Go Vegan, Save the World: 8 Similarities Between Animal Rights Activists and Superheroes14 min read

marvel and dc superheroes

We admire superheroes for their unwavering belief in the power of compassion and the inherent goodness of humanity.  We look up to them, idolize them, and champion them as role models for youth to emulate and aspire to.  In the face of adversity, superheroes never give up, they never give in, and they never compromise their ideals.  Superheroes have taught us that “with great power comes great responsibility” among many other valuable lessons for treating each other with kindness.  But have we actually learned anything from them?

We need to see the connection between villains using their power to harm humans, and humans using our power to harm animals.  The following are eight similarities between animal rights activists and superheroes and how you can help save the world by adopting a vegan lifestyle and becoming an animal rights activist.

1. Superheroes use their power for good

With great power comes great responsibility.

~ Voltaire (and later, Uncle Ben from Spiderman)
animal man, dc comics
Animal Man (aka Buddy Baker) is a vegan animal rights activist superhero of the DC Universe. He has the power to assume the abilities of animals, such as the flight of a bird, the wall-climbing of a spider, the color changing of a chameleon, and the regenerating of a worm, among many others.  Although he has been a long-time minor character in the DC universe, Animal Man’s story has recently been relaunched to much critical acclaim.  Other vegan and vegetarian superheroes include Beast Boy, Aquaman, and in some depictions, Superman.

The most basic difference between superheroes and villains is that superheroes use their power for good, while villains use their power for evil.  Superheroes believe in truth, justice and compassion while villains believe in chaos, violence and greed.  Though certain villains may believe they are fighting for truth and justice, their version of justice and their means of obtaining it are twisted and immoral.

Superheroes believe in standing up for the underdog and use their power to speak on behalf of those without power.  Unlike villains, they don’t view those without power as inferior beings and they don’t use their power as a reason to inflict pain to others just because they can’t fight back.

While a villain sees people without powers as a massive herd to dominate and rule over, a superhero sees people without powers as individuals to protect and care for.

Animal rights activists remove themselves from all avoidable acts of cruelty done to other sentient creatures on their behalf.  When they learn of injustices to animals, they empathize, inform others and fight for justice.  Animal rights activists are compassionate to all sentient life forms because they believe that treating others with respect is simply the right thing to do.

I decided early that I would never take a life. Right around the time I decided that I wanted to live. It wasn’t an arbitrary decision and it was more than moral. It’s about identity. As long as you can choose that, choose who you are in the world… you can choose to call yourself sane.

~ Batman

2. Superheroes dare to dream

I wouldn’t have it any other way. Dreams save us. Dreams lift us up and transform us. And on my soul I swear… until my dream of a world where dignity, honor and justice becomes the reality we all share… I’ll never stop fighting. Ever.

~ Superman

Superheroes aren’t afraid to dream of a better world.  While others are content to accept things as they are, superheroes dream of something better.  Villains dream as well, but they don’t dream of a better world the way superheroes do.   Villains’ twisted dreams of a better world are ones in which they are the ruler of a slave race (the human race) or even suicidal dreams of total annihilation of the universe and apocalyptic destruction causing the death of all life, including even themselves.

Superheroes are idealists and dreamers, but they are not delusional.  They understand perfectly well the hard work, the sleepless nights, and the shed tears it will take to make their dream a reality.  But they understand that some of the biggest ethical leaps forward society has taken throughout history at first didn’t seem possible.  They all started with that one person who thought “but what if it is?”

3. Superheroes lead by example

It’s not about where you were born. Or what powers you have. Or what you wear on your chest.  It’s about what you do… It’s about action.

~ Superman
Many human and civil rights activists such as Mahatma Gandhi (pictured) have adopted vegetarian or vegan lifestyles because of their recognition of the connection between human suffering and animal suffering.  Others include Rosa Parks, Cesar Chavez, Coretta Scott King and Susan B. Anthony, among many others.
Many human and civil rights activists such as Mahatma Gandhi (pictured) have adopted vegetarian or vegan lifestyles because of their recognition of the connection between human suffering and animal suffering. Others include Rosa Parks, Cesar Chavez, Coretta Scott King and Susan B. Anthony, among many others.

Superheroes practice what they preach.  They understand that actions speak louder than words.  They don’t pay lip service to the worlds problems — they do something about it.

Animal rights activists have many ways to lead by example ranging from vegan outreach on the street and educating others about animal rights, to shooting undercover video exposing the cruelty in animal industries and direct action liberation.

Both superheroes and animal rights activists reject oppression and cruelty and both embrace lifestyles in the service of others.  Living a vegan lifestyle is simply putting the philosophy of compassion into action.

4. Superheroes never give up

People think it’s an obsession. A compulsion. As if there were an irresistible impulse to act. It’s never been like that. I chose this life. I know what I’m doing. And on any given day, I could stop doing it. Today, however, isn’t that day. And tomorrow won’t be either.

