She’s often considered the most iconic model in the world and has appeared on well over a thousand magazine covers. Besides that, she’s known as a businesswoman, author, actress, and environmental activist. She’s married to quarterback Tom Brady and dated actor Leonardo DiCaprio in the past. But is Gisele Bündchen vegan?
No, Gisele Bündchen is not vegan. Although she has gone fur-free for the animals and cut down on meat and other animal products for health and environmental reasons, she hasn’t gone all the way. She still eats those animal products, wears animal materials like leather, rides horses, and keeps bees for honey.
Why Gisele gave up fur
In 2002, Gisele signed up to become the face of Blackglama mink fur. She was reportedly paid $500,000 and two mink fur coats for it. Because of the fur industry’s inherent cruelty and the fact that animals don’t deserve to die for vanity, the animal rights organization PETA decided to protest this.
Four women associated with PETA attended the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show that same year and managed to get onto the runway at the same time as Gisele. They held up signs that read “GISELE: FUR SCUM.” You can see the protest in this video, it starts at the 30 second mark:
Gisele walked on seemingly unfazed. They redid the segment after the protestors were taken away, and after the show was over Gisele explained why she thought the protest was unwarranted: “I’m the biggest animal lover in the world. I was just doing my job. I’m a model. I don’t even wear fur. They just want attention.” The sentence “I don’t even wear fur” referred to her personal life because she did wear fur in the Blackglama ad, that was literally what the ad was about.
However, despite this initial reaction, Gisele later reflected on the protest and changed her mind completely. When speaking about it two years later, she said that the protest had scared her: “I thought they were going to hurt me. I didn’t know what was going on.” But, after thinking about it more, she realized that she had been in the wrong and even that she owed PETA an apology.
She explained that she had been drawn to the Blackglama campaign because of the long line of famous actresses who had been the face of Blackglama before, and that she hadn’t even thought about the fur. “It was a bad decision on my part, because I don’t wear fur,” she said, “and I understand their cause. I am the biggest animal-lover in the world. I have four dogs and two horses, and I have rescued animals all my life. I did a whole special for I.F.A.W. [the International Fund for Animal Welfare] for the Russian bear, because they go and kill the cubs when the mothers are in the cages. Leonardo did it for the whales, and I did it for the bears.”
When she said she had rescued animals all her life, she was referring to dogs and cats that she used to rescue off the streets while growing up in Brazil. She talks about this in her book “Lessons: My Path to a Meaningful Life,” in which she also mentions that she wanted to become a veterinarian as a child.
Gisele now credits the protest for transforming her relationship with the business: “Suddenly it dawned on me, I was in the hamster wheel: I’m just going to go out there and be a good girl and do what my agent tells me to do. What do I know? It wasn’t until that shock—it stopped me in my tracks. They sent me all these videos. I wasn’t aware of what was happening, and I was devastated. So I said, ‘Listen, I’m not doing fur campaigns.’ It put me in the driver’s seat, finally. The universe comes to you and says, ‘Hello, maybe you should notice this.’ You need to be responsible for the choices you make.”
In 2017, she even appeared on the cover of a Vogue Paris issue dedicated to cruelty-free alternatives to fur. She posted it on Instagram and emphasized the importance of animal protection in the caption:
Gisele still wears other animal materials
Gisele deserves credits for taking the protest seriously and being mature enough to publicly acknowledge that she was in the wrong. The fact that she’s now actively encouraging others to stop wearing fur as well is nothing short of amazing. However, because the protest only focused on fur, she has never examined her use of other animal materials.
Animals aren’t just exploited and killed for fur. They’re also exploited and killed for leather. It’s their skin, after all. And the production of other animal materials, like wool and silk, isn’t cruelty-free either. So, by continuing to wear leather and other animal materials, Gisele is continuing to support industries that needlessly exploit and kill animals.
Hopefully, she becomes aware of this inconsistency and gives up animal materials completely. We have fashionable alternatives that can compete in terms of functionality, so we don’t need to use and kill animals for any material.
Gisele’s environmental activism
Gisele has always enjoyed nature, and in 2004 she realized that nature was in need of protection. What opened her eyes was a visit to a tribe in the Xingu region of the Amazon rainforest. There, she experienced firsthand what damage water pollution and deforestation could do, and it motivated her to start participating in environmental activism.
She has been involved in many environmental projects over the years, ranging from the production of her own educational environmental cartoon, Gisele & the Green Team, to her work as a Goodwill Ambassador for the UN Environment Programme. She is also outspoken about climate change. In 2016, she was one of the hosts of the documentary series Years of Living Dangerously. Her episode was number four of the second season.
