He’s the creator of the animated sitcoms Family Guy, The Cleveland Show, and American Dad! And he created the sci-fi dramedy The Orville, which he stars in as well. Besides that, he has been involved in many other projects, like the movies Ted and A Million Ways to Die in the West, and he also has a successful singing career. But is Seth MacFarlane vegan?
No, Seth MacFarlane is not vegan. Although he has given animal rights some attention in his shows, and he has helped to set up a cat sanctuary, he hasn’t given up meat or other animal products. He also warns about climate change but hasn’t publicly connected this to the consumption of animal products.
Animal rights in Seth’s shows
As an animator and writer, Seth has worked on shows with anthropomorphic animal main characters since the beginning of his career. Some of the first shows he worked on were Cartoon Network’s Cow and Chicken and I Am Weasel. Even these shows contained some elements that could make people think deeper about meat consumption, like Cow and Chicken’s habit of ordering pork butts in the cafeteria and the presence of a cousin called Boneless Chicken, but it’s unlikely that this inspired many viewers to give up meat.
The shows that Seth has created himself also contain anthropomorphic animal characters, and animal rights as well as veganism are occasionally brought up by the human characters as well. However, sometimes they’re brought up just to be mocked. For example, in the Family Guy episode Death Lives (season 3, episode 6), the character Death goes on a date with a rather ditzy woman who keeps talking about animals until he gets so annoyed that he kills her:
Another example can be found in Family Guy’s spin-off, The Cleveland Show. At one point in the episode Little Man on Campus (season 2, episode 5), there’s a vegan barbecue cutaway gag. In the scene, a vegan man asks Cleveland if he wants some “facon” on his “not dogs and shamburgers.” So, Cleveland immediately grabs the man’s hand and pushes it on the grill to remind him of what burning meat smells like. The vegan man admits that it smells good:
And in the American Dad! episode The Life and Times of Stan Smith, Stan and Francine visit “the healthiest restaurant in town.” It’s called Le Leaf and serves literal twigs:
But veganism isn’t always the butt of the joke. For example, in the Family Guy episode Killer Queen (season 10, episode 16), Peter and Chris go to fat camp and Peter scares the overweight teenagers by telling them about vegan restaurants:
And sometimes, an actual statement against animal exploitation is made, like in the Family Guy episode A Lot Going on Upstairs (season 14, episode 15), in which a cutaway gag shows Peter performing in SeaWorld as if he’s one of the captive orcas. He’s called Shampeter, a reference to the Shamu orca shows, and voices real animal rights concerns while jumping out of the water:
But the Family Guy episode that focuses more on animal rights than any other episode is Dog Gone (season 8, episode 8). In that episode, Brian, the anthropomorphic dog, accidentally runs over another dog with his car. He feels extremely guilty about it, but when he tells the others, they just laugh at him because “nobody cares if a dog gets killed.” This makes him feel even worse. So, he sets out to “make people see that an animal’s life is just as important as a human’s.”
He sets up an advocacy group, the Quahog Animal Equal Rights League, and invites everyone he knows to the first meeting. In that meeting, he makes a case against using animals for any purpose. But, unfortunately, no one is willing to change, and the meeting ends with the audience trying to eat him. That’s when he realizes that no one cares about him and other animals, and he gives up completely. But Stewie cheers him up by killing another dog and making the family think it’s Brian, just to show Brian how upset they are when they think he died.
Here’s the full speech Brian gives at the animal rights meeting:
The Cleveland Show also has an entire episode dedicated to animal rights. In that episode, titled Turkey Pot Die (season 4, episode 4), Cleveland takes his son Junior to pick out a turkey to shoot for Thanksgiving. Junior, however, doesn’t want to do that because “killing innocent animals is wrong.” He eventually manages to convince his dad, and the two of them engage in various kinds of activism. Ultimately, they manage to save 27 turkeys from certain death.
The end of the episode, however, makes it clear that neither character has any plans to go vegan. And it also questions the logic behind applying different morals to different species. Cleveland says to Junior: “Let’s not go through the same thing over our Christmas ham.” And Junior responds by telling his father that he has no problem strangling a pig with his bare hands and that he would also like to kill a human someday.
The only main character on any of Seth’s animated shows that deals with the topic on a regular basis is Haley in American Dad! But she’s not vegan. She’s a meat eater who occasionally adopts vegetarianism, only to go back to eating meat again.
