14 May 2011

You are given a gift made from leather, what do you do?

When I went vegan (best decision of my life!), I started out as vegan in diet only. It seems only natural that when one denounces food from animals, that they would do the same with their wardrobe. However, the way in which veganism and a cruelty free lifestyle happens upon us is a curious thing, almost like a lightbulb going off in your head. I say all this because as passionate as I was about veganism and how much I loved my dietary transition, I still firmly believed that as the fashionista I considered myself to be, it would be impossible to look cute and not wear leather.

Then one day I looked at my prized Louis Vuitton purse and Christian Louboutin shoes, and felt disgusted. I was walking around on a dead cow that was forced into a miserable existence and I could not have that in my life. Just like how non-vegans think, "Well, what do vegans eat?" and can think of nothing except carrots and lettuce, as a lover of fashion I thought, "Well, what would I possibly wear?" and I shuddered at the thought of cheap, pleather shoes taking over my future.

Regardless, I knew I had no choice and I have not bought anything containing a single animal product (beauty products, medicine, clothing, food, etc.) since that day. And let me just mention, my wardrobe has not suffered in the least, there are so many cute vegan clothes out there! Who knew?! (Check out Lulus.com, they have an entire section for vegan shoes and purses!)

However, what about when someone buys you a non-vegan item? As a gift? With a big smile on their face as they eagerly hand you the present they have spent hours searching for in your name? Do you risk looking like the difficult vegan and renounce the item? If you are a vegan, then the answer is a simple, Yes! Before I veganized my wardrobe, there was a stunning pair of shoes with a tad bit of leather that I absolutely had to have. I went on and on about how they were the best shoes I had ever seen. However, months later when Christmas rolled around, I had seen the light long before this, and made my cruelty free intentions for all aspects of my life, loud and clear. But when I was unwrapping Christmas presents, there were the shoes in all their leather nastiness staring me right in the face. At first I felt bad, as the person who gave me these shoes knew how much I had wanted them and were so happy to be the bearer of what they thought was going to be my most prized present that year. However, they also knew I had since become vegan and was no longer purchasing these items. Between you and me, I sort of wondered if they had lost their mind because I'm not exactly the quiet type when it comes to sharing my thoughts and beliefs.

Regardless, I asked my friends what they thought. A lot of them said things like, "Well, you didn't buy them yourself and they are so cute so it's fine." But in my heart, I knew this was not right. They were bought for me, in my name, and I had long since promised myself that no animal would die in vain for me or my lifestyle ever again. Most of us don't have the luxury of replacing our old leather items with all new things, but we can make the decision not to continue to add money in the pockets of these corrupt businesses, and this is a promise that I had made to myself that I both needed and wanted to honor. Even though I had not made the purchase myself these items were purchased for me, and so it was no different. I stood up for my morals and what I believe in, explained this to the purchaser of the shoes, and guess what? They happily made the return. They took the money and bought a bike for me instead so that we could go on rides together, which is an even better gift than a silly pair of shoes if you ask me! Plus, I'm saving the environment by riding a bike! Win/Win.

Look, it's really very simple. If you are vegan then do not allow animals to die in your name, even when meant as a gesture or gift. Share your reasons for adopting a vegan lifestyle with your friends and family even when it does not involve presents, and not only might you inspire them to go veg as well, but you don't run the risk of having money spent on an industry that goes against everything you believe in. Put that money towards good use and if you're super cool, in lieu of gifts have money donated to your favorite animal sanctuary instead.

Hayley Marie Norman | @xoHayleyMarie
Hayley Marie, a vegan, is a Los Angeles based actress that has appeared in numerous films including Hancock and Fired Up, as well as several tv shows such as Crash, CSI:Miami and CSI:NY. She is also known as being the girl with the wild crazy afro, aka #25, on Deal or No Deal. For more information about Hayley Marie check out her blog.

Photo Credit: cc: flickr.com/photos/fatmandy