As the son of two famous actors, Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith, he has lived in the spotlight his entire life and starred in his first movie when he was only eight. Since then, he hasn’t just continued acting, but he has also built a name for himself as a musician, fashion designer, entrepreneur, and environmentalist. But is Jaden Smith vegan?
No, Jaden Smith is not vegan. He has stopped eating meat, mainly for the environment, and he is also lactose intolerant, but he hasn’t given up animal products completely. He does, however, actively encourage people to cut down on meat, and he has opened plant-based food trucks and designed vegan leather shoes.
Jaden’s teenage activism
Jaden started paying attention to the environment and the consequences of consumer choices at a young age. And he didn’t just learn about it, he spoke about it as well. For example, in 2013, when he was 14, he encouraged people to support a worldwide tree-planting project called The Canopy Project:
Later that year, after he had turned 15, he saw the documentary Food, Inc., which examines food production in the U.S. The award-winning documentary criticizes the food industry for harming both animals and employees, damaging the environment, and producing unhealthy food.
It made a big impact on Jaden and he took to Twitter to encourage others to watch it too. “Everybody On Planet Earth Needs To See Food, inc.,” was one of his tweets about it. Some other tweets were more focused on the content, and he even dedicated a tweet specifically to the animals in the industry:
“Animals Are Being Tortured And Enslaved And It Needs To Stop.”
— Jaden (@jaden) October 11, 2013
There’s no evidence that he gave up animal products at that time, but the documentary definitely planted a seed.
Two years later, in 2015, he co-founded the company JUST Water. He had actually come up with the idea years earlier, when he was surfing and noticed all the plastic bottles in the ocean. “After seeing the amount of ocean pollution and the effect it was having on marine wildlife, I couldn’t stand there and do nothing about it,” he said.
He set up JUST Water to provide an environmentally friendly alternative to water in plastic bottles and aluminum cans. In his own words: “By packaging water in bottles made from paper and plant-based plastic, JUST Water is reducing the amount of harmful greenhouse emissions while helping to preserve the environment.”
In 2016, he received an Environmental Media Award for his work. He later said: “It truly inspired me to want to do more, and it truly made my passion for sustainability and the lowering of CO2 emissions and plastic in the world a main priority in my life.”
The year after that, he actually hosted the Environmental Media Awards himself. And he also revealed that he had been visiting elementary schools to inspire the next generation to take care of the environment. Here’s a 2-minute video of Jaden visiting one of the schools:
Jaden’s Impossible Trio
In October 2017, Jaden teamed up with burger chain Umami Burger and the plant-based food company Impossible Foods. Together, they launched three sliders, which they called Jaden’s Impossible Trio. They were available for almost three months and all the patties on the sliders were plant-based Impossible Burgers. Jaden promoted the trio as follows:
The companies emphasized that production of the plant-based burgers required “roughly 75 percent less water” and “95 percent less land” than conventional ground beef, while generating “about 87 percent fewer greenhouse gases.” And in a separate shorter clip, Jaden said: “It’s genuinely better for your health and for the environment, for your world, for the animals.”
Although the sliders still had animal products on them, specifically cheese and aioli, this was the first time Jaden publicly encouraged people to switch from meat to plant-based products. And the experience undoubtedly served as inspiration for the completely plant-based food trucks he would open later.
As an aside, Jaden may not have been aware of this, but Impossible Foods has conducted lethal tests on animals and left the door open for more animal testing. It’s therefore not a vegan brand, even though the products are 100 percent plant-based. Thankfully, there are many other brands that produce high quality vegan products.
Jaden’s first meat-free year
Around the same time, in September 2017, Jaden officially announced that he had given up meat. It was not a lengthy announcement, he simply tweeted: “I’m Vegetarian.”
Some fans doubted this, as the song Perry Aye had just come out, in which Jaden sings about eating calamari, which is another name for squid dishes. But he could have simply made the decision after the song was already recorded.
The following month, he tweeted a picture of a model wearing Tyler, the Creator’s “meat is murder” T-shirt:
In doing so, Jaden gave Tyler a shout-out while simultaneously making a statement about meat.
