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Monday, 24 July 2017

CAN YOU STILL BE VEGAN & BUY SECONDHAND LEATHER?


To answer the blog title question, in quite literal terms: no. You cannot wear leather as a vegan. This is because, by very definition, veganism requires that you do not eat or use animal products. Simple as. 

So yeah, that's that. 

SO WHY DO YOU BUY IT..?
Yes my friend, although my diet omits animal products, I do buy and wear secondhand leather. In doing so I am not at all saying that you must do the same, but before you come for me, please do hear me out. Because my personal reasons for not consuming animal products go further than exclusively due to animal cruelty in agriculture. As an animal lover, I would never want to put my money towards harming them. I am unashamedly repulsed by the meat and dairy industries, as well as other industries involving animals. I've felt the weight of animal suffering my entire life, so I won't accept anyone telling me that because I buy leather from charity shops that instantly means that I do not care about animals. Because I also simultaneously care immensely about the environment & protecting our planet. Of course, these topics are by no means mutually exclusive, and actually massively overlap - with animal farming increasing CO2 emissions a heck of a lot, as well as being environmentally damaging in many other ways too. 

I digress slightly, but essentially, I try to avoid buying first-hand clothing as much as possible. Vegan or otherwise, production of new products and pieces costs resources and energy for processes such as production & transport. Therefore, purchasing existing items does not add to the demand for newly manufactured clothing. That's it really, that's my answer - I still buy secondhand leather because it doesn't contribute to demand for leather. Some may argue that wearing it normalises the wearing of animal skin, but I don't see it that way. 

I wouldn't go out of my way to buy leather in a charity shop, and I wouldn't buy it new, but secondhand sits ok with me for the reasons mentioned. I would obviously encourage buying vegan leather first hand over real leather first hand due to animal cruelty involved in production, poor working conditions in leather treatment facilities and pollution to surrounding areas. However, pleather and vegan leather are not necessarily good for the environment due to the materials they are made from (look into it further if you're curious). Plus, although secondhand shops don't necessarily contribute to a country's GDP (economics modules coming in handy say whaaat), they still inject money into the local economy and most importantly encourage reuse of preloved items. Reduce reuse recycle & all that.

GENERAL THOUGHTS & ETERNAL THANKS.
There's this idea that once you decide to announce to the world that you want to start making more ethical choices, you have to instantly become the perfect ethical consumer. This is entirely unrealistic and is the kind of attitude that puts people off wanting to make a change for the better. It is not what I strive for. It is the kind of attitude that makes people think, 'If I can't go 100% vegan 100% organic 100% sustainable overnight, what's the point?'. It is, arguably, more damaging than beneficial. Don't get me wrong, I value these buying habits and encourage them, but I'm a perfect split of dreamer and realist. I dream of a world free from cruelty, but I realise the limitations to this vision. In reality, I can't say for sure if TRULY faultless 100% ethical consumption exists, as all consumption uses up resources and requires energy and so on. Nonetheless, there are certainly less impactful ways of consuming than others. This is true.

I'm so lucky to have had so many people message me over the past few years saying that they really apprecaite my approach when talking about my cruelty-free journey in that I show how it is attainable (their words not mine, not tooting my own trumpet). And I thank you eternally for letting me know you feel this way! I do try to constantly make it clear - it is okay to not be perfect all of the time. It is okay to fudge up and have a bad day, to momentarily not be the angelic ethical consumer you're striving to be. If you are increasing your awareness of your personal impact on the planet & other creatures, if you are trying to make a change within yourself, that's what matters. Talking to people, explaining and not lecturing, engaging in conversation - that's what matters and that's what will make long-term difference to people's thinking. Attacking people for not being faultless is not constructive, it is destructive. It might shock someone and make them momentarily think, but without explaining and listening and engaging you stand very little chance of convincing someone to truly reflect on their impact and on themselves as a part of the problem - and therefore part of the solution.

ISN'T THAT OVERSIMPLIFICATION JUST A MASSIVE INSULT TO VEGANS?
Let me make this very clear, I understand that absolute veganism involves not using, wearing or consuming any animal products. I understand that for people who have been 100% vegan for 30+ years, the newer vegan movement that has been sold to the masses may be irritating because it has been somewhat diluted. Those who feel that you either are vegan, or you are not. That there is no inbetween. We now have terms like 'plant-based' for those who only eat plants, but own non-cruelty free makeup and products. We have those who describe themselves as vegan, but eat honey. It is contradictory. I agree. To many people, there is no 80% vegan, or 'I'm vegan, but -'. You are or you are not. 

However, veganism to me is an ideology, not just a diet. And you must also remember that, in technical terms, in true vegan ideology, a vegan would not own any pets, as animals are not ours to own or get pleasure from. They are not physical property. You see? It's perhaps more complicated than first thought. 

BUT... YOU'RE STILL NOT VEGAN..
I guess, yeah. Describing myself as vegan is just convenience for me, I am in no way trying to dirty or belittle the title. When the waiter at a restaurant asks whether I have any food restrictions, I'm not going to sit there and explain 'well, I am kind of vegan in that I don't eat dairy or meat but I'm kind of not because I still wear leather from charity shops and I own a cat.', am I ? 

You can pick at my reasoning as much as you like, but I have my reasons, as I am sure you have yours :-) I am trying to be the best version of myself I can be and to harm the planet as little as I possibly can. Perhaps I will do a 180 and completely change my opinion one day, and I am completely in my right to do so. That is all.

LOOKING FORWARD.
For me, I think that perhaps this is how the modern vegan movement gains greater widespread traction. Would you rather give people the ultimatum of going entirely vegan cold-turkey (pardon the non-vf phrase) and otherwise not to bother at all; or let them reduce their consumption of animal products gradually or even just slightly? I think the second option gives people a more open gateway into the world of veganism. Treating it as a journey, not as an all or nothing thing to start with. You go at your pace, evolve as you learn, and don't judge anyone else at a different stage in their journey. Odds are you weren't raised vegan, so try to be empathetic to others willing to give it a shot - whether that be 100%, 70% or just 2%. Everybody has got to start somewhere, and we do what we can where we can.

#CRUELTYFREECLUB.

3 comments:

  1. Dear Becky, this is such a great post. I've been thinking about this same stuff very much lately! I sometimes come across people who think that one has to be a PERFECT ecofriendly/hippie/vegan/whatever to have the "right" to write or talk about ecological and ethical lifestyle. This is super annoying, because as you were also describing, one simply cannot be "perfect" in everything. And I think it is so important that one is still doing the best that they can!

    Thank you so much for this blogpost, this was very encouraging for me as well! xx I am forever your fan! :-D

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    1. Hey Larissa, thanks so much for this lovely comment! I'm so glad that you agree. It is important to be welcoming & understanding to EVERYONE interested in even possibly trying to make a change :-) Thanks again, I really appreciate it! xxxxxx

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  2. Hello Becky, i'm a bit late on this post but i absolutely love to read/ watch your content! I really value your recommendations and opinions, and i think you are an incredible person! Absolutely loved this post!
    Love from Canada! :) <3 (sorry if there are mistakes in my comment english is not my first language)

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