Her reasons for going back to eating meat are always superficial. For example, in the episode No Snoops Allowed, she accidentally eats veal and then uses that as an excuse to go on a meat eating spree. She first eats a cheeseburger, then a live octopus, and then tries to eat the brain of a gorilla who knows sign language. And a few seasons later, in the episode Strike For Your Right, she has a job as a sandwich delivery driver and skims meat off the double meat orders. Her mom asks her when she stopped being a vegetarian and she says: “When I started getting high driving meat around town.”
This habit of going back to eating meat on a whim undermines her credibility when she speaks on the topic. So, her on-again, off-again vegetarianism serves more as commentary on her personality than on animal rights. Not to mention that vegetarianism is in itself inconsistent because animals aren’t only killed for meat, but also for other animal products that vegetarians still eat, like eggs and dairy.
Apart from references in animated shows, Seth has also included a reference to animal rights in his sci-fi dramedy The Orville. In the story, which is set in the 25th century, food synthesizers can produce any type of food on the spot, and humans no longer exploit animals. But the show features many alien life forms, and not all of them have outgrown the habit of exploiting other species.
In the second episode of the first season, the characters Ed (played by Seth) and Kelly get captured by an alien species and end up in one of their zoos. While they talk about their dire situation with fellow captives, they reflect on the fact that humans used to do this to other species as well, before it was recognized as cruel:
Seth’s views on using animals for entertainment
Seth has written, directed, and starred in live action movies such as Ted and A Million Ways to Die in the West. Because of that, he has had to think about the role of real animals in entertainment. In 2014, he was interviewed by animal rights organization PETA and shared his views on it:
“Animals are a part of our everyday life, regardless of the period. So, they’re gonna pop up in movies from time to time. You can ensure that they’re not having a bad time. … If it were up to me, it would be the law that you have to treat animals that way if you’re doing a movie. And I think at some point it will be. I think that’s the next big civil rights victory of sorts that will eventually, you know, find its way into actuality.”
He said that when he was working on Ted, which came out in 2012, they were faced with the question of how to film the scene in which CGI teddy bear Ted (voiced by Seth) fought a duck. Someone suggested antagonizing a real duck to make it look like he was fighting Ted, but Seth was not okay with that and chose to use an animatronic duck instead. Similarly, he said that when he was directing A Million Ways to Die in the West, he told the crew to stay away from “anything that will even psychologically antagonize an animal.”
He also mentioned a “horror story” he had heard from a friend “who worked on a movie about a giraffe that was kept out in the bitter cold, on a movie, and died.” And he referred to it as “one of the worst things [he] had ever heard in [his] life.”
The full interview is available here. It’s only two minutes long:
It should be noted, though, that Seth and other actors did ride horses in A Million Ways to Die in the West. Since horseback riding is one of the most normalized forms of animal exploitation, Seth probably didn’t think he was doing anything wrong. But horses need to be broken in to even allow it, and it’s not in their own best interests to carry humans on their backs who control their every move. That’s also why it’s not considered vegan.
Seth’s views on killing animals for fun
In 2015, Cecil, the most famous wild lion in the world, was killed in Zimbabwe by an American trophy hunter. This sparked a worldwide discussion about trophy hunting and hunting in general. During this time, Seth tweeted his perspective on it as well:
“When a child kills an animal for fun, we fear mental illness. When an adult with the capacity to reason does it, we call it ‘sport.’ #Cecil”
— Seth MacFarlane (@SethMacFarlane) August 1, 2015
What’s particularly interesting about this statement is that the same reasoning can also be applied to meat and other animal products. We don’t have any nutritional need for them, and most of us have plenty of other food available to us, so the only reason we would eat animal products is for personal enjoyment, aka: fun. If we condemn hunters for killing animals for fun, then how can we justify paying people to kill animals simply because we enjoy eating their bodies and secretions?
Seth helped to set up a cat sanctuary
Tragically, Seth’s mother, Perry MacFarlane, died of cancer in 2010. Over the course of her life, she was involved in rescuing cats and other animals. So, as a tribute to her, Seth teamed up with the Los Angeles-based nonprofit Heaven on Earth Society, which specializes in helping cats that aren’t likely to get adopted because they’re elderly, FIV+ or have behavioral or physical problems. Seth helped them set up a cage-less, no-kill sanctuary with 5,500 feet of interior space. They named it Perry’s Place.
