Ricky Gervais is a hypocrite. So what?

The term hypocrisy is a moodkiller, yet we love to use it and accuse people of being hypocrites. The question is what that brings us. When we say someone is a hypocrite, we mean that they are not consistent in their behaviour, or that there is no consistency between their actions and their thoughts.

We consider people who recycle, but use the car, as hypocrites. People who never drive a car but fly to a faraway holiday destination are hypocrites. People who avoid flying airplanes for ecological reasons but who eat meat, are hypocrites. People who don’t eat meat but who wear leather shoes, are hypocrites. Etcetera. Hypocrites everywhere

The point I’m trying to make is that no one is consistent all across the board, and that everyone is at times (or often) a hypocrite in this sense of the word. Hypocrisy is not just a pretty meaningless term. It is also a damaging one.

The words hypocrite or hypocrisy are extremely charged and imply a strong value judgment. There are probably only few people who will start reflecting deeply when they’re being accused of hypocrisy. Most will feel attacked.

I know: at some or other intellectual-philosophical level, consistency sounds desirable and our demand for it sounds logical. But this very demand for consistency often gives people an excuse to do nothing. “The perfect is the enemy of good” wrote the French philosopher Voltaire. Personally, I chose people who act inconsistently good rather than consistently bad. I applaud people who are trying, who take little steps, and who, with an open mind and being honest towards themselves, look at what they can and cannot yet do.

A case in point is the British actor Ricky Gervais, who is often giving hunters and other animal abusers flack, and is asking us not to hurt animals. Now, vegans could (and often will) accuse him of being a hypocrite, and maybe one would be right. There’s definitely a lack of consistency there. But looking at Gervais’ thoughts and behaviour on Facebook, I can see that Gervais genuinely cares about animals. This caring can grow and grow when it is encouraged. When, on the other hand, we call out his beliefs and behavior as hypocritical, I think such progress would be far less likely.*


The main consequence of calling people hypocrites might be that people do nothing because they don’t want to be called that. What if Ricky stopped biting hunters asses because he would get tired of being called a hypocrite? The ever eloquent Jonathan Safran Foer puts it this way:

“We have to get away from the expectation of perfection because it really intimidates people who would otherwise make an effort. People use the fear of hypocrisy to justify total inaction. I wish I weren’t as hypocritical as I am but I think that’s just part of what it means to be a person.”

Let’s not give people an excuse to do nothing by calling them hypocrites. And let’s have a little more faith in humans. Because when positive evolution happens in the world, it starts with small steps taken by all those inconsistent but well-intentioned people.

Want to read more about the psychology of communication? Check out my new book, How to Create a Vegan World


49 thoughts on “Ricky Gervais is a hypocrite. So what?

  1. In my opinion, there is a difference between hyprocisy and inconsistency. “Hypocrisy is the claim or pretense of holding beliefs, feelings, standards, qualities, opinions, behaviors, virtues, motivations, or other characteristics that one does not actually hold. Hypocrisy is not simply failing to practice those virtues that one preaches.” (Wikipedia). I think Ricky Gervais (like you and me) is inconsistent because he ontly partly practices the values he preaches, but he is not a hypocrite.

    1. i agree. i think i muddled the downplayed between hypocrisy and inconsisteny a bit because a lot of people seem to do the same. but it’s not entirely correct 🙂

  2. This is the first sensible article I’ve heard from a vegan. THANK YOU a zillion times. I’ve been a vegan for about 2 decades, and I am focused on anti-fur activism because it has been simply been dropped by most AR organizations, and it is demonized as a “single issue.” People assume I am a meat eater! I am sick & tired of hearing the word “hypocrite”–specially– by people who just became vegans. They do nothing but criticize everyone. Ask them to lift a finger to help and they quietly exit “through the back door.” Indeed, “perfect is the enemy of good.” Vegans should realize that we live in a bubble. Instead of picking on those who are contributing with something good, and evolving at their pace, they should tackle billions of savages out there that are killing and maiming animals and thinking nothing of it. The mainstream do not want to be a part of our community because we are seen as offensive radicals, so how is this helping animals? It is not! When someone saves an animal, he/she does NOT care what the person eats, and it may not seem a lot to save one animal but it means the world to that one animal. We are beggars for animals, and beggars CANNOT be choosers.

    1. Why do you say this is the first sensible article you’ve read from a vegan? Bit of a generalisation, no?

  3. I agree with you in part but if you buy cheese you’re supporting far more suffering than you would shooting a deer. When he applauds a bullfighter being gored it doesn’t make sense to me. Is it really worse to kill a bull for fun than to eat cheese? Eating cheese is just for fun too (totally unnecessary for survival).

