He’s a soccer player who’s known for his cocky attitude off the field and for backing up that attitude with impressive performances on the field. He has scored an impressive number of goals and is widely regarded as one of the best strikers of all time. But is Zlatan Ibrahimović vegan?
No, Zlatan Ibrahimović is not vegan. He eats meat and other animal products and has even mentioned a Swedish sausage as his favorite food. He also kills animals himself on fishing and hunting trips. And he has a horse which he enrolls in show jumping competitions.
Before getting into the ways in which Zlatan harms animals, it should be noted that there’s at least one animal that he likes: his dog. He posts pictures of his dog on Instagram every once in a while, and the animal also made an appearance in two ads for his no longer existing brand A-Z, although not in a particularly active role. Here’s one of those ads, it also includes a raccoon squirrel hybrid version of Zlatan:
Unlike some other soccer players, Zlatan has never discussed his diet in detail. In 2013, when he was asked if he paid attention to his diet, he gave the following answer:
“In the beginning of my career nutrition was not really important to me. When I came to Ajax we ate what we wanted. It wasn’t like today. I think this issue has become important in the last 5 to 10 years. Of course before I wasn’t playing at the top level, but for me the focus has grown over the last 5 years.
“Today I think every team now has a nutritional adviser who looks out for what we should eat and drink, when to eat and how much and it’s become a really important issue. It’s something that you learn with experience. When I eat at home now I know what I can eat in relation to how active I am and it becomes something that you are always conscious of.”
Evidence of just how seriously he took his diet came the following year, when he was playing for Paris Saint-Germain. He wasn’t satisfied with the quality of the food at the Camp de Loges training center and called it “repetitive.” In response, the club fired two head chefs and hired two new ones. The catering budget per player was also increased and the chefs introduced a fresh pasta stand for the team.
However, despite becoming increasingly health conscious, he has not made the switch to a plant-based diet. In 2016, he said that his favorite food was macaroni and falukorv. Falukorv is a sausage commonly eaten in Sweden, Zlatan’s home country. Since then, he has continued to eat animal products and he has never even spoken about plant-based diets.
That’s obviously tragic for the animals who are currently being needlessly exploited and killed in the animal industries. But apart from that, it’s also not in his own best interest to continue to eat animal products.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has explicitly stated that appropriately planned plant-based diets are suitable for athletes and that these diets can benefit our health. In their own words: “Vegans are at reduced risk of certain health conditions, including ischemic heart disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, certain types of cancer, and obesity.” The documentary The Game Changers, available on Netflix, features a variety of athletes who have improved their performance by switching to plant-based diets.
Unfortunately, Zlatan enjoys killing animals. He’s into fishing and hunting and has held a hunting license since at least 2010. In his 2011 autobiography, he described it as an addiction: “I’ve got something of an addictive personality. I get wrapped up in certain things. These days it’s hunting.”
In 2012, he even bought an entire island, with an area of 500 hectares, primarily for this purpose. The island is home to deer and wild boar, among other animals. And it’s situated in the lake Mälaren, which is home to perch, pike, and many other species of fish. But instead of simply enjoying these animals’ presence or at least just letting them be, Zlatan takes pleasure in killing them.
In 2014, a Swedish Volvo ad was released which showed Zlatan going on a hunting trip. Near the end of the ad, he was shown aiming his rifle at a deer, but the ad ended before he pulled the trigger. Obviously, no deer was shot for the ad, but glorifying the needless killing of animals by a celebrity does have real life consequences.
Later that year, he made the front page of a Swedish newspaper for reportedly killing a 1,100-pound moose with one shot through the heart. Both Zlatan and the newspaper were criticized for it, but that didn’t stop Zlatan from continuing to hunt.
The population control myth
Hunters often argue that killing animals is necessary for population control, but this is demonstrably false. Without human intervention, species in nature find a natural balance, but hunting actually disturbs this natural balance in multiple ways.
Because wildlife agencies make a significant amount of money by selling hunting licenses, they have an incentive to keep it going. So, they engage in activities like clear cutting forested areas to create habitats that increase the deer population. In addition, the deer population is further increased by deer farms, present throughout North America and Europe, which breed deer to release them in fenced-in properties for “high fence hunting.”