~ Batman

Superheroes and animal rights activists are tenacious because:

  • Lives depend on their success
  • They are fighting for something bigger than themselves
  • Their mindset is “If not me, who?  If not now, when?”

5. Superheroes put others before themselves

cruella de vil, 101 dalmatians, fur is murder
Especially in Disney films, villains are often depicted as animal abusers. Cruella de Vil (infamous unapologetic fur hag from 101 Dalmatians, pictured), Percival C. McLeach (Australian poacher from The Rescuers Down Under), Amos Slade (hunter from The Fox and the Hound), and The Hunter (hunter who kills Bambi’s mother from Bambi).

We live in a society that values the individual over the group; a society that worships the rich and famous; a society that encourages us to look out for #1.  We live in a “me first” society.  If we want something, we feel entitled to it and we will claw our way to the top and step on as many people as we have to in order to get it.  Our entire lives are one giant pointless competition for who has more than who.

Giant corporations pulling the strings of our politicians have brainwashed us from an early age to be thoughtless consumers in a futile competition with the rest of the world for who can consume the most.  We are told not to worry about the future and not to learn from the past, but to focus only on our present fleeting satisfaction, as we gorge ourselves on excess.

We are adult toddlers, wandering through life with eyes closed and mouths and arms open screaming “give me!”, “mine!”, and “I want it now!”.  Toddlers are easier to control than adults.  You can mold a toddler’s mind so they will want what you want them to want, believe what you want them to believe and do what you want them to do.  The amazing thing is they will never question whether you are right or wrong, but will accept everything you have to say simply because you are an adult and they aren’t grown up enough to realize they have a choice.

Clark Kent is how Superman views us.  And what are the characteristics of Clark Kent?  He’s weak.  He’s unsure of himself.  He’s a coward.  Clark Kent is Superman’s critique on the whole human race.

~ Bill (Kill Bill: Volume 2)

Superheroes do not believe that in order for one person to succeed that others must fail.  They recognize the power of teamwork and camaraderie and use it to their advantage to become stronger than their foes.

Animal rights activists share this philosophy of brother and sisterhood; that we are all one family who should work together toward a better tomorrow; that we will reach the finish line faster holding hands than trying to trip each other up.

Animal rights activists understand that an animals’ life is more important than the momentary and fleeting palatable pleasure of their flesh.  They recognize the inherent value in all sentient life and do not value their own temporary gustatory cravings for death over an animal’s intrinsic craving for life.

6. Superheroes stand up for what’s right, even if they must stand alone

Doesn’t matter what the press says.  Doesn’t matter what the politicians or the mobs say.  Doesn’t matter if the whole country decides that something wrong is something right.  This nation was founded on one principle above all else: the requirement that we stand up for what we believe, no matter the odds or the consequences.  When the mob and the press and the whole world tell you to move, your job is to plant yourself like a tree beside the river of truth, and tell the whole world: ‘No, you move.’

~ Captain America

What is it called to do the right thing when no one else will?  Courage.  And what is the word for doing the right thing even when the world tells you not to?  Integrity.  Superheroes and animal rights activists possess both of these valuable heroic attributes.  When you combine courage with integrity you are presented with a force that is unstoppable: the courage of your convictions.

Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.

~ C.S. Lewis
Animal Liberation Front
Direct action liberation is a form of activism that often involves taking great risks, including breaking the law, to rescue animals from farms, vivisection labs and other establishments that oppress animals.

Superheroes and animal rights activists use the courage of their convictions to fight against oppression and injustice.  If they see someone doing wrong they don’t wait around for someone to stop it, they realize that they are that someone and take charge.  They understand that allowing injustice to continue by maintaining silence or neutrality only works against those who are oppressed.

But having the courage of your convictions comes with a price.  It is isolating being ahead of your time.  It is lonely feeling like you are the only one who cares.  But day after day, both superheroes and animal rights activists get up and do it again because they know in their hearts it’s simply the right and just thing to do.

If anyone knows what it’s like to be on the outside, I do. Sometimes I feel like I’m out there fighting all alone. Sometimes I feel like giving up. But, then I remember that what I stand for is more important than anything else.

~ Superman

7. Superheroes are not flawless

Troubled pasts, personality traits and weaknesses help to shape superheroes and villains into what they are.  But while superheroes overcome these obstacles and use them so others will never have to experience such hardship, villains wallow in their self-pity and use them so other’s will feel the pain they do.

Troubled pasts

Both superheroes and villains do not usually have happy childhoods.  Personal histories play a major role in shaping the way a superhero fights for what they believe.  But while villains use their troubled past as an excuse to do wrong, superheroes use their troubled past as a reason to make things right.  We can’t control things that happened to us in our past but we can control what we choose to learn from them.

