Many people who consider going vegan are more familiar with the food and cooking aspect, and indeed, plant-based cookbooks and delicious recipes can be found easily. But less widely discussed are the other aspects of being truly vegan — discontinuing the use of all animal products, as well as practices that exploit animals. Detailed below are ways to avoid using these kinds of goods and participating in certain activities. This excerpt is from Powerful Vegan Messages by H. Jay Dinshah and Anne Dinshah @2014 by The American Vegan Society, reprinted with permission. Also available from The American Vegan Society. Photo courtesy of Julia Mcc.
Vegans do not wear or use fur, wool, silk, leather, feathers, down, bones, or any other animal-based attire but instead use either natural or synthetic non-animal materials. While the term total vegetarian applies only to one’s dietary practices, vegan implies much more. Vegans realize that a dollar’s worth of leather is just as profitable to the slaughterhouse owner as a dollar of meat. So vegans extend their abstention to nonfood items.
Much has been printed, even by nonvegans, about the extreme cruelties of fur trapping that it should be obvious why you won’t see a vegan wearing a fur coat. Vegans also understand that the wool industry and the mutton industry are one, merely representing different products from the same sheep. Much of the wool used in America is “pulled wool,” meaning it is taken at slaughter.
Synthetic furs are beautiful and durable and only a fraction of the cost of animal furs. From the environmental standpoint, they use far less fossil fuel to produce than does the raising or trapping, transporting, and processing of animal fur, especially considering the costly and energy-greedy, summertime, refrigerated storage needed to slow the decay of the dead animal matter in real fur coats.
If one feels the need for a fake fur, attach a pin denoting that it is fake fur or in some other way assure people that no animals were used for fashion. Be sure it is truly fake fur, as some real fur is passed off as fake on the label to appease consumers concerned about animals. The easiest way to tell is to look for threadwork backing on fake fur, whereas leather is at the base of the animal fur. Also real fur hairs are tapered at the end unless they have been cut, while fake fur is cut straight across. These tips and more information can be found online at HumaneSociety.org/furfree.
Genuine silk is obtained almost universally by first roasting or boiling the silkworm to death, a process euphemistically known as “stifling” with the little creature still in its cocoon. Vegans do not use silk.
Vegans use popular plant-based sources including cotton, rayon, hemp, linen, and bamboo. Vegans also use mineral-sourced synthetics such as nylon, polyester, and spandex that are readily available. Hemp and bamboo are becoming popular fabrics. Cotton has been made into good garments for centuries; it is best to get organic cotton produced without all the pesticides and bleaching. Cotton is not good for every purpose, such as if it gets wet, so athletes avoid it in winter in favor of synthetic fabrics. Tremendous strides have been made in synthetic fabrics for all seasons. Enjoy examining clothing options such as moisture wicking, breathable, and weatherproof. An online search will bring up numerous sites with everything you could want. Even better is that a simple search now brings up pages of links to vegan items at mainstream outlets, a huge improvement in recent years.
There is an abundance of nonanimal shoe materials both natural and man made and used worldwide. Natural and synthetic rubber, cork, cotton canvas, various natural and synthetic fibers, and many types of plastics are included in the assortment of shoe materials. Some stores carry exclusively vegan shoes—including ones that are poromeric (breathable imitation leather)—either in brick-and-mortar establishments or online.
Vegan coats, shoes, belts, wallets, purses, and jackets are now being labeled as such and advertised as vegan at many traditional stores. Finding the perfect shoe still takes walking around, virtually or in reality, but when the vegan shoe fits, buy it, wear it, and tell all your friends.
Soaps, cosmetics, shampoos, and other toiletries generally contain animal oils or fats such as lanolin which is sheep-wool fat, beeswax, slaughterhouse tallow and its derivatives, and perfume ingredients that involve cruelty and slaughter. Perfumes often contain glandular secretions from animals.
Various lines of products on the market do not contain such substances and are not tested on animals. Verifying suitable products used to require extensive research. Now typically one can check the label for a vegan symbol or for words such as “no animal ingredients” and “not tested on animals.”
Unfortunately it is still difficult to find vegan toiletries in supermarkets in many areas of the country. However, health-oriented stores often offer a wide selection of vegan toiletries. Consider stocking up while on a trip if there is not a location near you or look online for your specific item and order directly.
Wherever you go, be sure products are cruelty free and vegan because the former refers to the testing and the latter to the ingredients. Because companies can and do change their formulas at any time, continue to check labels or contact the company directly to get their assurance.