    1. I completely agree. The institutionalised normalisation of the enslavement of 1000s of animals is more damaging. We need high profile people avoiding dairy to normalise this

  4. You are so wrong! All that will be achieved by failing to point out the hypocracy is more animal suffering. Most people’s default setting today for ’empathy to animals’ is so low that I can understand your desire not to hurt the “well intentioned” but that’s exactly what must be done.
    If his actions actually increase animal suffering (I.e. more industrial animal abuse instead of killing wild animals, then this is a moral negative and a own goal for animal abolitionism. We need to identify bad behaviour, killing animals for example, and make a proscription to forbid it, not get into the nuances of which methods are more humane!
    DR’s that gave a medical note to spare Jews lives for a day in Auschwitz weren’t helping solve the problem of the holocaust, but their continued employment instead promoted it!
    The real hypocracy is vegans who would condem racism, sexism, abuse, violence and murder in the strongest language and then try to “educate” or pusuade or support the minimal concessions of animal exploiters as if they don’t really believe in their heart of hearts that it is so immoral. No wonder the animal exploiters don’t feel sufficient pressure to change as they can see so many vegans are so insincere.

    1. I just have one question for you, Jennifer Richards: If you were on a fur farm ready to be anally electrocuted and then skinned alive, and someone came to save you, would you give a damn about what he/she ate? Of course NOT. So who the hell are you to say that someone who is not a PURIST vegan should not help animals lest people like you who nine out of ten does NOTHING other than criticize those who are trying to make a difference. Instead of neat picking on people who are making an effort to go in the right directions, people like you should focus on the 7 BILLION+ savages out there who NOT only eat meat but kill animals sadistically for fun, and to wear their skins. People like you are what is wrong with the AR movement because you making all of us look like a bunch of crazy radicals and nobody wants to be associated with us. Do the animals a favor and focus on something else.

      1. And if you were a calf waiting to have your throat slashed and you were saved would you care if that person were wearing a fur coat? It goes both ways. Both are ridiculous. Its not either or

    2. Bravo! I wish someone had given me a kick to make me vegan long before I got there on my own.
      I was against ALL animal abuses but still occasionally ate eggs and dairy through moral laziness.

  5. Formulate a bit nicer? Been there, done that too many times. I am sick & tired of volunteering around the clock for animals and finding my efforts going down the drain because of too many loud, hard mouths out there who go behind destroying we have build over the years.

      1. Honestly, Tobias, I’ve tried to many times. These people have their heads stuck in the sand, and they’re worse than meat eaters. I’ve been vegan for 2 decades and have run an anti-fur organization for 10 years. I’ve NEVER pushed anyone to do anything and yet have converted more people to veganism than these neurotics who around offending everyone from left to right. I for one get insulted all the time because I am focusing on the fur industry which makes me a “meat eater “who only cares for fur bearing animals because they are “cute.” So, basically if you are not carrying a tofu on your head, you are not eligible to fight for animals. When and who the hell gave them the enlightened power to judge and decide who are good for animals and who are not? When you save an animal, it may not mean anything to anyone but it means THE WORLD FOR THAT ONE ANIMAL. These people should remember that and make it their daily creed.

        1. I feel your pain, i really do. It’s why i created this blog. I guess more to help catch the young ones early before they fall into the abolitionist trap than for the lost ones 🙂

  6. THANK YOU for this post, Tobias! You nailed my sentiments in a better way! It is true that you will NEVER persuade any one you just called or labelled as a hypocrite, simply because he’s too pissed off with you!

    And they may just replace a celebrity with another according to market trends and demands, so why do we vegans get so upset over what one celebrity non-vegan animal activist do?

    We would be far more handicapped if we are to become militant and block out any non-vegans from helping animals.

    It is always kind to give credits where credits are due, even if the person is not a vegan.

  7. I agree with the spirit of your article but think Gervais is a problematic case. For one thing, the otherist flavour of many of his campaigns encourages a similar appeal to apathy that you’re condemning here. “Oh, so you don’t like what we do to dogs in China? Get back to me when you’ve spoken out against your British pig-farming practices” “Whale culling a deal-breaker for you? Yeah, much better to let the marine ecosystems starve in silence with your overfishing” and so on. Your anxiety that Gervais stop “biting hunters asses” also left a bad taste. So it’s cool for Gervais to make hate figures of people without at least occasionally stopping to reflect on his own complicity in animal cruelty? That sounds dangerously like scapegoating to me.

