Veganism and the fashion industry are more closely linked than you may think.
I remember telling a friend I wanted to buy some vegetarian shoes and he said “but you don’t eat shoes”.
It’s a common misconception that veganism only refers to diet.
Vegans don’t wear animal products either – and it’s becoming increasingly easy to find cruelty-free clothes. I’ve discussed before how most vegans try to avoid using any products connected to the exploitation of animals.
The leather industry is not a byproduct of the meat industry – this is yet another misconception. The cow’s skin makes up 10 per cent of the animal’s profitability, this makes it by far the most lucrative part of the poor creature. So it’s the leather industry that is actually making the meat industry more sustainable. The meat industry is being propped up by the leather industry – the two are closely entwined.
In fact, the softest, more luxurious leather comes from new-born, or even unborn calves. These are often the same calves that are part of the controversial veal industry – part of the meat trade that many omnivores try to avoid. Sometimes unborn calves are used to make up this “luxurious” leather – nice eh?
Other, more exotic animals, are increasingly used to make into leather too. In South Africa, Ostrich skins make up 80 per cent of the bird’s value, making it the main reason they are farmed at all.
The fact that alternatives are readily available means that it really isn’t difficult for vegans to avoid animal skins – even Shoezone on the UK High Street stocks mainly synthetic shoes – although sometimes you have to make sure that glues aren’t animal-based when buying from none vegetarian specific stores.
A couple of years ago, Peta released film of the shocking cruelty suffered by sheep on farms in the US and Australia which produce wool. Don’t forget, the wool belongs to the sheep, not to us. And the cruelty that exists inside many slaughterhouses and farms often goes unseen as these are highly secretive businesses – for good reason – they don’t want you to know the truth.
This is the primary argument of most vegans, animal products are not ours to take. The farming of animals for our use is seen as wrong, we are breeding them and feeding them food that should be grown for human consumption.
The fur industry has always been controversial and wearing furs did become a social taboo, so it seems very off that it is still viewed as OK, in fact, normal, to wear the skin of other animals on a daily basis. People were shocked because animals were killed solely for their skin and fur farming was banned in the UK. But it is still legal to sell fur here, and it is sold – for eye-watering prices. In some social circles fur has been sneaking back into vogue over the past few years – something which has caused outrage among animal rights groups. Thankfully, the silly prices asked for fur will mean it never makes up anything more than a very niche market.
For vegans, ethical fashion has become second nature as awareness of the cruelty involved in leather and wool has become more publicised. In fact, vegans often wear T-shirts promoting their views and many of these are sourced from environmentally-aware companies and companies who do not employ child, or slave labour.