In that episode, she traveled to the Amazon to discover how we can stop deforestation and fight climate change. She learned that the biggest driver of Amazon deforestation is beef production, and the second biggest driver is the production of soy for animal feed. She also learned that deforestation contributes significantly to climate change. When looking for a solution, she talked to an expert and reached the conclusion that we have to move towards a plant-based diet.
This is a five and a half minute clip, released by the producers, with scenes from that episode:
Unfortunately, the clip doesn’t include the full conversation Gisele had with the expert on food and climate change near the end of the episode. In that conversation, he said: “If you switch from beans to beef, you need twenty times as much land, and you also produce twenty times as much greenhouse gases. So, you actually produce climate change.”
He also pointed out that we now have veggie burgers that taste so similar to meat that people can’t tell them apart. And Gisele mentioned that she actually likes the taste of veggie burgers, while also giving some insight into her diet: “I would say 80 percent, 90 percent, of what we eat, it’s plant-based. You just become accustomed to it, and then you love it, and then it becomes the most delicious thing.”
A year later, she teamed up with author Paul Hawken to promote his book “Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming.” The book lists a hundred ways to combat climate change and ranks them by their emissions-reduction potential, based on scientific research. A plant-rich diet ranks fourth.
The book states that “the case for a plant-rich diet is robust” and references several studies, including one from the University of Oxford that found that food-related “business-as-usual emissions could be reduced by as much as 70 percent through adopting a vegan diet.” It also mentions numerous other environmental benefits as well as health and even economic benefits.
When Gisele and Paul were interviewed together to discuss the book, Gisele emphasized the importance of living our convictions and said that she and her family have been on a primarily plant-based diet since around 2007.
Why Gisele gave up meat twice
Gisele also talked extensively about her diet in her book “Lessons: My Path to a Meaningful Life,” which came out in 2018. She revealed that she had given up meat twice, but went back to eating it:
“On two separate occasions—I tried to become a vegetarian. I love animals. It really bothered me that I ate them.
“The first time lasted nearly a year and a half. But I became extremely anemic, despite eating lots of beans, lentils, and chickpeas to make sure I got enough protein. My fingernails got flaky, and when I examined the skin beneath my eyes it was white instead of rosy pink. Even iron and B12 supplements didn’t help and I felt tired all the time. When I told my doctor about my symptoms, he suggested that I reintroduce meat into my diet. This was not what I wanted to hear.
“Two or three years later I made my second attempt at becoming a vegetarian. I thought I could do it since my diet only contained a little meat. I lasted only ten months and then I got anemic again. Whether it has to do with my blood type or my body type or what, I’m still not quite sure, but I now accept that a vegetarian diet doesn’t work for me.”
First and foremost, it’s respectable that Gisele actually stopped eating meat and it’s unfortunate that she experienced these health problems. And to someone who’s not an expert on nutrition, the absence of meat might sound like a reasonable explanation for her symptoms. However, the idea that she needs meat in her diet to be healthy is not supported by science at all.
The main mistake Gisele made was to visit a doctor instead of a registered dietitian. Many people don’t know this, but doctors barely get any nutritional training. Good doctors are open about that fact and refer their patients to registered dietitians when they need dietary advice, the fact that Gisele’s doctor failed to do so is actually irresponsible.
The largest organization of nutrition experts in the U.S. is the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. It represents over 100,000 registered dietitians and other professionals. This is their statement on vegetarian and vegan diets:
“It is the position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that appropriately planned vegan diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits for the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. These diets are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, adolescence, older adulthood, and for athletes.”
Their position paper also provides more details about specific nutrients. And, contrary to popular belief, protein is not a nutrient that usually requires special attention: “Vegetarian, including vegan, diets typically meet or exceed recommended protein intakes, when caloric intakes are adequate.”
The fact is that we know which nutrients are essential for optimal health, and we can obtain all of them without eating meat or other animal products. If Gisele’s symptoms were caused by a deficiency, then the logical first step would be to identify which nutrients she was low on, either by looking at her diet or by doing a blood test. With that knowledge, a registered dietitian could tell her exactly how to obtain those nutrients from animal-free sources. This would be especially easy for a registered dietitian specialized in plant-based diets.
Also, Gisele mentioned that there might be a relationship between her blood type and her nutritional needs, but this is definitely not the case. Scientists have studied this topic extensively and concluded that there’s no connection between the two.
The problem with eating smaller fish
In her book, Gisele also specified how often she eats land animals and how often she eats aquatic animals:
“Currently I eat meat twice a month, and seafood once a week. I pay careful attention to the source of my meat and the types of fish I eat. Ever since my doctor explained to me that larger fish, like tuna and swordfish, contain greater concentrations of mercury, we make a point of eating smaller fish.”
