Mara here.
Carmen Electra is launching her own vegan skincare line, GOGO Skincare. She’s been very inspired by the movement behind the documentary Takeout and hopes to be able to hop into some activism in that space in the New Year.
Harley Quinn Smith started the Vegan Abattoir podcast with her dad, Kevin Smith, in 2020 and has big plans for the show in 2021. “It’s been so incredible to connect with so many inspiring individuals in the vegan community, and I can’t wait to connect with more activists and share their stories with you all,” she says. We recently spoke with the Smiths about the new podcast, find our interview with them here.
Cher spent 2020 advocating for animals to be rescued, such as “Pakistan’s loneliest elephant” and a gorilla living alone in a Thailand shopping mall zoo. In 2021, we’ll likely see more bold moves in that realm from this super star.
In 2021, seven-time Formula One champion and vegan activist Lewis Hamilton will continue speaking out for the animals. In March 2020, the race car driver expanded vegan his restaurant chain, Neat Burger, opening eight locations in one day across London. And Los Angeles- and New York-based foodies can look forward to getting their hands on these plant-based burgers. The chain is expected to open additional locations in these cities.
Lizzo celebrated six months of being vegan last October and will hit her year of veganism milestone in April. She will likely create some influential TikTok videos to celebrate the occasion!
Long-time vegan and environmental activist, Alicia Silverstone, is excited to get back to work in 2021 — “creating awareness is what brings about change” — and recognizes that in 2020, activism was limited because so many were distracted by politics and by Covid. She will continue with speaking engagements, using her blog and social platforms to inspire others to make better choices, and assist individuals in altering their lifestyles. “My activism stems from wanting the animals to stop suffering, the planet to heal, and to make sure we have clean air, clean water, and clean food,” she says. Silverstone recently launched a new line of myKind Organics: Elderberry & Sleep and Cough & Mucus to give people a way to keep their immune systems strong — something that is a bigger focus than ever these days — via “wholesome plant goodness.”
Billie Eilish will continue to work alongside her vegan activist mother, Maggie Baird, with Support + Feed, helping to provide plant-based meals to those in need.
And vegan influencers are becoming their own celebrity culture, with people like John Lewis, Dominik Thompson, Nimi Delgado, and Koya Webb, among those that are leading the charge, and racking up followers along the way. Tabitha Brown will keep her activism going strong and experts predict the amount of vegan content on TikTok is going to continue to thrive with Brown and many copycats leading the way. Ewelina Augustin, co-founder and CEO of The Vegan Warehouse, thinks this will bring some inclusivity to the space. “Veganism has not always had the reputation of being welcoming to all, but this narrative is without a doubt changing. This holds true from the plant-based recipes shared across blogs becoming more inclusive of diverse ethnic backgrounds to the representation among role models in the vegan community,” she explains. Augustin says that with platforms like TikTok, there is more room for creators in the vegan niche to share their unique points of view and challenge the status quo.
Hollywood Will Become More Sustainably Minded
Andersen says we are reaching a paradigm shift where veganism is becoming more standard and a “post vegan world” is on the horizon. He mentions the act of killing animals – carnism – is a belief system. “But in reality, who we are as human beings is we are compassionate and we have to be conditioned to actually not be vegan – you have to be conditioned at a young age. So in 2021, it’s not just going to be about being a vegan or plant-based, it’s about being an activist.” The movement will be teaching individuals how they can become activists in their own right – joining forces with movements like Rose’s Law, which is advocating for animal rights.
“More celebrities are tending toward earth-friendly food, as we saw a number of events in Hollywood from the Oscars to the Emmy’s, serving plant-based catering,” says Jennifer Molidor, Ph.D senior food campaigner with the Center for Biological Diversity. She sees this trend of plant-based options on the menu at high profile entertainment events continuing in 2021.
Food waste will also be a hot topic. “We waste 30% of all the food produced, and in the US nearly 60% of this happens at the consumer level,” says James Collier, head of sustainable nutrition at Huel. Miriam Aniel, head of content and research at Tastewise, adds that food and beverage based on scraps is up 58% year over year, with 23% of all scraps discussions focusing on recycling. She sees people scrambling to find a solution to this in 2021 and a trend of creating products like soup stocks at home out of veggie scraps.