Jewelry. Pearls, shells, teeth, tusks, horns, bones, feet, feathers, and the like usually involve the destruction of animals although they may occasionally be found shed by an animal or from an animal deceased by natural causes. There is no need to wear these items when many ways exist to adorn oneself without hurting animals.
Objectionable items here include animal-hair and wool rugs and carpets, down or feather pillows, feather dusters, woolen blankets, and animal-hair brushes and brooms. Animal-free substitutes for all these are in widespread use. Look for nylon carpets, foam-rubber or kapok pillows, cotton or synthetic-fiber quilts, blankets, and comforters, plastic or fiber brushes, and straw brooms. Hemp and bamboo are becoming popular in household goods. Beware of oils, greases, and polishes that include animal fats in the ingredients.
Hunting, animal fighting, animal racing, and fishing are cruel practices. One should not require a substitute for the devil or a substitute for a blood sport that brings out the worst in humans. Sports of many varieties can be played without any unwilling participation of the animal kingdom. True sport involves fun and fair play, not violence or sadism by getting a thrill out of killing something or bending it to our will.
Vegans are opposed to animal circuses and to performing land animals, sea animals, or birds. We are aware of the years of cruel prodding and punishing that lie behind a performance act using animals kidnapped from their natural habitat. The documentary Blackfish exposed cruelty rampant in aquatic shows. Some circuses with all human willing participants have been formed and now tour the country offering amazing shows.
Vegans also oppose zoos. Zoos are usually little more than prisons for once free land or sea creatures far from their natural habitat. Despite claims by zookeepers that animals are better off in captivity than in the wild state, animals exhibit neurotic behavior in captivity. Many animals refuse to raise their young in this unnatural condition. National parks, animal sanctuaries, and true wildlife preserves—not preserves set aside for hunting and fishing—are much better and more rewarding for all concerned. Humans must leave large tracts of land untouched to allow animals to naturally be animals.
Research and medicines
Drugs, vaccines, serums, and hormones are often made from animal matter. An ethical dilemma may be encountered when considering use of an animal product in this category following advice from a health professional.
Millions of animals are used each year to test and develop drugs and techniques to cure disease. There are moral implications in this overwhelming toll of animal suffering, and it has not brought medical science much closer to knowing the actual causes underlying many human diseases. Medical doctors often do not have a substantial nutrition background and frequently opt to prescribe the more convenient pills which people commonly want. We cherish our friends in the medical profession who do understand health and encourage veganism.
Vegans typically choose to use a healthy lifestyle as a defense against disease. Vegans often do not rely on drugs for cures, realizing that nature has provided safer ways of building and maintaining true health with wholesome natural food, pure water, fresh air, sunshine, sufficient rest, ample exercise, and all other factors needed for physical well-being.
Awakening the conscience
Each person may require a different approach to awakening the conscience. Some people will deny the cruelties in that which they directly contribute with consumption, such as eating eggs. Yet, when the average person is exposed to information such as pets stolen for vivisection, food animals slaughtered in especially brutal ways, or particularly gruesome pictures of baby seals clubbed and skinned for their pelts, their slumbering sense of compassion may begin to awaken.
These first uneasy feelings may lead to the person sweeping the moral dirt under the carpet, joining some movement to mitigate the suffering, or minimizing or changing the type of cruelty. One such example is replacing fur garments made from the clubbing of free creatures with the atrocious cage-farming methods of ranch-grown furs. Another example is lobbying for bigger cages but continuing to eat the products of those animal slaves. When the conscience prods one to inquire about a vegan journey, we provide helpful information for that direction.
By now you should understand how to take the step of veganism. The foundation for veganism is the inner alteration from selfishness to altruism, from What’s in it for me? to What can I do for you? With this change of thinking, what we eat or wear is not burdensome but integral to a compassionate lifestyle. Remember this altruistic concept is the true jewel of veganism.
Your individual actions contribute to the vegan movement. This movement is so strong that some companies are getting into vegan products purely for profit. Many companies are founded by people with plans for a better world. One example is Ethan Brown, founder of Beyond Meat®, who states on the company’s website a mission to improve the world’s health, the global environment, and respect for animals. Their vision is to reduce the world’s consumption of animal meat by twenty-five percent by 2020 which will be achieved by replacing it with “plant meat.” Imagine more companies making these types of goals; it is beginning to happen.
The vegan lifestyle is increasing in popularity. Seeing companies commit to goals and make strategic plans encourages the authors—who are committed to closing all slaughterhouses—to persevere in providing information, while businesses make vegan products and consumers commit to compassionate choices. Together we will succeed.
- Find lots more articles on the vegan lifestyle in Vegan Living.