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How Radio Icon Casey Kasem Was Behind TV’s First Vegetarian Cartoon Character

Over the weekend, the country lost a radio icon. Casey Kasem, the voice of the classic radio show ‘American Top 40’ lost his battle with a debilitating form of dementia that destroyed both mind and body. He was 82.

Yet while Kasem is best remembered for this radio countdown show, Kasem was also the long-time voice of classic cartoon character ‘Shaggy’ and he was not afraid to use his role to spread his environmental and animal-friendly message.

In 1995, Kasem, a longtime vegan and animal rights activist, quit his role on the popular kids’ cartoon when he was asked to do a cartoon for fast-food giant Burger King. He also refused to return to the show until seven years later, when they agreed to make the always hungry Shaggy a vegetarian – the first cartoon character to not eat meat.

Kasem also used his fame as a way to advocate for his animal rights and environmental causes.

“Some of the things that I do, I think are very important and much more important than the radio show or the television show that I do or anything else that I do,” he said during one appearance. “I think right at the top of the list is the basic thing. And of course the basic thing is to hopefully stop people from killing anything. And to create a non-violent diet for themselves, because a non-violent world has roots in a non-violent diet.”

For much of his life, in fact, Kasem was much more activist than radio personality, spending four days a week fighting for animal rights, Palestinian rights, homeless rights, environmental causes and world peace for every one he spent on the air.

Born in a Lebanese family, he also encouraged other Arab-Americans  join in the national debate in the 1990’s, long before others were willing to speak so freely.

“Arab Americans are coming out of the closet,” Kasem told the Associated Press in 1990, a message well before its time. “They are more outspoken now than ever before. People are beginning to realize who they really are, that they are not the people who yell and scream on their nightly newscast.”


Photo Credit: Wikipedia

About the author

Tamar is a New York based freelance writer and photographer whose work has appeared in over 15 publications. You can catch her work regularly on Issue Hawk, Latest, Jspace, and MediaGlobal.