If you only think of Alicia Silverstone as the star of 1995’s Clueless, you’ve missed out on a lot of developments in this actress’s life. In addition to her ongoing career — which includes several successful appearances on Broadway — she's become a well-known advocate for going vegan, animal rescue and other aspects of animal rights activism.
Today, Silverstone's proud to use her fame to help animals. As she said when she first began to work with animal rights groups, "The only thing that makes any sense about being a celebrity to me is this — being able to make a difference.”
Silverstone’s love of animals — and interest in animal rights — began with animal rescue. In her 2009 book, The Kind Diet, she wrote: “I’ve always been an animal-lover. Since I was a little, little girl. And my mom was the same way; if we saw a dog running in the street that looked in need, she’d slam on the brakes, and I’d hop out of the car to run after it — even on the freeway. We were a little dynamic duo.”
While living on her own in Los Angeles, a young Silverstone took in an abandoned mutt who’d been hurt in a car accident. The actress also began to visit animal shelters, and to take home many of their unwanted occupants. By 1998 she was involved with Ark Trust Inc.’s Red Alert program, which wanted to ensure that animals in shelters wouldn’t be accidentally killed before they could be adopted by an interested family.
Silverstone is still actively rescuing dogs today.
A committed vegan
With her love of animals, it wasn’t long before Silverstone decided that it was wrong to keep eating them. She became a vegan in 1998. As she later explained, “At one point I looked at my dog, who was my best friend, and I thought, If I’m not going to eat you, then how can I eat these other creatures who have the same capacity for love and joy?”
To encourage others to consider veganism and vegetarianism, Silverstone has created a blog, The Kind Life, whose topics include her vegan lifestyle. And her book, The Kind Diet, touts the positive changes she’s experienced since going vegan.
In fact, Silverstone is so devoted to veganism that her beloved dogs are also fed a vegan diet. According to her, “They are happier, healthier and less aggressive since they stopped eating meat. It just doesn’t make any sense to kill one animal to feed another.” (With care to make sure they’re getting proper nutrition, dogs are able to safely live as vegans.)
When it comes to vegan people, Silverstone doesn't shy away from advocating for their rights as well. When members of the punk/protest group Pussy Riot were jailed in Russia, Silverstone was aghast to learn that Maria Alekhina, a vegan, didn’t have access to appropriate food while in prison. She decided to write to Vladimir Putin to remedy this, with a letter that stated in part: “I’m sure you can agree that everyone has the right to show compassion and refrain from harming animals by being vegan. May I please have your assurance that Ms. Alekhina will have access to vegan foods? Thank you for your time and attention to this urgent matter.”
Silverstone’s letter didn’t mention whether or not Alekhina had a right to protest — a touchy subject for Putin — but there’s still no indication that the Russian leader read her correspondence. (Fortunately, Alekhina was released from prison in 2013.)
Work with PETA
Silverstone received a lot of attention for her appearances in Aerosmith music videos, but in 1997 People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals had her star in a different kind of video. In the spot, she urged students in California to exercise their right not to dissect animals like pigs, cats, frogs and worms, reminding them, “[B]iology is the study of life, not death.”
PETA has shown it truly understands how to harness the power of celebrity, having created eye-catching, often skin-baring ads with stars like Pamela Anderson, Eva Mendes and Dave Navarro. Given her commitment to being a vegan, Silverstone was also happy to lend her name — along with her naked body — to a PETA campaign for vegetarianism in 2007.
There’s no way to know if Silverstone’s ad resulted in any converts, but it definitely got the public’s attention.
Uses cruelty-free products
Like many people, Silverstone only buys cosmetics that aren’t tested on animals. What sets Silverstone apart is that she has a high enough profile to get attention when talking about the importance of cruelty-free products.
In 2011, when the European Union was considering whether to hold companies accountable to a complete ban on animal-tested products — set to take effect in 2013 — Silverstone wrote a letter to the European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy. She noted, “Testing these products on animals is inherently cruel — and it's not a good predictor of how it will affect humans…. We need to encourage cosmetics companies to keep investigating new testing methods that will better protect both humans and animals.”
Though some companies argued that they did not have effective replacements for a few of their tests, the ban went into effect in 2013, meaning that all cosmetics sold in the EU cannot be tested on animals.
Silverstone’s also shared her ethos about not hurting animals in Hollywood. While starring on the (short-lived) television show Miss Match, she made sure her wardrobe didn’t contain wool (so that sheep wouldn’t be mistreated) and even silk (because it’s made by silkworms).
Against factory farming
Unsurprisingly for a dedicated vegan, Silverstone is also an opponent of factory farming. In The Kind Diet she wrote about factory animals: “These animals experience lives tantamount to humans being strapped into straitjackets, locked in cells, abused by jailers, awaiting nothing but death.”
Silverstone is also a supporter of Farm Sanctuary. As its name suggests, Farm Sanctuary offers refuge for a few lucky farm animals. The organization also advocates for better treatment of all farm animals.
Promoting Farm Sanctuary through television and magazines, Silverstone has introduced many people to the organization. She’s also a spokesperson for its Compassionate Communities campaign, which encourages people to eat less, or no, meat. Silverstone has also contributed a tasty dessert recipe to the organization's new book, Living the Farm Sanctuary Life.
So are you inspired yet? If you'd like to follow in Silverstone's footsteps, why not celebrate a birthday at Farm Sanctuary? Silverstone, her husband and her son have all done so.