While it’s true that larger fish generally contain higher levels of mercury than smaller fish, eating smaller fish is not the solution. One obvious reason for that is that smaller fish still contain mercury. But another reason, which most people overlook, is that eating smaller fish means eating far more individual animals in total.
Simply put, someone who eats beef once a week doesn’t eat a whole cow in a year, but someone who eats small fish once a week eats dozens, maybe even hundreds of fish per year. Condemning that many animals to death, when we can get all the nutrients elsewhere, is directly at odds with Gisele’s self-proclaimed love for animals.
Bringing awareness to our meals
Gisele also mentioned other animal products that she eats, like cheese, butter, and honey. And she mentioned the importance of bringing awareness to our meals:
“The attitude I like to bring to my meals is appreciation. Appreciation for the miracle of nature, like the little seeds that grew into the vegetables in my salad, or a beautiful tree that has shared its fruit with me. Taking the time to bring a full awareness to meals can deepen our respect for life and nature. When we’re more attuned to what we eat, we become even more aware that nature gives us every single element that allows our bodies to flourish.”
This is a great attitude to have. And bringing awareness to the plant-based food on our plates does make us appreciate them more. The problem is just that Gisele is not applying this attitude to animal products.
She’s not bringing a full awareness to all the animals bred in captivity only to end up on a slaughterhouse kill floor before reaching even 10 percent of their natural lifespans. She’s not bringing a full awareness to all the fish who are ripped from their natural environments to suffocate to death. And she’s not bringing a full awareness to all the newborn animals who are taken away from their mothers because humans want to turn the milk that’s meant for them into cheese.
Hopefully, she will educate herself on the standard practices of the animal industries, for example by watching the free documentary Dominion. Becoming fully aware of what happens in these industries is what led many people to veganism.
Gisele is misinformed about bees
Gisele also interacts with animals in her personal life. The smallest of those animals are bees. Although she eats the honey that they make, she has emphasized that her primary reason for getting them was environmental. She explained it as follows in 2016:
“Over the past few years, I have learned that bees are essential to the health of our ecosystem. I also learned they are sadly becoming more and more scarce. Our family decided to add a bee hive and harvest our own honey. It has been an incredible thing for our home. It is so intriguing to learn how hard the bees work to make the honey. I love that our kids are seeing and experiencing this first hand. We love to use the honey as a sweetener in some of our snacks.”
From a vegan perspective, honey is not a complicated issue. Honey bees work hard to make honey for themselves. It’s their food reserve to survive the winter, and we have no right to take it from them. Therefore, honey is not vegan.
The reason for that is that honey bees aren’t the ones at risk of extinction. There are thousands of species of bees, and honey bees are just one of those species. They’re the ones kept by beekeepers and beekeepers are controlling their numbers. The bees that are at risk of extinction are wild. And keeping honey bees can actually harm them because honey bees compete with them for the same food.
If you want to help wild bees, you can do so by making your yard more bee-friendly. That means minimizing your use of pesticides, planting both pollen and nectar plants that are native to your region, and allowing long grasses to grow relatively unrestricted instead of having perfectly groomed lawns.
Gisele loves dogs and cats
Some of the bigger animals that Gisele interacts with are dogs. As mentioned before, Gisele has always loved dogs and cats and rescued many of them when she was a child. And although not every dog she has had as an adult has been a rescue, some have. She and Tom currently have multiple dogs, and Gisele adopted at least one of them from a kill shelter.
Kill shelters are shelters where the animals get killed if they don’t get adopted by a certain date. These shelters exist because many people buy animals from breeders instead of adopting them and refuse to take care of them their entire lives. As a result, so many animals end up in shelters that some shelters can’t take care of all of them and kill the ones who don’t get adopted. By adopting a dog from one of these shelters, Gisele actually saved a life.
Gisele still rides horses
The biggest animals Gisele interacts with are horses. In 2004, she mentioned that she had two horses, but it’s unclear if she currently has any. It’s certain that she still rides horses, though, as she and Tom occasionally post pictures of it on social media.
While horseback riding is often presented as harmless, it’s actually not in the horses’ own interest to carry humans on their backs who dictate their movements. Not to mention that horses need to be broken in to even allow it. For these reasons, horseback riding is not vegan.
Gisele is not being consistent
All in all, Gisele’s concern for animals seems genuine, but she doesn’t consistently act on it. She still directly contributes to animal suffering and death through her fashion and food choices, and some of her personal interactions with animals aren’t beneficial to the animals either. Hopefully, she becomes aware of this and aligns her actions with her values.
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