    1. What do you have to say about the 7 billion people out there that NOT only eat meat but enjoy killing and maiming animals in all sorts of ways: Trophy hunting, fur farms, bloodsports (which includes penning where they throw a live wildlife to be torn apart by hunting dogs)? How about the ALL the food that feeds fur animals on fur farms? Minks alone (100 million killed yearly) are fed by product of fish and dairy that conversely could be used in food for domestic animals? How about animals used in laboratories, circuses, races, and so much more? Why don’t you first try to convert these people to gradually stop using animal products? WHY pick on somebody like Gervais who is doing an AMAZING job educating the 7 billion people out there that are closer to being savages than human beings? People should start seeing the forest rather than picking on the tree. Millennia of animal (and human) cruelty will not be solved overnight and whatever attempt someone is making in leaving behind their troglodyte instincts should be PRAISED rather then demonized.

      1. I’m not “picking” on Gervais, I’m responding to specific points in a blog post about him. As it happens, I think anything which shines a light on animal mistreatment is a good thing, so kudos to him for his activism, that doesn’t mean I can’t pick over some of the thornier aspects of his approach.

        1. I’ve been vegan for 2 decades and work with all sorts of people from beginners all the way up to vegan purists. It’s demoralizing for anyone who is making an effort to do better to be demonized because they still consume dairy. MANY who aren’t really that interested, simply tell AR to get lost–to say the least. Who loses? It is certainly not human animals! WE NEED everyone to contribute to the animal cause anyway they can. Let’s not forget that we are beggars for the animals and beggars cannot be choosers. Gervais, one of the VERY few public person who speaks for animals and does not eat dead bodies, should be left alone to evolve at his own pace. Instead people should go after those that run hunting shows, parade in animal skins coats, and exhibit dead animals for dinner. I don’t see anybody saying anything about them.

          1. I love your use of the word “evolve” I think a lot of Vegan’s forget they have not always been Vegan and also foget the evolving involved in becoming Vegan! After years of brainwashing and conditioning it’s a process and even if you decided overnight to stop consuming animal products you most definitely have had a mental evolution going on. I shudder at my ignorance growing up and eating meat but it was exactly that! I’m still the exact same person but I’m awake now and it was a slow process because of the distraction on life. I also think it’s terribly off putting to even label yourself vegan and it took me 3 years of being vegan before I was brave enough because of the “vegan police” and the risk of being called a hypocrite. My husband and son still eat meat but I don’t go at them even though I really want too! They eat mostly vegan food and financially support my activism and we have very open conversations I would say both will eventually become Vegan but it’s a process and if I just screamed at them daily and called them hypocrites I doubt this would be productive. Everyone who does anything to open people’s eyes to the abuse and exploitation of animals is on a journey to veganism let’s cheer them along!!!!

  8. So because Gervais is usefl to your ause, he’s above reproach and anyone with objections to his style of activism had to keep it to themselves? That truly is asking hypocrisy of people.

    By the way, I notice the writer of the blog has politely hinted you tone yourself down a bit. If you’re so concerned about keeping your movement on track and not alienating those who are sympathetic to the cause, I suggest you follow the advice.

      1. Apologies for putting words in your mouth. When you saod “I’d formulate it a bit more nicely” above I interpreted that as a hint that antifur should tone it down.

    1. “So because Gervais is usefl to your cause, he’s above reproach and anyone with objections to his style of activism had to keep it to themselves? That truly is asking hypocrisy of people.” FIRST OF ALL it is not “MY CAUSE,” it is about over 100+ million animals who live in horrendous conditions– not covered by the minimum animal welfare laws that are good even to animals farmed for food– skinned alive and other atrocities they suffer in the wild. SECONDLY: If you knew anything about Gervais, you wouldn’t make such an ignorant comment, because Gervais is not known to be an anti-fur activist. His focuses are on issues such as trophy hunting, bullfights, wildlife hunting in the UK, etc. My focus is on the fur industry precisely because of the new generation who are blindly following a cult that expects the world to become vegan overnight, and demonize anyone who dedicate themselves to other causes as if a crime. These very same people are also those who DO NOT lift a finger to take action for animals and think that by climbing on a pedestal and pointing fingers is sufficient. Worse: They keep neat picking inside the animal rights community, pointing fingers to anyone who may have a drop of milk in their coffee, instead of facing up to the egregious crimes against animals in all levels of our societies. They cannot remove the blinders to “see the forest, but focus on the tree,” ignoring the fact that we are just a bubble on a planet with over 7 billion people. The ignorance and loud mouth insults to prospective candidates who might join the cause simply walk away as they don’t want to be a part of what they see as nasty fanatics. People engaged in this destructive path are greatly harming the cause either out of ignorance or because they want to make a name for themselves which they would NEVER achieve in the real world. Good bye!!! I have real work to do for the animals!

  9. I just forwarded this article to my husband with the subject “The most beautiful thing you will read this week”. It is so simple yet strong and sends a beautiful message of tolerance. I may steal some of your words for future arguments. Thank you!

