Vegan Life talks to music legend Bryan Adams about going vegan, his environmental work and his passion for photography
Bryan Adams is a global superstar and you don’t need us to tell you that he is one of the most successful singer/songwriters in history. It is, however, less well-known that Bryan Adams is a record producer, photographer, philanthropist, animal welfare and environmental activist and vegan.
Bryan has been vegan for 35 years and he admits that he wished that he had been born a vegan. This is a sentiment that a lot of us share — the regret that we didn’t have our moment of clarity earlier on in our lives. Bryan is very matter of fact about his veganism and having cut animal products from his life over three decades ago, that is probably not surprising.
“I don’t know what all the fuss is about. I’ve been a vegan for 35 years; I wish I’d been one my whole life,” he says.
The softly spoken Canadian singer has long been a supporter of PETA, and says that he enjoys the way in which PETA addresses important issues with humour to engage a wide audience. Bryan says that after his moment of understanding, when he began to understand the truth about the conditions of factory farmed animals, he knew that he could never turn back from his decision to lead a vegan life. In fact, he has become famous for saying: “If you love animals, don’t eat them.” He also supports the vegan lifestyle as a whole, saying that he does not support the killing of any animals and will not, therefore, eat them or wear them.
His vegan values do not stop him from also acknowledging the health benefits of cutting animal products from his life. Adams wrote a piece for the Guardian in 2016 called ‘What’s in your basket?’ where he wrote: “I abide by the rule that if it looks like it’s going to clog your system, it probably will.
“People don’t understand about me being vegan, but I’m not a preacher, I simply have my view on what works for me. It would be wonderful to convince people without having to say much. For example, I’m very slim due to my diet.
“When I see men and women my age with their guts hanging over their trousers I wish someone was able to explain the benefits of diet, and that they are likely to be toxic and blocked from the things they’ve eaten.”
Adams hasn’t always been vegan though. He was born in Canada in November 1959 and his father was a diplomat for the Canadian Foreign Service which took the family to Portugal, Israel and many other countries in his childhood. He doesn’t talk easily about his childhood, or any personal matters, but with his parents’ split when he was just 12 years old, we surmise that it couldn’t have been easy for Adams.
He has said in the past that times became particularly tough in his mid-teens and as a result he got a job cleaning dishes. He used the money from this job to buy his first guitar and it was at this point where his passion for music really became a reality.
Adams quit school and spent his time focusing on music, primarily as a guitarist but he eventually transitioned towards the centre of the stage and became a singer too.
When he was just 17, he met a fellow songwriter Jim Vallance, who had, and continues to have, a profound impact on his career. Together, Adams and Vallance wrote Run to You, Summer of ’69 and (Everything I Do) I Do It For You, which became a worldwide hit.
Adams went on to become a household name and one of the most successful artists of all time, selling over 100 million records worldwide putting him alongside greats such as Adele, Metallica and Bob Dylan. He has also won numerous awards including the Ivor Novello and MTV awards. In 1985 he won the Juno Award for Album of the Year for his album Reckless and it was just two years later that Adams made the decision to go completely vegan.
Bryan didn’t find going vegan easy and admits that his love for dairy, and pizza particularly, slowed his transition from vegetarian to vegan. Bryan told us: “Making the transition from animal products to vegetarianism was quite easy, but the ultimate step was to get off dairy too.
“I flirted with it on and off, pizza being the biggest culprit, but eventually I did a raw diet for a year and that really changed my understanding of the effects that cooked food had on me. So logically dairy was no longer on the menu after that and it’s stayed that way.”
Going vegan is not an easy step to make, until you do it and suddenly realise that veganism isn’t complicated at all. Does Bryan have any tips for people struggling? “I’d say don’t wait, don’t listen to the nonsense about protein, just make sure you eat as much fresh uncooked food as you can, particularly fruit in the morning with nothing else.”
Adams became a vegan when he was just 28 and during his tours in the early 1990s he campaigned with Greenpeace for the creation and protection of the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, an area of 50 million square kilometres surrounding the continent of Antarctica where all types of commercial whaling is banned.
“I recently started SVGPF to help protect the environment surrounding the Grenadine Islands and my interest in environmental work goes back to the 70’s, supporting Greenpeace as they were founded in Vancouver,” Bryan told us.
“I was a big fan of their initial work, particularly their work defending the oceans from atomic bombs and saving the whales. I still say the people that put themselves between a harpoon and a whale are some of this planet’s real life superheroes.
“Some years later in 1997, I got together with David McTaggert, one of the founders of Greenpeace, to help support the creation of the Southern Antarctic Whale Sanctuary. We did this by placing tens of thousands of postcards at my concerts and asking people who were attending the concerts to post the cards to countries that were active voting at the International Whaling Committee and were basically siding with Japan to continue the hunt.”
We ask Bryan if he considers himself an activist: “I consider myself an environmental activist yes. How can you talk about saving the oceans and caring about the environment, while you are eating fish and animals? Quite simply you can’t.”
In 2015 Adams founded the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Preservation Fund (SVGPF) to support locals to conserve the delicate ecosystem there. Recent work by SVGPF includes turtle monitoring training and turtle egg rescues and the efforts by SVGPF to conserve turtles in St Vincent and the Grenadines were, in November 2016, endorsed by His Royal Highness Prince Harry.This isn’t the first time Bryan Adams has been involved in projects with the Royal Family. Back in 2015, Adams sang at the Invictus Games in London organised by Price Harry and he has been lucky enough to photograph the Queen.
Bryan is humble about his work but he is a renowned photographer and has worked with magazines including British GQ and Vanity Fair. He has photographed notable celebritiesincluding Amy Winehouse, Helen Bonham Carter and Christoph Waltz and has exhibited his work at the Saatchi Gallery, the National Portrait Gallery and Somerset House.
Bryan has also released a photography book entitled Wounded — The Legacy of War. Adams said: “I wanted to create a document of that particular time that showed the injuries of the men and women coming back from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
Adams wanted to inspire people into silent reflection with his poignant images of wounded British Armed Forces personal to show the truth of the war in the Middle East.
We ask him what he is working on at the moment. Bryan said: “A couple of things. There is a ‘best of’ collection coming out in November called Ultimate, and next year I’ve co-written a musical adaptation of the film Pretty Woman which is coming out on Broadway in the summer of 2018.”
Bryan is undoubtedly a private person, and one of very few words but it is clear that he is a deeply compassionate person who cares for animals and humans equally. This month Adams is touring Italy, next month he heads to Israel and we have our fingers crossed that a visit to the UK will be on the cards soon.