Seth also has cats himself and regularly posts pictures of them on Instagram. And he has publicly supported a ban on cat declawing. Responding to a news article in 2019 which stated that New York could become the first state to ban cat declawing, he tweeted:
“It’s about time. Cat declawing is cruel and inhumane. If you don’t want the claws, don’t get the cat. A) It’s extremely painful. B) If your indoor cat gets out and encounters an adversary, you’re taking away its only defense. Don’t be a dick. Don’t declaw.”
— Seth MacFarlane (@SethMacFarlane) June 4, 2019
Seth is concerned about climate change
Seth considers man-made climate change a serious threat, and he has done so for many years. In 2014, he executive produced the show Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey. It consisted of 13 episodes, one of which was dedicated to climate change. And in 2015, he executive produced the documentary This Changes Everything, which focused on it as well.
He has also spoken about it on various occasions, and not just to people who agree with him. In 2014, he debated a skeptical Breitbart journalist and argued that everyone should be on the same page about this, regardless of political views:
“I don’t agree with a lot of the politics of the Right, but I can at least understand why they believe what they believe. Climate change is the one issue where I am utterly mystified. … In just three hundred years, a very short period of time in human history, science has given us antibiotics and flown an airplane. We can’t just start ignoring science with climate change. It would be foolhardy.
“When you’re talking about a claim like climate change, where you’re talking about a massive global transformation that could seriously jeopardize civilization, you better have some damn good evidence to back it up. Not every one of them, but a vast majority of scientists accept that evidence. … It’s just not a political issue for me. … Climate change is an issue of science and data.
“I’m not listening to the politicians. I’m not listening to Obama, who hasn’t given this the attention it deserves. I’m listening to scientists and climatologists and astrophysicists. What’s the agenda for them to lie? Grant money? That would be absurd at that level. And the data and records exist that show glacial deterioration over time. … This stuff genuinely scares the shit out of me, and I’m the biggest skeptic on the planet.”
With regards to solutions, he thinks that “one person cannot really do anything.” According to him, “it has to come from a regulatory level, it’s the only way to affect any kind of change.” That’s why he has consistently supported politicians who he thinks take climate change seriously enough. He has donated millions of dollars.
And, in 2019, he also donated a million dollars to Rainforest Trust, a nonprofit that aims to protect rainforests. When he made the donation, he said: “The science is clear on the connection between preventing deforestation and addressing the climate crisis.”
The animal industries’ environmental impact
Because of Seth’s focus on legislation, he seems to be overlooking the connection between climate change and consumer choices, especially the choice to consume and use animal products.
Producing animal products requires far more water, fuel, and land than producing plant-based products. That’s because growing crops, feeding them to animals, and then eating the animals is extremely inefficient compared to just consuming crops directly.
Worldwide, plant-based food provides 83 percent of all our calories, while animal products only provide 17 percent. But the animal industries occupy almost a third of all land on earth. That’s more land than the area of Russia, the United States, and Canada combined. And because they constantly need more land, they’re actually a major driver of deforestation.
When it comes to pollution, the animal industries generate both physical waste and greenhouse gases. Scientists have calculated that a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions come from food, and more than half of those come from animal products.
That means that even without any changes in legislation, we can already significantly cut our emissions by cutting animal products out of our lives. If Seth did this himself and encouraged others to do so as well, he could make a big impact.
Most of the meals Seth eats are prepared by his personal chef, Vikki Krinsky, who has worked for him since 2010. She has improved his diet and helped him lose weight, partly by making healthier versions of his favorite dishes. In 2019, Seth’s sister, Rachael MacFarlane, even commented on one of Vikki’s Instagram posts: “Will never be able to thank you enough for all the extra years of health you’ve given my brother!!!”
Unfortunately, however, Seth still eats animal products. In May 2018, when Vikki was asked to mention some of his favorite meals, she said: “He really enjoys a good, hearty, tuna melt and loves when I make a cornmeal crust pizza with smoked salmon, spinach, basil and crumbled goat cheese.” And many of the meals Vikki has posted on Instagram since then also contain animal products.
In terms of health, there’s no reason to include animal products in our diets. In fact, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the largest organization of nutrition experts in the U.S., has stated that cutting out animal products can actually make us healthier:
“It is the position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that appropriately planned vegan diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits for the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. These diets are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, adolescence, older adulthood, and for athletes.”
Because Vikki already knows how to change recipes without compromising on taste, and because she already experiments with plant-based dishes on occasion, it wouldn’t be difficult for her to turn Seth’s diet completely plant-based.
Hopefully, Seth will come to realize what a vegan lifestyle can do for the animals, the planet, and his health and decide to make the switch.
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