The month after that, Vevo released a lighthearted, not completely serious video, titled The World According To Jaden Smith. In that video, he said the following about meat:
“Honestly, eating meat, even though we all do it and, like, we’ve all evolved to need it is not something that we should do. Like, our teeth are not designed to eat meat. Our digestive systems are not … meant to digest meat like a wolf’s digestive system. It’s bigger, it’s like … made to, like, eat meat. And we will slowly evolve to that, but, like, that’s not what whatever our original programming of our DNA was supposed to do.”
You can watch the full video here, the part about meat starts at 2:30:
While the claim that “we’ve all evolved to need it” is incorrect, we don’t need meat in our diets at all, Jaden’s other claims are actually mostly accurate.
People often think that we have canines to eat meat, but that doesn’t explain why some of our closest relatives who never eat meat, like gorillas, have much bigger canines than us. They use their canines mainly for self-defense, and it’s likely that that’s how our ancestors used theirs as well.
And, as Jaden pointed out, our digestive system does look much more like that of a herbivore than that of a carnivore. Given that we are primates who only started eating meat relatively recently, evolutionarily speaking, that’s exactly what you would expect.
Shortly after that, in February, he gave an interview in which he was asked what sustainability looked like in his daily life. He mentioned meat in his answer. “I don’t eat meat that has environmental repercussions,” he said.
While the phrasing might suggest that there’s also meat without environmental repercussions, that’s not the case, and nothing else he said indicated that he was eating any kind of meat. When talking about family members who still ate meat, he actually made it clear that he even stayed away from the smell: “I don’t want to cook things that aren’t vegetarian. I don’t want to cook meat because I don’t want to breathe it in.”
Although he said he was “not really big on eating,” he did mention some of his favorite food. He talked about cooking “brown rice, quinoa, beans, maybe some kale, maybe some herb aioli.” And he praised vegan products: “Vegan pancakes and vegan butter is the best combination. And vegan bacon and vegan sausage are the best things I’ve ever had. Usually, at my parents’ house, there are vegan pancakes.”
He also encouraged others to give up meat, but he didn’t think people needed to give it up all at once: “Some people in the family are vegetarian for two days. That’s what I always tell people. Don’t think you have to be a vegetarian and stay vegetarian for the rest of your life. Just have one day out of the week when you’re a vegetarian. Just follow it at your own pace.”
The months after that, he continued his meat-free lifestyle. In April, he was spotted grabbing plant-based dinner with his sister, Willow. Later that month, he simply tweeted “Plant Based.” And in May, he tweeted a line from Kid Cudi’s song Adventures: “No More Chicken Sandwiches.”
Although he had stopped eating meat, he hadn’t given up other animal products. And he focused more on environmentalism than animal rights. For example, he shared an article about a zoo taking steps to reduce single-use consumer plastic and a tweet about making an alternative to plastic packaging film from crab shells. Zoos aren’t vegan because they keep animals in captivity, and turning crabs into products isn’t vegan either.
But even though Jaden had never claimed to be vegan, the youth division of animal rights organization PETA somehow thought he was vegan anyway and incorrectly declared him one of 2018’s “hottest vegan celebrities.”
Animal products’ environmental repercussions
2018 was also the year in which Jaden started talking about climate change at summits. At the 2018 EMA IMPACT Summit in May, he spoke to Dr. Jay Lemery about a topic that’s not often discussed, the way climate change can impact our health.
And at Summit LA18 in November, he spoke to Al Gore, who he has called his idol. He described this conversation as the “best moment of [his] life.” Below is the conversation in full, it’s 55 minutes. If you’re interested but only have 11 minutes to spare, we recommend watching from the 33 minute mark to the 44 minute mark:
Jaden actually spoke to Al Gore again in early 2019. And in that conversation, he briefly mentioned recommending the documentary What the Health to people to educate them on the health benefits of switching to a plant-based diet. What he didn’t mention was that the makers of What the Health also made another documentary called Cowspiracy, which provides information on the environmental impact of animal products. Both of these documentaries are available on Netflix.