Personality traits

The real world is not polarized into things which are purely “good” and purely “evil” and the same is true of superheroes and villains.  Both vegans and non-vegans can have hero-like and villainous personality traits without being entirely good or evil.  No one single person, real or fictional, can be construed into a black or white oversimplification of 100% good or 100% evil.  Even Charles Manson had some charming, endearing qualities about him.  Though Gandhi did great things, he was not perfect.  But while people themselves are not simply good or evil, their actions can be.


Superheroes may have weaknesses, but they never use those flaws as a crutch to excuse themselves from doing what is right.  Convenience, social pressure, and cravings are just a few of the obstacles animal rights activists must overcome on their quest to eliminate their involvement with villainous actions.  Like superheroes, animal rights activists do not allow these weaknesses to become more important than their moral and ethical obligations to respect, cherish and protect all sentient life.  Both superheroes and animal rights activists don’t see weaknesses as flaws or roadblocks, but as areas of opportunity to improve and grow.

8. Superheroes inspire those around them

morality is doing what's right regardless of what you're told. obedience is doing what is told regardless of what is right.

If the prospect of living in a world where trying to respect the basic rights of those around you–and valuing each other simply because we exist–are such daunting, impossible tasks that only a super-hero born of royalty can address them…then what sort of world are we left with? And what sort of world do you want to live in?

~ Wonder Woman

Finally, both superheroes and animal rights activists inspire those around them to do better — to be better.  Not only do they believe in a better world, but they also believe in a better you.  They believe that deep down there is a glimmer of hope within each person to be kind, compassionate and loving to one another.  They believe in the innate power of goodness within you even when you don’t.

Despite their flaws and weaknesses, superheroes and animal rights activists tenaciously work toward their dream of a better tomorrow by using the courage of their convictions to put others before themselves, lead by example and use their power for the good of the planet and it’s inhabitants, not their destruction.

The superhero matters as a protest, he is a cry that a single individual still matters — can still shift the world on its axis.

Steven Lloyd Wilson

In conclusion, superheroes represent what we as humans wish we could be.  They are a model for how we should treat others.  They stand as an example for how we should live our lives every day.

You don’t need super powers to be a hero in our world — all you need to do is believe in yourself.  Your life breaks down into a series of choices.  You have the power to choose compassion over cruelty at every meal and on every shopping trip.  You have the power to change the world by getting involved in animal rights activism and advocating on behalf of animals rather than being silent and allowing injustice to continue.  Please choose to use that power for good.

In the eyes of animals, are you a superhero or a villain?

I can see this, I suppose you could call it, aura of colors that words can’t describe around living things.  And when something dies the aura fades leaving something that’s not easy to look at.  It appears empty in a way that makes you feel empty too.

~ Superman
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  • Well done! What an excellent job you’ve done here. Dare I?…yes I do…it is super!! 🙂

    You wrote: “We are adult toddlers, wandering through life with eyes closed and mouths and arms open screaming “give me!”, “mine!”, and “I want it now!”. Toddlers are easier to control than adults. You can mold a toddler’s mind so they will want what you want them to want, believe what you want them to believe and do what you want them to do. The amazing thing is they will never question whether you are right or wrong, but will accept everything you have to say simply because you are an adult and they aren’t grown up enough to realize they have a choice.”

    For a long time my take on a large number of folks is that they are small children pretending to be grown-ups…and as such they are demanding and a pain in the a** to be around but fairly easily managed if you want to spend the time to do it. It’s sad and funny at the same time.

    Thanks for bringing a smile to my day…it brought back memories of when I used to swipe my mom’s dish towel and tie it around my neck and zoom around outside pretending to be the guy with the big S on his chest. Makes me wonder whether I absorbed more from him than the flying around and such. 🙂

    • Sounds like you did, VE. From Superman you learned “S” for sensitivity, “S” for standing up for what’s right, and “S” for sticking to your convictions — all of which you admirably apply to your ardent advocacy for animals. Just like Kara K. 🙂

  • You don’t have to be a comic geek to appreciate this post. You really nailed it this time. Seldom have I read such a poignant summation of what being vegan is all about. You’ve brilliantly articulated a notion I’ve had that every meal is a choice between standing up for what is right and submitting to the forces of evil and depravity. It’s not an egg sandwich so much as it is a sickening travesty against a beautiful creature who has the same urges to nurture her children and enjoy her life as we humans have. Taking lives and perpetuating slavery and torture by eating meat, dairy, and eggs is not just or kind. The mass-enablement of slavery, horrors, and the foisting of despair upon the innocent is only possible because good people look the other way. Stealing from the innocent and murder are CRIMES committed by villains whether or not our corrupt super-villian leaders choose to name them as such.

