Lisa Kudrow may have an Emmy, a Screen Actors Guild Award, and a TV Guide Award, but her character Phoebe Buffay will win an accolade of her own before Friends comes to an end on May 6. PETA has placed Phoebe at the top of its “Most Animal-Friendly TV Characters of All Time” list, which also includes Lisa Simpson and characters played by Ellen Degeneres, Alicia Silverstone, Sarah Gilbert, and others.
Vegetarians have been sprouting up on television for years and, with increasing frequency, so have animal rights activists, who stand up for rats’ rights, protest abusive circuses, and speak out against the cruelty of fur.
The past decade has seen so much animal activism on TV, in fact, that Caring Consumer wants to recognize the most compassionate characters who have (and continue to) set the best examples for protecting our furry or feathered friends.
Phoebe Buffay is no “smelly cat”! She has endeared herself to viewers as the lovable vegetarian fur foe who has made animal rights issues a constant theme throughout Friends’ 10 seasons. In addition to being an enthusiastic cat lover, Phoebe has scolded Joey and Chandler for buying leather chairs that were made from cows’ skin; warned Joey about the responsibility involved in looking after a baby chick; and declared, after accidentally running over a dog, that as a vegetarian, she would never intentionally hurt an animal.
Lisa Simpson, The Simpsons: Lisa was among the first prime-time TV characters to go vegetarian. In 1995, she declared that she was kicking the meat habit after encountering a baby lamb and then being served lamb chops for dinner. Pushing her plate away, she asked, “What’s the difference between this lamb and the one that kissed me?” Later, she protests dissection, disrupts a pig roast, and is joined by longtime animal rights supporters Paul and Linda McCartney, who encourage her stance on vegetarianism. Lisa has continued to stick up for animals in many ways, including protesting circuses and animals.
Kerry Hennessy, 8 Simple Rules: When this spunky spitfire teen, played by Amy Davidson, isn’t giving her self-absorbed sister a hard time, she’s talking to her family about the importance of cruelty-free living and why it’s important to boycott the circus.
Ellen Morgan, Ellen: Real-life PETA member Ellen Degeneres was never afraid of using her groundbreaking show to spotlight issues closest to her heart. She took her character to a circus protest, shunned women for wearing fur, and famously carried out a “lobster liberation” with fellow PETA supporter Mary Tyler Moore.
Alex Young, I’m With Her: She can’t sing or cook, but Alex, played by Teri Polo, is every dog’s best friend. Alex is an avid dog rescuer and is always on the lookout for a canine in need of compassion.
Lynn Searcy, Girlfriends: Getting lucky in love never seems to be in the cards for Lynn, but her love of animals makes her PETA’s favorite “girlfriend.” Played by vegan fur foe Persia White, Lynn is a strict vegetarian—and her passion for compassion makes her one of the sexiest women on television.
Stripperella, Stripperella: Featuring the voice of real-life animal rights activist Pamela Anderson, Stripperella is an exotic dancer by night and a sexy superhero by … late night, and she always fights on the side of animals. Stripperella adopted a chimpanzee rescued from a laboratory and also formed her own parody animal rights group, “Animals Need Universal Support.”
Darlene Connor, Roseanne: Brooding and sarcastic, Darlene, played by Sara Gilbert, not only embraced vegetarianism, but also promoted it with every opportunity. From her PETA “Meat Stinks” T-shirts to her refusal to eat Roseanne’s meatloaf, strong-willed Darlene gave kids everywhere the courage to go vegetarian.
Sharon Spitz, Brace Face: As 13-year-old Sharon Spitz—voiced by vegan activist Alicia Silverstone—faces the challenges of adolescence, eighth grade, and living with a mouth full of metal, she comes to the aid of animals in nearly every episode. Sharon becomes a vegetarian after taking a part-time job at a meat-packing plant. She also joins an animal rights group, takes a stance against fur, speaks out against keeping exotic animals as pets, and refuses to dissect—rescuing the frogs instead.