Since then, Jaden has continued to raise awareness about climate change at different occasions. For example, he also spoke and performed at the September 2019 climate rally in New York City, where climate activist Greta Thunberg spoke as well. That same month, he tweeted:
“Dear Meat Eaters Let’s Start Doing #MeatlessFridays Where We Don’t Eat Meals That Include Meat For The Entire Day.”
— Jaden (@jaden) September 7, 2019
To understand how the animal industries damage the environment and contribute to climate change, it’s important to realize that they’re fundamentally inefficient. Growing crops to feed to animals in order to eat them takes a lot more resources than growing crops for direct human consumption. Because of that inherent inefficiency, the animal industries require far more water, fuel, and land than producers of plant-based food.
Worldwide, plant-based food provides 83 percent of all our calories, while animal products only provide 17 percent. But the animal industries occupy almost a third of all land on earth. And their constant need for more land is the reason they drive deforestation. Deforestation contributes to climate change because, as Al Gore told Jaden, “the most advanced and effective technology we have for pulling CO2 out of the atmosphere is called a tree.”
And for the same reasons that they require more resources, the animal industries also emit a lot more greenhouse gases. Scientists have calculated that a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions come from food, and more than half of those come from animal products.
That’s why buying animal products is at odds with environmentalism. And because we can switch from animal products to plant-based products ourselves, without having to wait on governments and corporations to change, it’s arguably the most effective way we can combat climate change as individuals.
Jaden’s plant-based food trucks
On July 8, 2019, the day Jaden turned 21, he launched his first pop-up “I Love You Restaurant” food truck. Unlike most restaurants, this food truck provided people with free food, and all of it was plant-based. He set it up primarily to help low income communities, which is why he opened the first truck in Skid Row, Los Angeles, a neighborhood with one of the largest homeless communities in the U.S.
He announced it on Instagram as follows: “The @ILoveYouRestaurant Is A Movement That Is All About Giving People What They Deserve, Healthy, Vegan Food For Free. Today We Launched Our First One Day Food Truck Pop-Up in Downtown LA. Keep A Look Out Because This Is The First Of Many #JADENinc,”
Since then, Jaden has repeated the concept multiple times, and not just in Los Angeles, but also elsewhere. In September of that same year, he opened one in Harlem, New York City, where ASAP Rocky joined him in handing out the free meals.
In order to provide quality meals, he teamed up with partners like Café Gratitude. And in a video in which he talked about this partnership, he also discussed his motivation for setting up the food trucks. He explained that working with real homeless people on the set of The Pursuit of Happyness, when he was only eight, played a key role:
A health intervention
In September 2019, an episode of the web television talk show Red Table Talk was released which featured the whole Smith family: Will, Jada, Jaden, Willow, Trey (Will’s son from a previous marriage), and Adrienne (Jada’s mother). The episode was organized by Will because he wanted everyone in the family to address their health problems.
In the episode, the family members mention that even though they look healthy, they often don’t feel healthy. They leave no stone unturned, and they have enough health problems to fill the entire episode, which lasts almost half an hour. In this context, Will and Jada also briefly mention that they were worried about Jaden’s health for a while and intervened.
In Jada’s words: “Will and I had a bit of an intervention with Jaden because he’s a vegan now, but we realized he wasn’t getting enough protein, so he was wasting away. He just looked drained. He was just depleted. He wasn’t getting the nutrients.” Will added to that that they “got really nervous” because he had “dark circles under his eyes, [and] there was even a little grayness, like, to his skin.”
This part of the episode received a lot of media attention, and if these health problems had really been caused by veganism, that would have been justified. But they weren’t, and most of the evidence for that was even presented in the episode itself.
While Jaden confirmed that he’d had these health problems, he immediately made it clear that he wasn’t vegan: “I’m vegetarian. You know, I’ve tried to eat vegan meals. I’ll go vegan for a week or so, but for the past year, I’ve been vegetarian.”
He also provided a much more straightforward explanation for his health problems, he simply wasn’t eating enough: “I was just eating like two meals a day. You know, and maybe one. Maybe just that one big meal, and I’m like, oh, you know, I didn’t get around to it.”
The reason he was eating so little was largely because of stomach pains: “My big problem is I’ll wake up in the morning, my stomach’s hurting. I don’t want to eat breakfast, my stomach hurts.” These stomach pains were completely unrelated to him cutting out meat. It was a medical issue, which was addressed in a follow-up episode.
