Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today


Why Only a Vegan Can Defeat Negan

Chris Cooney on surviving The Walking Dead

We’ve finally met Negan of the AMC’s “The Walking Dead” — and he’s every bit as evil and dangerous as we expected.

Photo credit: Al Borja
Source: Photo credit: Al Borja

We will have to wait until next season, however, to find out who Negan killed and how Rick and the rest of the crew will escape. But in the meantime, it’s a good opportunity to think long term and ask ourselves: How will the “Walking Dead” gang defeat Negan? And how will they/how would we survive a zombie apocalypse?

The key may be a plant-based diet.

Make no mistake, the creators, actors and characters of “The Walking Dead” have been dropping subtle and not-so-subtle hints supporting veganism. Let’s start with the fact that on “The Walking Dead” eating flesh is presented in such a grotesque and horrific way that even Norman Reedus said that some of the show’s actors have stopped eating meat on the set.

We also see many scenes when the characters openly ponder their relationship with animals. For example, Rick chastises Carl for having a relationship with a pig that Carl names “Violet” because, as Rick puts it, “they’re food.” But later, Rick himself is pained by having to kill the pigs to lead the walkers away from the prison. And Mika takes a vegan stand by refusing to kill a deer and decides instead to eat pecans.

Viewers also get a firsthand look at the experience of factory-farmed animals during scenes that take place at Terminus, an occupied train station. It’s hard to miss the social commentary as Gareth and the other Terminus cannibals declare that “you’re the butcher or you’re the cattle” as they hold Rick and the others in a cattle car and then attempt to slaughter them by hitting them over the head with a bat and slitting their throats. Then add Mary barbecuing some delicious-looking human flesh, and we’ve got a pretty gruesome “farm-to-table” narrative.

So why would a plant-based diet help us survive the zombie apocalypse and fight villains like Negan?

To address this issue, I have enlisted the expertise of Chris Cooney, creator of the cooking show “The Vegan Zombie” and the author of “The Vegan Zombie Cookbook,” both offering great plant-based recipes that would help all of us survive a zombie apocalypse.

Cooney’s path to veganism started many years ago, and coincidentally, had a very Michonne-like feel to it. He told me, “A good friend of my buddy’s family was into ninjutsu, and he was nice enough to start training us. He told us one day that the ancient ninjas were predominantly vegetarian. And if they did it, I wanted to do it too.”

As time went on, Cooney’s love of animals further motivated him to veganism. “The more I learned, the more I realized I needed to go vegan. I had always been an animal lover and had always done things to help animals. I remember bringing an animal home one day and telling my parents, ‘We need to save this animal’ and we went to the vet and dropped it off there,” he said.

Cooney soon found that another passion of his, horror movies, blended nicely with his veganism, even leading to the creation of a narrative whereby the consumption of animal products was the cause of the zombie apocalypse.

“I love the horror genre. So I came up with a movie where the zombie apocalypse was brought about by the meat and the dairy that people ate,” he explained. “And the vegans were obviously a step ahead because they weren’t eating the main cause of the zombie outbreak.”

And if you are going to survive the zombie apocalypse on a vegan diet, you need good recipes. “I decided to take the concept and make a cooking show on YouTube, because there were no other vegan cooking shows at the time,” he said. “I decided I would show people how to survive the zombie apocalypse and at the same time share vegan recipes.”

So, now Cooney is sharing his wisdom with us to explain the five reasons why we need to have a plant-based diet to survive the zombie apocalypse:

First, and foremost, if we are going to survive the zombie apocalypse, we need to be healthy. Doctors and medicine will be in short supply, as evidenced by the need to take Maggie all the way to Hilltop to seek out Dr. Harlan Carson. So there will be a premium on prevention, rather than treatment of medical problems.

While there is still considerable debate as to whether a pure vegan diet is in fact the healthiest, most health experts and research support at least a predominantly plant-based diet. For example, studies suggest that people who eat vegetarian diets have demonstrated lower levels of obesity, heart disease, diabetes and cancer as compared with people who eat meat.

Cooney explained, “A plant-based diet is healthier… they’ve linked meat to cancers and heart disease. So if you’re eating a healthy plant-based diet, you’re not going to be prone to heart disease … and heart disease is still the leading cause of death in the United States, and it’s all animal food.”

More, good health is not just the absence of disease, but feeling vital and energetic so that we can evade walkers. The vitamins and minerals that one gets from plants will be critical in increased vitality. “You get all of the nutrients you need from a plant based diet. There’s no shortage of nutrients,” Cooney explained.

“If you’re not in good shape, you’re going to be one of the first to go.”

Second, it is arguable that in the zombie apocalypse, meat is not sustainable. There is substantial evidence that producing meat requires a tremendous amount of land and water. In fact, one study suggests that with all of the food required to feed animals so that they can be consumed as meat, we could directly feed 800 million people.

“An animal is going to consume more resources,” Cooney said. “You’re going to need to be doing twice what you are doing if you are growing these crops and feeding these animals so you can raise these animals and eat them. So why not kick them out of the equation and do what you could do with just a crop.”

Further, Cooney explained why the notion of free-range animals would most likely not work in the zombie apocalypse. “Because you need an incredible amount of land acreage for each individual animal to graze on this grass,” he said.

Which brings us to the third problem with meat in the zombie apocalypse: Walkers would try to eat the animals, and it would be difficult to keep animals in a free-range manner. The typical lethal methods might be more difficult as walkers are hard to kill. Plus, not only do they not fear disruptive stimuli such as loud noises that would scare animals, they actually gravitate towards them.”

“Zombies seem to go after anything that is alive and moving or making noise. I don’t think animals would be an exception,” Cooney explained. “Although most could outrun the undead, there would be instances where some would get cornered by mobs of zombies.”

Fourth, there is the perpetual risk that the animals have been bitten. The writers of “The Walking Dead” have not answered the question of what would occur if one ate an animal that had been bitten. There is a reasonable chance that an animal that has been bitten would carry the zombie infection and become, like Bob’s leg, after he’d been bitten, “Tainted meat!”

“In the zombie apocalypse, you’re taking a big risk eating that animal. You can’t eat the animals, you can’t eat the animal products, because you’re risking the zombie infection,” Cooney explained. “But if you’re in a regular world, too, that animal could be diseased or whatever. You don’t know. There are already things like the mad cow disease. Although if they were bit by a zombie, that could mean something different. Who knows if the infection would spread from animal to animal?”

“And really, who wants to find out?”

Fifth and finally, in the zombie apocalypse, hunting is not realistic because of the distance needed to travel to find prey.

“To hunt means to travel away from your designated safe haven and bringing your kill back with you,” said Cooney. “This expends a lot of energy and is very risky. With the fact that zombies go after anything living, it would be implied that the animals would always be on the run. Meaning, you may have to travel great distances to find anything.”

Overall, Cooney feels it’s safer to just focus on a plant-based diet in the zombie apocalypse to deal with walkers and survive evil humans like Negan. He suggests learning how to garden so that you can grow your own food. “You know where it came from. You grew that garden, and now you’re harvesting it,” he said.

And for him, this is just one of the many good reasons to be vegan. “Over the years, I’ve learned of many reasons to go vegan and to stay vegan. I know of no logical ones against it.”

“It’s a no-brainer.”

Michael Friedman, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist in Manhattan and a member of EHE International’s Medical Advisory Board. Follow Dr. Friedman onTwitter @DrMikeFriedman and EHE @EHEintl.

More from Michael Friedman Ph.D.
More from Psychology Today