Is Kate McKinnon vegan?

She’s a comedian, actress, and writer, best known for her sketches and celebrity impressions on Saturday Night Live and The Big Gay Sketch Show. Apart from that, she has also appeared in a wide variety of movies and TV shows, either as an actress or as a voice actress. But is Kate McKinnon vegan?

No, Kate McKinnon is not vegan. According to herself, she was vegan for a while, but she went back to eating animal products because she was tempted by non-vegan pizza. She still avoids meat, including fish, but she has made an exception to that at least once.

Kate took in a stray cat

Before Kate went vegan, her concern for animals took the form of wanting to give a cat a home. In 2014, she was asked how she was spending her summer, and she said: “I have been searching for cats. … I’ve been going to cat shelters and I’ve been, you know, wanting a cat in my life, and I’ve been doing that way too often.”

Her visit to one particular shelter served as inspiration for her character Barbara DeDrew in the recurring sketch Whiskers R We. But the visits didn’t result in her actually finding a cat who she considered a good match.

She eventually found her “personal cat” in a pizzeria. He was a stray cat who was eating all the crusts, so they wanted him gone, and Kate decided to take him in. She even had to put him on a diet because he had gained so much weight. His name is Nino Positano, after the pizzeria. This video shows just how much Kate adores him:

Kate’s attempt at veganism

In an interview published in Elle in July 2016, it was mentioned that Kate had “recently decided to try on veganism.” However, the interviewer also mentioned that Kate wasn’t sure if she wanted that printed. “Just because of the social embarrassment of having to say that I’m a vegan,” Kate said.

In February 2017, on the day of the Oscars ceremony, Kate’s makeup artist gave an overview of her day. In that overview, she mentioned getting vegan croissants for Kate. However, she also mentioned the makeup brand she was using to do Kate’s makeup, and that wasn’t a vegan brand. It was a brand that tested on animals.

This could mean that when Kate said she was vegan, she was only referring to her diet. In that case, she was on a plant-based diet, but it would be inaccurate to describe herself as vegan because veganism is also about avoiding animal exploitation in other aspects of life. However, it could also mean that Kate was actually vegan in all aspects of life, but that she was simply unaware that her makeup had been tested on animals.

Either way, it didn’t stop animal rights organization PETA from nominating Kate for the title of Sexiest Vegan Celebrity of 2017. A title which she ultimately didn’t win.

Why Kate stopped being vegan

According to herself, she stopped being vegan after she saw a pizza-themed episode of David Chang’s show Ugly Delicious. She explains it in the following clip:

The episode she’s referring to is the first episode of season one, which was released in February 2018, and she told this story in August 2018. So, she started eating animal products again anywhere between those months.

Of course, “I watched a show about pizza, okay? And I was like, it’s calling me, I have to have it. Now I have to stop being a vegan.” is not a strong argument against veganism. For two reasons, actually.

The first reason is that veganism is based on ethics, and cravings don’t overrule ethics. If you agree that it’s wrong to artificially inseminate cows and kill their calves just to take the milk that was meant for their offspring, then that doesn’t suddenly become right when the milk is used to make cheese for pizza.

The second reason is that Kate could have simply eaten vegan pizza. Vegan pizza that tastes indistinguishable from non-vegan pizza already existed in 2018. It wasn’t as widely available as it is today, but it was available. And Kate, a multimillionaire living in New York City, could have had it delivered to her at any moment.

It’s tragic that she didn’t do that and instead started contributing to animal exploitation again.

Kate’s meat gift basket sketches

In 2016, South African animal rights activists rescued a pig from slaughter and took her to a farm sanctuary. The founder of the sanctuary gave her some items to play with, and she was immediately drawn to paint brushes. To encourage her, she was given a tailor-made brush and some non-toxic paint, and before long she was making her own abstract art. She was named Pigcasso and acquired worldwide fame:

This story served as inspiration for a Saturday Night Live sketch, which aired in early 2019, in which Kate played Vaneta Starkie, one of the fictional owners of the fictional company Smokery Farms Meat Gift Delivery Service. Here’s the sketch in full:

Kate’s character argues that animals like Pigcasso are harming their business: “People going vegan left and right because the damn internet keeps showing people videos with titles like ‘pig teaches deaf dog to bark.’” But Smokery Farms has a solution to that. To alleviate any feelings of guilt, they will “only serve meat from animals that are individually stupid and bad.” One of the examples given by Kate’s character is: “In a recent study of 100 chickens, all but one could identify himself in the mirror. So, we done got that one. His name was Sun Dan and now he’s a nugget. Bon appetit.”

