Down Coat and Leather Shoes – Can I call myself a vegan?
I have been a vegetarian for 21 years and have now decided to become a vegan. I own a down coat and two pairs of leather shoes. I cannot afford to replace these items. Can I still wear these and rightfully call myself a vegan? I would appreciate your opinion!
VegFamily readers reply:
Tristtan: Congratulations for choosing a more compassionate way of life. Compassion is not always easy or convenient, but it is infinitely more rewarding.
No, I don’t think it is appropriate to call yourself a vegan because the definition encompasses so much more than dietary guidelines.
Elsie Shrigley and Donald Watson, who founded the UK Vegan Society. The British Vegan Society defines veganism this way:
The word Veganism denotes a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude — as far as is possible and practical — all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals and the environment. In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.
The UK Vegan Society founders invented the word, this is their definition, then this is what VEGAN means, If someone chooses to live differently to this, perhaps they should invent their own word, and start their own movement.
For extra clarification, the following are not vegan: nonhuman flesh, whether terrestrial or aquatic, embryos, milk, honey. The definition of veganism states ALL animals: it does not say mammals, it does not say except fish, nor except invertebrates-it states all animals, including oysters. I’ve heard from other vegans that there’s a myth floating around that oysters are vegan and are being served at “vegan” event buffets. Oysters are not vegan. There are also no exceptions for Bees. Bees are animals, honey does not come from plants, any more than milk comes from grass or grains. It is not possible to use nonhuman animals for any purpose without exploiting them. Just as it is exploitation of people to use them without the consent or paying a wage (it is called slavery), since animals cannot give consent, even if we think they are happy, all animal use is exploitation. zoos. Non-vegan clothing. This means no fur,feathers, leather, wool,or silk.Non-vegan makeup and other products, cigarettes that test on animals. All of these materials, like any other non-vegan products are equally unnecessary and therefore equally cruel.
I also considered the cruelty inherent in these “items” and the speciesist message I would be sending if I continued to wear them or have others wear them. The issue of practicality and using the clothing until they wear out would not even be up for debate if the victims were humans. When I became vegan and knew what cruelty is inherent in the making of a “leather” coat” and “down” jacket (feathers ripped off from LIVING BIRDS, over and over again), I could not stand to look at them anymore than if the victims these item were made from the torture/killing of human children whose skin had been ripped off them- many while still alive. I would never consider wearing these materials or feel that I was “wasting” anything any more than I would if the clothing/toiletry was made from human skin, fat or hair from murdered victims.
On the Solstices of the year I became vegan, I found a tranquil green place to bury the clothing made of the pitiful remnants of these creatures so that they could be returned to the earth. I let the feathers of the murdered birds free on the ground and in a cool lake for the water fowl. I said a few words to honor the innominate juvenile victims and apologized to them for my former ignorant cruelty.
Ennea: Yes, everyone is their own person and the decision is yours. We live in a world where judgement and negativity rules. Use your power each day to do more positive things. The most important thing is making sure you are happy and can cope with your daily needs. Try to be as helpful as you can to the environment we live in but what you have already purchased is of course ok to use. Don’t worry what other people think, look at all the good you are doing by becoming Vegan.
Ness: You can call yourself a dietary vegan. I don’t see a problem with wearing them till they wear out or you can afford to replace them, good vegan shoes aren’t cheap.
Lynnea: I would say yes, that you can be a vegan who is “using up” expensive and necessary wardobe items, if you are actively in the process of phasing out items with material of animal origin, and if new purchases are vegan. Also, I feel the phasing out of non-vegan items should be only for practical and necessary possessions. Adornments with animal material, like jewelry with leather or shells, simply don’t make sense if you really want to be vegan. And congratulations on your decision to become vegan!
Autumn: As long as you’re not out shopping for non-vegan items I believe it’s okay to use something that you had already obtained before deciding to go vegan. If it doesn’t gross you out why trash it? Dont waste the animal!
Jessica: Absolutley. Being a very happy vegan I would not judge a person in your situation as un-vegan or unethical. While my reasons for going vegan are more for reasons of health, I certainly feel that meat and dairy are industries are frought with immorality and un-Godly practices. So wear your down and leather if you feel it suits your standards.
Holly: We get so caught up with names and labels that we forget the real reason why we believe and live the way we do in all facets of life. If you are comfortable in continuing to wear your previous purchases for your reasons but continue to spare the suffering and killing than continue. Of course you will occasionally meet the almighty carnivore who definitely will remind you of how all else is futile since you are wearing your animals on your back and feet. As long as you have your one line come back, you’re fine. You make these life-changing choices for the voiceless creatures you share your world with, not for the people who want to discredit your dedication by quickly pointing out your shoes!
Carmon: I would say it is okay to wear them because it would be a waste to just throw them away. But, you could give them to a charity and buy some new ones. I am sure there is something out there that you can afford. That way, you can keep a clear conscience that you are not wearing anything that is a symbol for harming of an animal.
Donna: I don’t believe there is one correct answer to this question. It really is up to each individual. Some vegans feel better if they cleanse their closets immediately, while others will wear out their non-vegan belongings in order to save them from landfills. We have wool carpets in our home, but we do not have money in our budget to replace the flooring right now. If you do not feel comfortable wearing your coat and other items, perhaps you might try exchanging them at a consignment shop for items more animal-friendly.