In addition to not eating enough, he was also dealing with a lot of stress. He rated his stress level an 8 out of 10 before Coachella. In reference to that, he said: “I wasn’t looking good. I wasn’t feeling good. … I wasn’t sleeping. I also had that one time where, like, I threw up that whole day.” To which Will added “that happened twice” and Jada added “his stomach was upset all the time.” And he even mentioned being taken to an emergency room because of his stomach pains.
So, in light of these factors and the fact that he still ate animal products, the claim that his health problems were caused by veganism was incorrect.
Jaden could thrive as a vegan
The follow-up episode featured nutritionist Mona Sharma and Dr. Mark Hyman, who had physically examined the whole family, except for Trey. He said that they were all lactose intolerant, that they all had leaky gut, and that they were all deficient in vitamin B12 and vitamin D.
On top of that, he addressed the family members individually and mentioned problems that not all of the others had. For Jaden, these problems were difficulty digesting gluten and low levels of omega-3 fats.
So, animal products were actually partly responsible for Jaden’s stomach pains, because he was consuming dairy without realizing he was lactose intolerant. And that’s far more common than most people realize. It was mentioned in the episode that 75 percent of the world’s adult population is lactose intolerant.
Gluten intolerance, on the other hand, is quite rare. Most people have no problem digesting gluten. But the tests showed that Jaden does have difficulty digesting them, so he was advised to also avoid gluten to prevent stomach pains.
With regards to leaky gut, Dr. Hyman told the family in general: “That’s not that hard to fix. You gotta basically eat the right diet. Eat real food. Don’t eat crap. You know, and eat mostly plants.”
As for deficiencies, vitamin D deficiency is extremely common. According to Dr. Hyman, it affects 98 percent of African Americans. This deficiency is not food-related, however. Our bodies normally make their own vitamin D when exposed to sunlight, but many people just don’t get enough sunlight. Thankfully, it’s easy to supplement, and many vitamin D supplements are vegan.
Omega-3 deficiency affects 90 percent of the population, according to Dr. Hyman. Unfortunately, people often think that we need to eat fish to get omega-3, but that’s not true. Only some fish are high in omega-3, and that’s because they get it from algae. We can get it straight from the source, in the form of algal oil capsules, or we can get it from other plant-based food, like ground flaxseed.
Lastly, vitamin B12 is also easy to get as a vegan. It doesn’t naturally occur in plant-based food, but we can get it through fortified plant-based products and vegan supplements. Not getting enough vitamin B12 can have serious consequences, so we recommend following the recommendations on this site.
So, none of these health problems require animal products to solve. And by going vegan, Jaden could actually improve his health even further, provided he follows a balanced diet. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the largest organization of nutrition experts in the U.S., has officially stated that “vegans are at reduced risk of certain health conditions, including ischemic heart disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, certain types of cancer, and obesity.”
Jaden’s vegan sneakers
A plant-based diet is a big part of veganism, but it’s not the only part. Veganism is fundamentally about avoiding animal exploitation in all aspects of life. So, that also means not wearing any products made from animal materials.
In 2020, Jaden made a contribution on this front as well by teaming up with New Balance to launch vegan leather sneakers. The model was named the Vision Racer, and New Balance credited the cooperation for positively impacting their production process:
“Each element of the Vision Racer incorporates partially recycled materials and the shoe is vegan-friendly. The use of sustainable and vegan materials on the Vision Racer pushed the New Balance supply chain further and helped speed up the brand’s timeline to leverage more sustainable and vegan friendly materials.”
All in all, adopting a vegan lifestyle is completely in line with the causes Jaden cares about, and he has taken noteworthy steps in that direction. Unfortunately, though, as long as he isn’t vegan, he’s still contributing to animal exploitation.
The reason he hasn’t gone vegan might simply be a lack of education. And since he’s a big proponent of documentaries, we hope that he will watch a documentary on the reality of the animal industries. Maybe the free documentary Dominion can convince him to make the switch.
Do you want to learn more about veganism? Check out our list of free resources!
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