Vegetarian transition for the Beatles
George was the first of the Beatles to commit to vegetarian in 1965. Contrary to popular belief, there is clear evidence of it not being for religious reasons. In her autobiography Wonderful Tonight, his ex-wife Pattie Boyd states that she and George stopping eating meat when a friend gave them a book about the inhumane treatment within the veal industry.
Another element in the timeline is found in the Beatles Anthology book. It recalls the influence reading 'The Illustrated Book of Yoga - Swami Vishnudevananda had on George Harrison'. George is quoted:
I read his book after I became vegetarian. The thing that repelled me about eating meat was the idea of killing animals. But the main issue is that meat-eating is not healthy and it’s not natural. In the book he says things like: monkeys don’t get headaches; all human ailments and diseases come from an unnatural diet.
We stopped eating meat many years ago. During the course of a Sunday lunch we happened to look out of the kitchen window at our young lambs playing happily in the fields. Glancing down at our plates, we suddenly realized that we were eating the leg of an animal who had until recently been playing in a field herself. We looked at each other and said, "Wait a minute, we love these sheep--they're such gentle creatures. So why are we eating them?" It was the last time we ever did.
Elsewhere in Anthology, George states that he thought the “Butcher Cover” photos (where the band posed with headless dolls and raw meat) was gross and stupid, and he was disgusted by the whole thing.
Paul & Linda McCartney:
Paul and Linda McCartney became vegetarian after looking at one of their own lambs and making the connection with the meat on their plates. Linda McCartney introduced her husband to vegetarianism in 1975, and along with her husband have become animal activists since. Quotes attributed to both Paul & Linda include
If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be vegetarian
I do not eat anything with a face
After Linda's passing away, McCartney continued his animal activism with his second wife, Heather Mills, both supporting a ban on the trade in dog and cat fur in the EU, and posing for photos with baby seals in support of The Humane Society of the US. McCartney has also recorded a pro-vegetarian video for Viva!, backed International Fund for Animal Welfare in an anti-hunting campaign, spoken out against vivisection, and supported a proposed ban on fur in Isreal with Let the Animals Live. McCartney also supports Meat Free Monday, an environmental campaign.
Ringo Starr is a strict vegetarian, but whether the reason for the initial change was for health reasons or animal welfare is debated. Ringo was asked about his diet in December 1973 and replied,
"I eat meat twice a year. On Bonfire Night I have a sausage and Christmas I have a turkey with the festivities, because it is exciting. I am getting excited over Christmas. So they are the only two days I have it."
In a 1995 interview, Paul McCartney said,
"We all turned out to be veggie. Ringo's walking around with, like, a bag of seeds, so healthy".
While early quotes from the early 60s speculate that John Lenon may have been the first of the Beatle’s to turn vegetarian, he seems to have shifted different diets (vegetarian, macrobiotic) through different phases of his life. John Lenon is the only one of the Beatles, who did not end up leaving meat completely. He did however have long stints with a vegetarian diet, starting with the same Rishikesh trip & Swami Vishnudevananda teachings, that converted George Harrison.
In Many Years from Now (Paul McCartney's biography), Paul McCartney recollects
‘I remember John singing "Bungalow Bill" in Rishikesh. This is another of his great songs and it's one of my favourites to this day because it stands for a lot of what I stand for now. "Did you have to shoot that tiger" is its message. "Aren't you a big guy? Aren't you a brave man?" I think John put it very well.’