  10. you know what is hypocritical? this article .. a person who think they know Ricky Gervais’ diet without ever having sat down to a meal with him. By Ricky’s own words – he only eats fish and some cheese according to his interviews and tweets, he’s stated repeatedly he does NOT eat meat – yet here’s some blog by some random ‘know-it-all’ claiming they know his diet better than he does.

    So check your facts first, blogging hypocrite. No he’s not perfect, he’s human.. being a vegan isn’t an overnight thing. So he doesn’t state he’s vegan because he’s not. Even if he’s never ever 100% bonafide vegan, you think it’s ok for him to just be quiet about animals being slaughtered for an ego trip by trophy hunters just so it satisfies your ideal of what is ok to talk about because he still nibbles on some cheese once in awhile?

    Thank goodness he doesn’t listen to any of these whining know-it-alls – hypocrites – and not one of those who apologises and stands by what he’s passionate about, esp people like this who probably don’t do a damn thing except be vegan and write blogs whining how everyone else is a hypocrite than taking a good long look at themselves and what they’re actually writing without having even so much as met him. And this is coming from another vegan.

    Good on him for what he’s done so far and what he’s doing for animals. We need more people like him – he has a 11 million followers on twitter alone, while Justin Bieber and Kayne West are out draping themselves in fur coats Ricky’s asking his followers to adopt a dog, or say no to factory farming. And if you think he has never stood up for farm animals too then goes to show how little you actually know about anything he does for animals.

  11. What a brilliant article, I loved every word of it. I am not a vegan myself but – as you mentioned – I am taking small steps in order to change my eating habits for the better. Cutting out meat entirely would actually be damaging to my health. As for Ricky Gervais, I admire him a great deal. I couldn’t care less that he’s not a vegan and nor should anyone else. In fact, Philip Avery of Compassion in World Farming said that promoting veganism is not his aim. His aim is to improve the lives of farm animals around the world, promoting less intensive methods along the way. He once said that it’s the meat eaters that help change things the most as they are concerned about where their meat comes from. If the whole of the UK became vegans overnight it would not stop the killing of animals as live exports would increase dramatically. It would go ‘underground’ with absolutely no regulation at all. Some vegans decide not to eat meat but stick their heads in the sand when it comes to promoting animal welfare. I find that quite sad. We are all in this together!

  12. “…as if vegan is the be-all and end-all of everything.”

    It’s the least we can do and should be the moral baseline.

  13. The simple fact in on the Earth is, for one Creature to live another one must die. Be it plant or animal.

  14. We live in a land of plenty. After traveling to Afganistan, Ethiopia, Syria and Somalia I wouldn’t dare talk about the “benefits” of a vegan diet to these folks.

    These people are literally starving to a point they have a hard time making full sentences
    They can’t understand the UK or US ways. Especially when it comes to food or entertainment. But especially our picky diet

  15. Whatever your stomach and personal constitution can handle is what you as an individual should do. Personally, I think this topic is only a 1st world sort of argument.

  16. Loved this article! I’m an avid animal lover and I was a vegan before but stopped due to rapid weight loss, despite trying my hardest. Being already underweight, losing weight was not an option for me. So, although I have incorporated non-vegan items back to my diet, I make sure to choose ethically raised animal products as much as possible. I eat vegan about 60-70% of the time. And I do not purchase animal-tested skincare/cosmetics or clothing/bags made out of animal skins. I may not be 100% vegan in my lifestyle choices but at least it’s something. So, I get really upset when people call me out for being a “hypocrite” because I truly do love animals and care about their welfare. Your article brilliantly argued the issue of so-called hypocrisy surrounding animal ethics.

  17. So you don’t care that Ricky’s a hypocrite? Fuck you! I’ll never tolerate hypocrites no matter what. All hypocrisy is alienate people.

    Because Rick’s self-righteousness, support for comedy, and claim that he has the right to offend others, why don’t you and him die together.

  18. Sometimes it’s necessary to use the word “hypocrite” and to call people out for being those kinds of folks. What I’m trying to tell you is that if you want others to follow rules, you have to set an example by following those rules as well. Besides, constant unfairness will earn you tons of enemies.

  19. Tonight, on the 77th Annual Golden Globe Awards, he called out the audience, his people, as hypocrites… and he’s a part of that industry. He’s a hypocrite himself for calling the rest of his associates and colleagues as such. He told the audience not to talk politics, then two sentences later he talked politics. In the name of comedy, he made fun of everyone… but, who will make fun of him? If you don’t want to be called a hypocrite then don’t go calling others as one. It’s a sure way to prove that you are actually a hypocrite yourself.

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