Nancy Montuori, founder and host of Ordinary Vegan Podcast, sees COVID-19 as launching a plant-based health revolution in 2021. “If there is one thing COVID-19 has taught us is that our health is our top priority. And many people know that eating plant-based foods is the best way to strengthen your immune system and protect yourself from chronic disease,” she says.
And Eric Walton, a vegan activist and founder of Vegan Future Now, predicts the entertainment industry will continue to move away from the use of live animals. “CGI can now do the job of creating hyper-realistic representations of nonhuman animals, rendering the use of live animals obsolete,” he says. PETA agrees, adding that after the Tiger King, there will likely be no more wild animals on talk shows. “After receiving pleas from PETA, talk shows responded by highlighting conservation efforts and adoptable animals from local shelters instead of dragging wild animals onto sets,” says press outreach manager Moira Colley.
Books, Podcasts, and Art Will Shift Mindsets
We’ve moved past the basic Vegan 101 and 2021’s publishing landscape is focusing on more niche subjects, like raising vegan children. If It Does Not Grow, Say No, for example, is an activity-based plant-based eating book geared towards kids.
Gary Francione is hoping his forthcoming book Why Veganism Matters: The Moral Value of Animals (Critical Perspectives on Animals: Theory, Culture, Science, and Law), sparks some serious dialogue. “What I want to do is to explain to everyone out there who loves animals that if you are still eating, wearing, or using animals, you need to rethink what ‘love’ means,” he says.
Amber Ward is launching Vegan IRL next month and with VR experiences and immersive experience installations related to animal welfare and sustainability happening throughout 2021. “The goal is to start a dialogue around the consequences of our food choices (both positive and negative), and to encourage people to get into the habit of asking questions about why they consume the things that they consume,” she says.
Kindadvertising, a vegan and woman-run marketing agency, recently wrapped a social media ad campaign with Cruelty Free International, prompting U.S. voters to pledge to stand for more humane alternatives to animal testing over the next four years. It generated a conversion rate of 250% above the highest industry benchmark—signaling a shift in public sentiment on the use of animals in laboratory research and testing and showing promise for reforms in 2021 and beyond.
Vegan Fashion Will Take Over Film Sets
Natalie Portman asked to have the wardrobe department outfit her in 100% cruelty-free fashion on the set of Vox Lux and 2021 will find more of an intersection of vegan fashion and entertainment. Celebrity fashion designer Matt Sarafa, for instance, says more and more celebs are joining in the Proud to Wear Fake campaign. He is launching a faux fur bomber-jacked line with PETA, which he says will help replace real fur on set. And Vegan Fashion Week founder Emmanuelle Rienda, adds that more and more celebrities will be asking for vegan apparel to wear on sets of music videos, in movie wardrobes, and in photoshoots. “As the world grapples with the environmental impact of animal agriculture—which includes the leather industry—start-ups are responding by creating eco-friendly leathers from plant materials,” says Colley.
Speaking of Portman, MycoWorks, backed by The Black Swan star and John Legend, has created leather from mushrooms. Stella McCartney recently partnered with Bolt Threads, a company that makes mushroom leather, so we’ll surely see some snazzy new handbags from her line this year. And Andersen is helping to launch “a super high-end luxury eco-conscious fashion brand.” The goal, he says, is “to revolutionize the super high end – Gucci, Hermes, Yves Saint Laurent, etc. — that entire industry with the World’s first-ever eco-conscious higher luxury line, Tulko.” It will be launching second to third quarter in 2021.
Looking ahead, there is so much on the horizon within the plant-based activism space. As veganism continues to grow around the globe, entertainment will be a driving force to get this message across — especially in a world that is struggling to get back to normal in the midst of a pandemic. “In the current climate where we can’t meet in person for protests etc., online education and information has been utilized more this year than ever before,” says Burnett, who thinks this will continue far into the future. “I think some of that will be here to stay, even if it becomes safe to gather in big numbers again,” she explains. Thus, for the time being, it’s up to the documentaries and films, books and art installations, Instagrammers and TikTokers, and celebrities and activists with a platform to get the word across. We’re excited to see what 2021 brings!
Written by Nicole Pajer
Nicole Pajer is a freelance writer published in The New York Times, Parade, Woman’s Day, AARP, Men’s Journal, Wired, and more. She writes about health, culture, and entertainment.