For many, being vegan reach far beyond a simple diet. It extends to all aspects of life—what we wear, the products we buy, the companies and organizations we support. And for those who care deeply about the wellbeing of animals, our clothing is a big element to consider.
The fashion industry continues to employ practices that harm animals, people, and our environment for the sake of “high-fashion” items like fur, leather, wool, and down.
The Leather Industry
Plant Based News reports that 1 billion animals suffer every year in order to produce leather that ends up on handbags, jackets, shoes, and other luxury items. One billion animals. Let that sink in.
The animals used for leather products don’t live a free life and die a painless death as we all wish to believe. They’re herded into tight spaces where they spend their short lives before they are slaughtered and their skin is peeled off and sent to tanneries.
We could write an entire article on the environmental and health issues associated with tanneries, but we’ll keep it brief. At the tanneries, animal skins are treated with harsh, often carcinogenic chemicals like formaldehyde to prevent the natural decay that would otherwise take place, and they release obscene amounts of toxic pollution into our atmosphere and waterways. That’s why the vast majority of leather tanning happens in India and China where there is little environmental regulation. Needless to say, mainstream leather production is far from “natural” and definitely not good for our planet or its inhabitants.
And what about fur? If the cows exploited for leather don’t tug at your heart and get your sympathy, consider the furry animals like rabbits, foxes, raccoons and chinchillas who receive the same fate, all to satiate our want for lavish items.
What About Down Feathers?
Most people will agree that the process to get leather and fur is cruel, but assume that down feather jackets (and pillows and quilts) don’t cause harm, as collecting feathers doesn’t require the killing of animals. That can be true in theory. In fact, it’s Cruelty Free Feathers’ (CFF) business model. Birds naturally shed their feathers in a process called molting. CFF owner Rene Creasy, who has 25 birds or so, collects the molten feathers to sell to fashion labels. But even Creasy agrees that it is not an efficient or even impactful system when the material she collects are simply not enough to make a dent. And even when feathers are acquired in an ethical manner, they still ultimately promote an industry that breeds animals, locks them up, and exploits them for their own profitable gain.
Currently, however, the fashion industry is seeing a rise in ethical and consciously produced products. For example, Wills Vegan Shoes are stylish and functional yet don’t harm animals in any way. It is just one of the many up-and-coming labels that are high quality and cruelty-free at the same time.
Be The Change
It’s clear how veganism applies to fashion, but how exactly does it translate to philanthropy? Many who adopt a vegan lifestyle are making an effort to ‘be the change they wish to see in the world.’ The objective of many is not just to eliminate cruel practices but also to promote acts born out of benevolence. Concern for animals naturally extends to concern for the way we treat other people.
Are companies compensating workers fairly? Are they making responsible environmentally conscious practices a priority? There are the sorts of things that we as conscious consumers should consider. But when you learn about practices that are unethical, what can you do about it (aside from boycotting the company)?
Tap Into Philanthropy
Animal rights organization Mercy for Animals launched the One to Change the World (OCW) Society which specifically calls on young activists to end factory farming and the major problems associated with it. Younger generations are becoming “woke” and recognizing these issues that have been institutionalized in our society—and they’re actively doing something about it. They’re starting to see how animal agriculture contributes to the problems of environmental degradation and world hunger, and that the impact of being vegan goes beyond animal welfare.
Supporting charities that create a better world is very much a vegan act. You can donate directly to charities that are most meaningful to you. You can volunteer at local nonprofit organizations. You can find creative ways to spread awareness about important to you. And you can fundraise for causes that are near to your heart.
One example of creative advocacy and fundraising is ‘Christmas Jumper Day’ hosted by Save the Children. Wearing a sweater to support a good cause? Yup—it’s that easy. On December 14, non-profit organization Save the Children will lead the celebration for Christmas Jumper Day when anyone can start their own fundraising event for the benefit of families in need worldwide. And oh yes, you can find vegan sweaters! Vegan sweaters, like vegan shoes, are made without any material derived from animals.
Let Kindness Grow
There are many things we can do to embody the vegan principles of compassion and kindness. From choosing not to consume or wear animal products to planting trees or giving assistance to people who need it the most. The bottom line is that actions that come from a place of kindness can move our world in a beautiful direction. Boy, what a difference we can make.
Photo from Canva.com.