Even though the characters are literally promoting meat, the sketch itself clearly offers social commentary on the growing awareness and discomfort around meat consumption and the way we view animals. Some people have argued that the sketch was made to discourage meat consumption, but Kate has not publicly commented on it herself.

Eight months later, when Burger King’s sales skyrocketed after the launch of a plant-based burger, Saturday Night Live aired a similar sketch in which Kate played the same character.

Kate ate fish in Cambodia

In October 2019, Netflix released a show called Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner. The show is hosted by chef David Chang, the same David Chang who made the pizza episode that Kate watched before deciding to give up veganism. But this time, Kate didn’t just watch David’s show, she starred in it.

Kate’s episode is set in Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, a location she picked herself. In the episode, Kate and David explore Cambodia’s history and cuisine.

The episode starts out with the two of them talking, and in that conversation, David says to Kate: “You’re a vegetarian.” Kate acknowledges that with a sigh. Then David continues: “But we’re in a country…” And before he can finish his sentence, Kate interjects: “Everything’s got shrimp in it.” “Or fermented fish,” David adds. And then Kate says: “Look, it’s been about three years. I’m on a roll. But if there’s fish or shrimp in it, it’s fine. I’ll do it.”

So, without any pressure from David, Kate decides to eat fish and shrimp again because she’s in Cambodia, which she chose to go to herself. And to be clear, it’s not hard to find vegan food in Cambodia. There are many restaurants in Phnom Penh that are either completely vegan or have vegan options on the menu, they’re all listed on the vegan restaurant review site HappyCow. And many of the restaurants not listed there would likely be willing to make a vegan dish as well, if someone asked.

But Kate doesn’t go that route. The episode doesn’t always make it clear when she’s eating something with fish or shrimp in it and when she’s just commenting on something David eats, but it’s clear that she eats it at least once, and probably more than once.

She also makes multiple comments throughout the episode that don’t show particular concern for the animals. For example, at the central market, she holds up a giant freshwater prawn while saying: “This one looks a little listless.” And later, at the same market, she says “I told myself that I would eat a cricket” before deciding not to. And shortly after that, when David is eating a prawn, she excitedly cheers him on: “Get in the head. What’s in there? What’s in there? Oh, yeah! What’s it like, David? What do you taste in there?” And at a restaurant with a live fish tank, she says to the big shrimps: “Hey buddies. Hope you’ve enjoyed your time. It’s gonna come to an end.”

Kate in the role of Carole Baskin

In November 2019, it was announced that a television adaptation of a Joe Exotic podcast was in the making. Kate would executive produce it and play the role of Carole Baskin, the founder of Big Cat Rescue and nemesis of convicted animal abuser Joe Exotic. This announcement was made before Netflix released the show Tiger King, which was also based on the story of Joe Exotic.

Not many details about the project were released, but both PETA and Carole Baskin herself urged Kate not to use real animals for the project, with PETA suggesting to use “only CGI, animatronics, or even existing footage of big cats and other animals.”

The official statement from Carole Baskin’s Big Cat Rescue also said: “We hope McKinnon has a passion for animals and that her series will focus on the horrible lives captive big cats lead when exploited by breeders like Joe Exotic. We further hope she urges the public to support the Big Cat Public Safety Act that would end the cub petting abuse in America.”

Hopefully, Kate takes these requests to heart.

Kate’s internal conflict

Kate has been conflicted about veganism from the start. The fact that she voluntarily decided to go vegan, but also mentioned “the social embarrassment of having to say that I’m a vegan” makes that very clear. And because none of her other reasons add up, social acceptance is probably the main reason why she went from being a vegan to being a vegetarian who is willing to make exceptions.

Understandable as this might be, it doesn’t change the fact that every animal product has a victim. This isn’t just true for meat. All animals in the animal industries get exploited and killed, and none of them deserve it. Our desire for social approval doesn’t justify their deaths.

Hopefully, Kate will give the topic more thought and decide to go vegan again. If, instead of watching another non-vegan food show, she watches a documentary like Dominion, which shows the reality of the animal industries, she might just find all the motivation she needs to stick with it.

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