    Thanks for reminding us Earthlings of our inherent desire to do good.

    • Thank you Kimberly. I believe at our core, most people want to see themselves as good people. It’s only a question of bringing their actions into alignment with their attitudes.

  • P.S. I have an ex-boyfriend whom I believe is still eating animals or perhaps their secretions because he’s morbidly obese. He is and was VERY into comics, especially Captain America. I don’t talk to him anymore but I cross my fingers that he stumbles upon your superhero blog entry. Talk about a wake-up call for people like him.

  • SO BRILLIANT! Wow! 100% Agree with Kimberly, Kara, you’re the Vegan Wonder Woman! You’re a real hero on raising awareness, your super power is CONVINCING PEOPLE to do what you want, and what do you want? A world of compassion! You’re using that power on a responsible and good way, you’re convincing others to do good as well. Seriously, this post and your amazing blog deserves an award! However, I think you’re an evil villain by not writing a book on veganism because that would be a best-seller! lol great job! Brilliant!

    • Thank you!!! Ricky, that is so sweet of you! You’re the Vegan Hulk, though! Green from all the veggies. We can mix DC and Marvel characters because we’re cool like that. Vegan Justice League, assemble!

    • You should pick up a few copies of Animal Man. He’s an outspoken vegan, animal rights activist who can assume the abilities of nearby animals. You’ll love it.

  • As always an excellent post. I think we have our new superhero: VEGAN RABBIT! Out to save the world!!!! We should get a writer and an artist: I think we have something here.

    Who’s with me?

  • Oh, I love this list! I especially like #6 because I know that every vegan has felt “alone” when standing up for something which can often feel isolating and weird but it is important to remember that it is actually COURAGE. Great post.

  • Never been a fan of comic books — until now, that is. The characters you describe and quote, Kara, remind me so much of, well … vegans.

    Thanks for expanding my world, enlarging my heart, and inspiring my soul with this thoughtful post, Superwoman … I mean Vegan Rabbit.

    • We don’t need super powers to change the world. We only need to actively work to change it. Being vegan is a great step, but without being open and vocal about it, doesn’t do much good. We must constantly push our comfort zones and ask ourselves how we can help others make the same realization we did.

  • Truly inspirational piece of writing. I will never look at superhero comics the same way again!

  • There is a landslide of meat-eater’s anxiety going on as we speak. Note the uptick in Ag-Gag bills, oxymoronic “humane meat” Paleo trendsetters, anti-vegan Facebook pages, and relatives at family gatherings insisting they don’t eat very much meat at all. Meat eaters know they are not on the right side of history and that bothers them intensely: nobody wants to be cast as the villain in his own narrative. Deep down, all people who eat animals know what they are doing is wrong. That is why there is so much ugliness amongst meat eating villains when the vegan walks into a room. They know they’re on a losing team. If they don’t wake up and join the heroes, they’ll be vanquished.

    • That reminds me, Kimberly, of an excerpt from Will Tuttle’s THE WORLD PEACE DIET that was quoted in the comments section of another vegan blog the other day.

      I’m breaking each sentence into its own paragraph so it can be read easily:

      “The reason that indoctrinated beliefs resist being contemplated or questioned is that we did not arrive at them freely, on our own.

      If we are challenged in a belief that we have struggled within ourselves to attain, we feel energized and welcome an opportunity to deepen our understanding, to exchange, to grow.

      If the belief has been indoctrinated, however, we feel nervous and irritated if it’s challenged. It’s not our belief, and yet we believe it.

      So we try to change the subject, and if that doesn’t work, we create a distraction, or close down, or leave, or attack the one who would challenge our indoctrinated belief.

      We do whatever we can to block feedback or questioning.

      Because we have accepted the belief unconsciously, we cannot defend or support the belief but must remain unaware of any inner or outer feedback that would challenge it.

      This forced unawareness becomes a sort of armor, dulling the mind and deadening the vital spiritual spark within us that seeks higher awareness through increased understanding and inner freedom.

      The price we pay for unquestioned indoctrinated and inherited beliefs is enormous.

      By uncritically accepting culturally transmitted beliefs and blindly being their agents, we remain children, ethically and spiritually.

      Because our mind is conditioned and we are unable to question the conditioning, we find it difficult to mature or contribute our unique gifts.

      Our song may die within us without ever being fully sung, to the loss of everyone, especially ourselves.”

      Will Tuttle, author of THE WORLD PEACE DIET

  • You reminded me why I always loved Spidey or X-men. They are not perfect, they struggle, which is what makes them so appealing and so like ourselves. They believe in doing what is right regardless of their own flaws. And that is what all Vegans have to do. This is what can inspire others to follow.

  • Love this so much. I read it again and again!!! But don’t forget about the kick ass animal saving forgotten Rima the Jungle Girl! A DC character!

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