Tony Allen-Mills, New York
source: Times online
CARROT lovers have never seen anything like them. The fastidious and hitherto not glamorous world of strict vegetarianism has been transformed into the sexiest story on American television.
Meet the Vegan Vixens, a group of scantily clad California models and actresses who have joined forces to titillate, tantalise and ultimately transform the beef-loving American male and his traditional dependence on a diet of burgers, steaks and ribs.
After years of listening to somnolent vegetarians drearily denouncing the horrors of the slaughterhouse and promoting the virtues of cabbage, an aspiring actress with the improbable name of Sky Valencia felt the vegan message — of total abstinence from all animal products — was not getting through.
She decided that it was time to try cleavage and bawdy jokes about cucumbers, not to mention a party at the Playboy mansion and the key ingredient in the modern American media diet, a row about a naked breast.
What started as a light-hearted attempt to portray the vegan lifestyle has turned into a television phenomenon. After only five episodes on a Californian cable channel, the Vegan Vixens are attracting national attention. One New York newspaper dubbed them “the soy of sex”.
So far they have had no discernible impact on US meat consumption, which still weighs in at more than 65lb per capita per year, but men who would never dream of ordering a veggie burger are suddenly searching for the Vegan Vixens website.
“Party with the world’s sexiest vegan girls while they arouse your senses and put you under their spell,” promises a trailer for the series. “It’s like no other show you’ve ever seen.”
“The image of vegans is that they are pale, dress badly and aren’t very much fun,” said Valencia, who previously belonged to an all-girl rock group called Shock Baby and who now runs a shelter for abandoned pit bull terriers. “That’s so not true. You should see the girls who came out of the woodwork when we started auditioning for true vegans.”
Valencia and her boyfriend Dan Anderson, a freelance television producer, recruited a multicultural group of eight vegans in their twenties and early thirties. With names such as Casey, Justine and Tanjareen, the Vixens have become vegetarianism’s answer to Charlie’s Angels, the popular American television series.
Their low-budget, high-camp programmes feature non-stop giggling, occasional pillow fights and “lots of sexual innuendo”, said Valencia. “We tell you what’s good about a banana.”
The girls travel around in a battered van powered by vegetable oil; they mostly visit meat restaurants and challenge men to try vegetable dishes.
Pausing only to change into ever scantier costumes, they also interview vegetarian celebrities, present vegan recipes and occasionally launch into chatty reminders about the perils of global warming.
Not everyone has been enchanted by the Vixens’ sex appeal. As their fame spread they were invited to appear on the Howard Stern Show, the raunchiest and most popular radio chat show in America.
Stern has a reputation for persuading his guests to strip off so that he can describe their bodies to his listeners. “We talked about it before we went in and we decided that Tanjareen would sacrifice her right breast — for the good of the animals, you understand,” said Valencia.
The stunt did not go down well with more traditional vegetarians, Valencia added. “It was all just a joke — Stern threatened to torture a small animal if we didn’t show our breasts. But some people didn’t like it. We had e-mails saying, ‘How could you sell yourselves?’ ”
Others complained that the Vixens’ antics were cheapening serious issues about the treatment of animals. “They said we were being too sexy, that we were ruining the vegan movement, that it’s not a funny subject,” said Valencia.
“What we replied was that we are not trying to convince people like them. We’re trying to convince people who would never dream of watching a vegetarian show. And we think the best way of doing that is in a funny way with sex appeal. Yes, you’ve got to be tough, but you’ve got to be sellable.”
The powerful US meat industry is showing no signs of panic — a spokeswoman for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association said last week that she had never heard of the Vixens — but it is just possible that America’s obsession with burgers may soon face the kind of strains that are afflicting its preference for gas-guzzling cars.
Just as the rocketing price of oil has persuaded many Americans to seek out fuel-efficient motors in place of monster sport-utilities, concerns about obesity and “mad cow” disease may cause a change in dietary habits.
Valencia is sure her party-girl vegetarian approach could win more hearts and stomachs than “lectures by men in suits”. If men do not give up their beefburgers, she says, she’ll “give them a good spanking”.
You can find the vegan vixans here: