This weekend, Lewis Hamilton announced that he’s recently turned to veganism.
The BBC reported him as saying that he hasn’t touched red meat for two years, stopped eating chicken at the beginning of the year, and recently gave up fish in favour of a plant-based lifestyle.
But unlike many athletes, he hasn’t done it simply for performance purposes.
We know that people like David Haye and Beyonce both turn to plant-based diets to shred or get in shape for shows and fights.
Endurance athletes like Ross Edgley like to cut out animal products and up their micronutrient intake ahead of events to prepare the body better for undergoing a lot of stresses.
But Lewis says that his decision to go vegan is an environmental one.
He doesn’t actually mention which documentary has spurred him on, but for those of us who spend our evenings glued to the vegan section of Netflix, it sounds like he’s been watching stuff like Cowspiracy and What The Health – two of the most terrifying films on the net.
‘As the human race, what we are doing to the world… the pollution [in terms of emissions of global-warming gases] coming from the amount of cows that are being produced is incredible,’ he’s reported to have said.
‘They say it is more than what we produce with our flights and our cars, which is kind of crazy to think. The cruelty is horrible and I don’t necessarily want to support that and I want to live a healthier life.’
At the moment, he has chefs cooking for him out in Singapore but he acknowledges that sticking to veganism once he’s home could be hard work.
And yet, he’s obviously done his research.
‘So far I don’t feel as if I have been missing out But I don’t know how easy it is going to be when I get home. That is going to be a real test.
‘Every person I have met who has gone vegan says it is the best decision they have ever made.
‘When you watch this documentary and you see meat clogging up your arteries, you see all the stuff they put in the meat, stuff we are all eating, there is no way I am going to disregard that.
‘I don’t want in 10 or 20 years to have diabetes or catch any of that stuff.’
This, surely, is proof that veganism has gone from being the fringe interest of hippies, to being a mainstream concern.
Once we get sportspeople – multimillionaires who spend half their time being papped at glamorous parties and beach clubs – talking about the environmental and health impact of a completely plant-based lifestyle, that’s when we know we’re making tracks.
Lewis Hamilton has a huge influence on his fans. He’s probably the only Formula 1 driver many people can name in this country. He’s dated a Pussycat Doll.
You can’t get much more mainstream than Lewis everyone’s-favourite-guy-from-Stevenage Hamilton.
In fact, he’s probably the only reason anyone’s even heard of Stevenage.
He doesn’t have to talk about his diet or his environmental concerns. He doesn’t have to admit to being scared sh*tless by the impending global warming disaster that’s about to annihilate the planet. He doesn’t have to warn people about the detrimental health effects of animal product consumption.
He could just talk cars – he’s well within his rights to do. Sportsmen aren’t under any obligation to talk or do anything other than their actual jobs, which are incredibly demanding.
And yet, ahead of the Singapore Grand Prix on Sunday, he spends his press conference extolling the virtues of veganism.
He’s exactly the sort of character we need to be associated with the movement – the sort of down-to-earth, successful, conscious role model who might actually be able to speak to younger generations about their health and the environment in a way that they can actually relate to.
Veganism needs to distance itself from the keyboard warriors who troll vegetarians and meat eaters for being everything that’s wrong with the world. It doesn’t need Peta making everyone sick with their images of battery animals.
Lewis Hamilton has probably done more for the mainstream vegan cause in 10 minutes than all the hyper-angry activists have over the past 10 years.
Let’s hope he does continue on the path and does occasionally talk about its challenges.
As he concluded on Saturday: ‘I think it’s the right direction and by letting people who are following me know, maybe that will encourage a couple of people to do the same thing.’