Gisele Bundchen fires back in feud with Brazilian Minister

Brazilian supermodel turned environmental activist Gisele Bundchen is pushing back against the agricultural minister in her homeland. (File photo: AFP)
Updated 19 January 2019
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Gisele Bundchen fires back in feud with Brazilian Minister

  • Minister Tereza Cristina Dias accused Bundchen of tainting the country’s image abroad
  • The public feud underscores the enormous international attention being focused on the Amazon basin

RIO DE JANEIRO: Brazilian supermodel turned environmental activist Gisele Bundchen is pushing back against the agricultural minister in her homeland, along the way wading into a growing debate about the future of the Amazon.
The brouhaha began Monday when Minister Tereza Cristina Dias accused Bundchen of tainting the country’s image abroad. During a radio interview, Dias called the supermodel a “bad Brazilian” for denouncing deforestation and said the model should be promoting Brazil’s agriculture and industries.
Late Wednesday, Bundchen wrote a measured response, saying she would “be happy to announce positive actions” taken toward sustainable development.
In her letter, Bundchen said she was surprised by the derogatory mention. She said her criticisms, which included a series of Tweets last year, were based on science and came from a “worried Brazilian citizen.”
Citing a 13 percent increase in deforestation in Brazil, Bundchen said those behind illegal land occupations were the “bad Brazilians.”
The public feud underscores the enormous international attention being focused on the Amazon basin and fears that Bolsonaro’s administration is geared to roll back environmental protections.
Home to the lion’s share of the Amazon, the world’s largest rainforest, Brazil is seen as a key piece in fighting climate change. But Bolsonaro, a close ally of the agro-business caucus, has garnered the wrath of environmental advocates around the world for his views that the Amazon should be less regulated to make room for agriculture and other industries.
Bolsonaro has spoken out against environmental regulators, who he says have created an “industry of fines,” and has promised that he will not give indigenous tribes “one more centimeter” of land.
During the radio interview, the agriculture minister, nicknamed the “queen of poison” for pushing for legislation in Congress to loosen rules for pesticide use, was asked about the “PR problems” that have come from the model’s activism.
“It’s absurd what they do today with the image of Brazil,” she responded. “For some reason they go out and paint a picture of Brazil and its industries that is not true.”
“Sorry, Gisele Bundchen,” she continued. “You should be an ambassador and say that your country conserves, that your country is on the global vanguard of conservation, and not go around criticizing Brazil without knowing the facts.”
In her letter, the model described over 12 years of environmental activism, which earned her a spot as a UN environment goodwill ambassador.
She said she has visited the Amazon several times, has learned about the reality of Brazil’s vast northern rainforest and has collaborated with leading scientists, academics, activists and companies on the issue of climate change.
Bundchen encouraged Dias to use technology and scientific knowledge in Brazilian agriculture to avoid further deforestation that could lead Brazil “past the point of no return.”


Fashion capital New York considers banning sale of fur

Updated 17 April 2019
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Fashion capital New York considers banning sale of fur

  • Lawmakers are pushing a measure that would ban the sale of all new fur products in the city
  • “Cruelty should not be confused with economic development,” a sponsor of the legislation said

NEW YORK: A burgeoning movement to outlaw fur is seeking to make its biggest statement yet in the fashion mecca of New York City.
Lawmakers are pushing a measure that would ban the sale of all new fur products in the city where such garments were once common and style-setters including Marilyn Monroe, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Joe Namath and Sean “Diddy” Combs have all rocked furs over the years.
A similar measure in the state Capitol in Albany would impose a statewide ban on the sale of any items made with farmed fur and ban the manufacture of products made from trapped fur.
Whether this is good or bad depends on which side of the pelt you’re on. Members of the fur industry say such bans could put 1,100 people out of a job in the city alone. Supporters dismiss that and emphasize that the wearing of fur is barbaric and inhumane.
“Cruelty should not be confused with economic development,” said state Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal, a Democrat from Manhattan, who is sponsoring the state legislation. “Fur relies on violence to innocent animals. That should be no one’s business.”
The fate of the proposals could be decided in the coming months, though supporters acknowledge New York City’s measure has a better chance of passage than the state legislation.
The fur trade is considered so important to New York’s development that two beavers adorn the city’s official seal, a reference to early Dutch and English settlers who traded in beaver pelts.
At the height of the fur business in the last century, New York City manufactured 80% of the fur coats made in the U.S, according to FUR NYC, a group representing 130 retailers and manufacturers in the city. The group says New York City remains the largest market for fur products in the country, with real fur still frequently used as trim on coats, jackets and other items.
If passed, New York would become the third major American city with such a ban, following San Francisco, where a ban takes effect this year, and Los Angeles, where a ban passed this year will take effect in 2021.
Elsewhere, Sao Paulo, Brazil, began its ban on the import and sale of fur in 2015. Fur farming was banned in the United Kingdom nearly 20 years ago, and last year London fashion week became the first major fashion event to go entirely fur-free.
Fur industry leaders warn that if the ban passes in New York, emboldened animal rights activists will want more.
“Everyone is watching this,” said Nancy Daigneault, vice president at the International Fur Federation, an industry group based in London. “If it starts here with fur, it’s going to go to wool, to leather, to meat.”
When asked what a fur ban would mean for him, Nick Pologeorgis was blunt: “I’m out of business.”
Pologeorgis’ father, who emigrated from Greece, started the fur design and sales business in the city’s “Fur District” nearly 60 years ago.
“My employees are nervous,” he said. “If you’re 55 or 50 and all you’ve trained to do is be a fur worker, what are you going to do?“
Supporters of the ban contend those employees could find jobs that don’t involve animal fur, noting that an increasing number of fashion designers and retailers now refuse to sell animal fur and that synthetic substitutes are every bit as convincing as the real thing.
They also argue that fur retailers and manufacturers represent just a small fraction of an estimated 180,000 people who work in the city’s fashion industry and that their skills can readily be transferred.
“There is a lot of room for job growth developing ethically and environmentally friendly materials,” said City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, who introduced the city measure.
New Yorkers asked about the ban this week came down on both sides, with some questioning if a law was really needed.
“It is a matter of personal choice. I don’t think it’s something that needs to be legislated,” said 44-year-old Janet Thompson. “There are lots of people wearing leather and suede and other animal hides out there. To pick on fur seems a little one-sided.”
Joshua Katcher, a Manhattan designer and author who has taught at the Parsons School of Design, says he believes the proposed bans reflect an increased desire to know where our products come from and for them to be ethical and sustainable.
“Fur is a relic,” he said.