Hunters also disturb the natural balance themselves. When they kill predators, the prey species grow in numbers, and when they kill prey species, the predators are forced to look for food in areas where humans live. Both of these problems are then used as excuses for more hunting. Not to mention that the focus on killing male animals doesn’t even contribute to long-term population control, as the males who aren’t killed can still impregnate all the females.
All in all, Zlatan and other hunters don’t hunt because nature needs their constant interference. They hunt because they like to kill animals. And what they’re doing is just as unnecessary as the killing of animals in slaughterhouses.
Zlatan’s fishing trips
Zlatan appears to like fishing as much as he likes hunting. He goes on fishing trips and sometimes posts pictures of the fish he catches on social media. This is a video and picture from a trip in 2019:
In our society, fish are generally viewed as less worthy of consideration than land animals. But the reasons for that aren’t rational. We’re simply not good at identifying with them because they live underwater, don’t have arms and legs, don’t have facial expressions that we recognize, and they can’t scream when they’re in pain.
But research has shown that fish are actually intelligent and social animals. They live together with family members and other fish that they know. They exchange information about food, safety, and reproduction. They work together, learn from each other, spread risks in dangerous situations, and many fish even build nests for their children or to protect themselves from enemies. They’re also just as capable of experiencing stress, fear, and pain as other animals.
That means that catching a fish causes just as much suffering as hiding a sharp hook in a dog’s food, waiting until the unsuspecting dog bites into it, and then dragging the dog underwater and holding them there until they die. Catch and release is comparable to holding a dog underwater long enough to take a picture, and then letting them go before they drown. Many people are unaware that a lot of fish still die after being caught and released because of stress and injuries.
Maybe if Zlatan realized this, he would think differently about fishing.
Zlatan’s show jumping horse
In 2017, Zlatan and Italian rider Michol Del Signore bought a horse together, a six-year-old mare called Grande Dieni. Zlatan doesn’t appear to be involved in any way other than financially. They enroll Grande Dieni in show jumping competitions where Michol rides her. Zlatan occasionally posts pictures of them on social media. Here’s one from 2020:
No form of horseback riding is vegan. The reason for that is that horses don’t need humans on their backs to tell them where to go and what to do. It’s completely unnecessary and it’s done purely for human entertainment, at the expense of the horses’ own desires.
On top of that, horses who have to compete in competitions also run the risk of serious injuries. In the words of Elizabeth Davidson, doctor of veterinary medicine: “Football players tear up their knees—it’s what they do. Hunters, jumpers and equitation horses are also athletes and they will get athletic injuries.” The only difference is that horses never signed up to be athletes. They don’t get any of the benefits, but they do get the injuries. And it’s not uncommon for them to get killed if they can’t easily recover.
Given that there’s such a wide range of sports we can watch, with human athletes like Zlatan who signed up voluntarily and love what they do, there’s really no sense in forcing animals to perform for us as well.
Zlatan’s campaign against world hunger
In 2015, Zlatan teamed up with the United Nations World Food Programme to launch a campaign against world hunger. To raise awareness for the 805 million people suffering from hunger worldwide, Zlatan got the names of 50 of those people temporarily tattooed on his body and released this video:
While this topic might seem unrelated, there’s actually a strong link between world hunger and animal products. The reason for that is that animals in the animal industries need a lot of food and use most of that food to live and only part of it to grow. So, the industries are inherently inefficient. We’re already growing enough crops to feed every human on the planet, but because we feed part of those crops to animals and then eat the animals we end up with less food in total.
What’s particularly tragic is that a lot of crops for animals are grown in the countries where people are starving. Richard Oppenlander, author of the award-winning books Comfortably Unaware and Food Choice and Sustainability, has summarized it as follows: “Eighty-two percent of the world’s starving children live in countries where food is fed to animals, which are then killed and eaten by wealthier individuals in developed countries like the US, UK, and in Europe.”
So, while veganism is about animal rights, it also helps humans. By switching from animal products to plant-based products, we become healthier and more food becomes available in the countries where it’s desperately needed. Hopefully, the combination of arguments will inspire Zlatan to go vegan in the future.
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