She’s an actress who is best known for her roles in the romantic drama The Fault in Our Stars, the Divergent sci-fi movies, and the drama TV series Big Little Lies. On top of her acting career, she’s also an environmental activist who has even been arrested for her activism once. But is Shailene Woodley vegan?
No, Shailene Woodley is not vegan. Although she has been involved in environmental activism for many years and has even said that, as a society, we should cut down on meat to protect the environment, she hasn’t cut meat and other animal products out of her diet and lifestyle.
Shailene’s environmental activism
Veganism is fundamentally about animal rights, but there are strong environmental arguments for giving up animal products as well. Since Shailene approaches the topic from this angle, it’s worth discussing her environmental activism.
In 2010, Shailene cofounded the nonprofit All It Takes, together with her mother. They stated: “We believe that each of us has a responsibility to humanity and our planet to be a part of sustainable positive change and that happiness comes from participating in ways we are individually passionate about.”
Her views on environmental issues started receiving more media attention in 2016, when she became a campaign surrogate for Bernie Sanders. She explained that environmental concerns played a big role in her support for him:
“I always considered myself a grassroots activist, someone who did things from the ground because I felt like the government was never paying attention to what we did. … I was anti-political and Bernie Sanders came into the scene and into the picture and what he made me realize was that all issues that I care about are political.
“I think Bernie Sanders was the only presidential candidate who said that we have to do something about fracking now, we have to do something about pipelines now, we have to do something about climate change now. … There’s a certain hypocrisy within the Democratic system right now. We’re saying to the world as Democrats that we oppose climate change, yet we’re taking actions that don’t necessarily match that opposition.”
That same year, she also participated in the Dakota Access Pipeline protests. She opposed the underground oil pipeline partly because she thought investments should be made in renewable energy instead, partly because she considered the project in violation of Native Americans rights, and partly because she was worried about the pipeline breaking and compromising the water supply of 18 million people.
She stayed on site for a month and a half. And, at one point, she even got arrested. She later spoke about that and unintentionally made an argument against the animal industries: “When you’re in a jail cell and they shut that door, you realize no one can save you. If there’s a fire and they decide not to open the door, you’ll die. You are a caged animal.”
Since then, she has continued to raise awareness about environmental issues. And in 2019, she joined a three-week Greenpeace mission to research plastic pollution in the Sargasso Sea. Later that year, she said in an interview that she thought the environmental movement needed more innovation: “Where are the new products that will replace plastics? Where are our new products for paper?”
Shailene’s support for plant-based products
In that same interview in 2019, Shailene also explicitly mentioned “meat replacement.” She said: “When it comes to meat consumption, a lot of deforestation is to create cattle farms. So how do we, as a corporate society, talk about cutting down our meat consumption?”
In early 2020, she attended Stella McCartney’s runway show at the Paris Fashion Week. Stella doesn’t use any leather, fur, or feathers in her designs and even highlighted the importance of that during the show by having some of the models dress up as animals. Shailene commented: “I do know [Stella] personally. And I’m also just a major fan of her work as an artist, but also just her as a human, and the things that she comes up with and what she’s doing to kind of like radically change this world and affect things.”
“As an advocate for conservation, our planet and its oceans, I work with organizations around the world to help combat climate change and protect our oceans from pollution. That’s why aligning with Good Catch feels like a natural extension of my continued work. They are a like-minded brand that is doing their part to have a positive impact on our oceans and our planet, all while creating delicious plant-based seafood alternatives. I’m excited to see what innovative products they come up with next.”
How the animal industries affect the environment
From an environmental standpoint, some types of fuel are better than others, and the same goes for how we fuel our bodies. It’s simply more efficient to consume crops directly than to feed crops to animals in order to consume the animals.
Feeding crops to animals turns 10 pounds of plant-based food into only 4 pounds of chicken meat or 2 pounds of pork or 1 pound of beef. So, because of that inherent inefficiency, the animal industries require far more water, fuel, and land than producers of plant-based food. And they also produce far more waste, making them one of the main contributors to ocean dead zones.
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. That’s more land than the area of Russia, the United States, and Canada combined. And their constant need for more land is the reason they drive deforestation.
Unfortunately, their negative impact doesn’t end there. The animal industries also emit massive amounts of 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.
Therefore, buying animal products is at odds with environmentalism. And because the average person already has the option to switch to plant-based products, Shailene could have a huge impact by making that switch herself and encouraging others to do the same.
Shailene played a vegetarian in Adrift
In 2018, Shailene played the lead role in the survival movie Adrift, which is based on a true story. The story is set in 1983, and Shailene’s character, Tami Oldham, is a vegetarian. Early in the movie, the character who later becomes her fiancé asks her if she likes fish and she tells him that she likes them when they’re alive:
Later in the movie, however, when she’s adrift and doesn’t have enough food, her convictions are tested. Initially, she refuses to catch fish because she doesn’t want to cause suffering, but hunger ultimately gets the best of her and she kills and eats fish anyway.
While it’s an interesting choice, it’s unlikely that Shailene chose to play this role to make any statement about animal rights. She actually ate fish daily while filming the movie, and the real Tami Oldham was also not a vegetarian, according to her own book. Most likely, the screenwriters simply decided to make the character vegetarian to give her a moral struggle while she was adrift.
Because of Shailene’s environmental activism and her passion for farming and foraging, she has been asked if she’s vegan since at least 2012, even though most vegans simply buy their food in grocery stores. The first time when she was asked the question in 2012, she said:
“I’m not a vegan, but … if I eat meat, it’s only organic, but beyond organic — like only 20 chickens on the farm instead of 900. And I actually go to the farmers and order directly from them.”
To many people, this may seem like a responsible way to eat meat. But, unfortunately, it actually doesn’t make much difference.
From an environmental standpoint, the amount of resources needed to raise animals isn’t any less when it’s done organically, and neither is the amount of waste produced.
And when we look at the animals’ lives, we see that animals raised this way often suffer less in their day to day lives, but they still get killed at a very young age. Chickens, for example, are usually killed when they’re only six weeks old, while they could otherwise live up to eight years. We can’t say that they lived a good life when they didn’t even get a chance to live 99 percent of it.
In the years that followed, Shailene has promoted some questionable dietary habits, like eating clay, but she did have healthy habits as well. Her trainer for Divergent commented that even before she came to him, she “didn’t really eat candy or fried foods, or drink alcohol.” Unfortunately, however, she continued to eat animal products.
In 2015, she said: “I’ll make dinner and use whatever I make for dinner as leftovers the next day. It usually has potatoes or sweet potatoes, a protein, and a vegetable. … My go-to dish that I love to cook if I have time is a homemade roast or a homemade casserole or meat stew with homemade bone broth.”
It’s interesting that she said “a protein” instead of meat, which incorrectly implies that there’s no protein in other food. This is not her fault, as the meat industry has put great effort into promoting that misinformation, but it’s important to realize that there’s protein in literally every type of food.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics confirms that in their statement on vegan diets: “Vegan diets typically meet or exceed recommended protein intakes, when caloric intakes are adequate. … Protein needs at all ages, including those for athletes, are well achieved by balanced [vegan] diets.”
In September 2019, Shailene confirmed that she still ate meat and other animal products when she said: “I’m not vegan or vegetarian.” And she has not indicated in any way that that has changed since then.
Hopefully, Shailene will come to realize that she doesn’t need any animal products in her diet and in her life in general. Adopting a vegan lifestyle would be in the best interest of the animals, the environment, and her own health.
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