26 April 2011

The leather and wool debate: When leather and wool are vegan

Since the dawn of veganism, there have been issues that seem to concern and divide members of the community. Two of them are honey and leather or wool products.

Honey is somewhat obvious in my book- bees don’t make honey for us, ergo, not vegan. Leather, wool or silk- vegan.

WHAT!? I know, you’re confused. Lemme explain. I’m not talking about going to the store and buying brand new items thus creating demand for and promoting these items, I’m talking about the items you already own. I’m sure that most of us, upon going vegan, would love to eschew these products that we now know to be cruel, but we all need to give ourselves a break. Most vegans are not millionaires with an unlimited budget for purchasing all new items to replace the cruelty filled items in our lives. This translates not just into things we wear for function or fashion, but also beauty care products and furniture. I personally still own three wool coats, and while it irks me personally to still wear them, I’m just not in a position to throw them out and get new ones. I live in the Midwest where winter is still trying to hold on and I don’t personally have the budget to replace these items, plus, it’s wasteful. Same holds true for new vegans who have cabinets full of personal care products that were cruelly tested on animals.

So what’s a vegan to do? Nothing, until you’re able. Once I’m in need of a new jacket, I’ll replace the ones it pains me to wear with cruelty-free versions and probably donate the old ones. Of course it bothers me to perpetuate the fashion, but we live in an imperfect world. For now, does it SAVE any animals for me to not continue to wear my coats and go into credit card debt buying new stuff? Sadly, no. Does using non-vegan things I already own make me any less vegan? Hell no! Being kind to animals doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be kind to ourselves as we navigate this tricky world.

If you find yourself called out by some jerk busting you for claiming to be vegan while wearing a leather coat you’ve had for five years, remind him that none of us are perfect (and most of us aren’t independently wealthy) and that you’re doing the best you can in the situation. Then tell him to buzz off.

Ryan Leitch
Ryan is an Abolitionist Vegan Activist and her passion for all things vegan consumes her. Animals are here with us, not for us. Her favorite outreach activities include writing and blogging, hosting movie screenings, tabling and leafletting, demonstrations, potlucks, and Vegan Drinks. You can also find Ryan at Vegan Minneapolis.

Photo credit: cc: flickr.com/photos/shamon_adam