Becky: I have been vegan for about 5 years and when I decided upon this awesome journey, I also had these items. Still do. The thing I heard went like this… for the sake of not wasting and helping the planet, use it until it’s not able to be used or donate it if you can. I agree. I own animal products and am a vegan. If people say, “Well aren’t those leather shoes!”, I kindly let them know that I “eat vegan.” I find it difficult to be 100% vegan in today’s world of lies unless you really search and can afford to. I have slowly been converting and it’s a fun adventure, but it is very expensive and can be wasteful. We do the best we can to not be hasty and discard perfectly good items, and by keeping these items, you’re doing the right thing. Your beliefs have changed and not everything around you changes with you. In my opinion, wear your natural animal goods until they are of no use or until you can afford vegan. I believe in natural, so if your leather items create less pollution than the synthetic ones, keep em as long as they last! Our Earth has wonderful things all around, but our technology still gets in the way. I often wonder if the vegan items out there are Earth friendly too, or manmade materials. I’d much rather use earthmade and vegan.
Stephanie: This was an issue our family had to deal with when we decided to go vegan six years ago. A large number of our shoes were leather, I had a leather backpack I used regularly, and a leather jacket that had been a gift from my mother. We choose to continue to use those items we already had, and not purchase any more leather items. Our reasoning was that the items already existed, and it would not save an animals life to get rid of them. Instead I choose to look at that at least it was put to use and not wasted. I have since encouraged others to not purchase new leather, and if they are dead set on having a leather item that they purchase it used.
Linderella: I understand exactly your position, because I had the same issues when I became vegan 5 years ago after being a vegetarian for more than 20 years. Once I was vegan though, I just could not wear anything that wasn’t vegan. I felt like a complete hypocrite. If you can visit a thrift store, I bet you can find a coat and some shoes that will fit the bill. Or start a fund, even if it’s only $1 per week (we all usually waste more than that per day on coffee, etc.). I now carry my lunch to work to save $$ if I need to buy something. Keep trying and don’t give up. Best wishes to you and remember to be proud that you are being a compassionate consumer. Be well.
Jen: Why call yourself anything? Instead, perhaps, call your diet something else if you feel put in a box. I tell people I eat a plant-based whole foods diet. “That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”
Kate: In my own words, when one decides to be vegan they need to make the connection between consumer goods and the harm and suffering that is attached to them. I know a few vegans who continue to use non-vegan items that were purchased previously to their transition to a cruelty free lifestyle. I honestly think this one is a personal choice, it certainly doesn’t mean that your not vegan if you choose to wear these things. Some vegans would abstain from wearing the items as much as possible because for them and myself, leather shoes are not just a pair of shoes anymore, they are skin of an animal and represent misery and suffering, things that I refuse to attach to myself any longer. We draw the line at consumerism, but wear do we draw the line when that is not involved? Obviously if you purchased a chicken carcass before deciding to be vegetarian, you would not eat it, but some would say there is a difference between putting something in your body and putting something on it. After all is said I think its a decision that can only be made by the self, its how you view certain objects and how you make the attachment to them. Besides that, your doing the best you can for the animals, for the environment and for your health by becoming vegan. Congratulations!
Shelley Jo: If you are a vegan that already own clothing items made from animals, it is even more disrespectful to the creature that sacrificed its life for them to simply toss them into the landfill. If you wear them respectfully and do not flaunt a dead animal simply for the sake of fashion, I say wear them completely out and make more compassionate decisions the next time you shop.
NF: First of all, vegetarians and vegans both don’t wear leather or fur. I don’t think it should matter if you are a vegetarian or vegan. If you don’t eat any animal flesh, why would you contribute to the killing of an animal for it’s skin? But if it’s something you already owned before becoming a vegetarian, I feel it’s ok to keep.
Steveb: My approach is to phase out my previously acquired animal-based products at the earliest opportunity. Throwing them out would be a waste and disrespectful. When I have the chance and can afford to “upgrade”, I prefer to give them to a recycle shop to be reused and “made the most of.” Ideally, all such items should be immediately destroyed and replaced by compassionate products, but this is not going to happen. I do my part starting with the shirt off my back and by setting an example for compassionate living.
Tim: When I first heard about being a vegan I felt it was the right thing for me but I struggled with the ability to completely replace my wardrobe and furniture so I got rid of the things I could afford to replace, stopped buying anything that was not vegan and started educating myself as to what is vegan and what companies are truly vegan. So as things wear out you replace them with vegan products gradually and allow yourself time to really embrace the true meaning and reasons for being vegan. After a while you will no longer want anything made with an animal suffering, torture or pain involved and then you will have made the breakthrough to life long vegan for life and reap the benefits in your life. When you choose to stop supporting companies who make money from the animals suffering your world changes and your blessings begins to flow in. We live in a universe of karma and when you change your output of karma the universe recognises it immediatly and your karma changes for the better and your life improves to where you can afford to replace all your non-vegan items. You will be supported with the abundance of the universe once you decide for yourself to go all the way. Happy vegetarian day and month!
Donna: I would have to say no, you can not own those items and still call yourself a vegan. When I gave up meat that meant the clothing went also. Not eating it but wearing it defeats the purpose.
Crystine: That is a difficult question and definitely one that I have struggles with as well. I admire that you are even thinking about these things seriously. What I do in my own life is never do I buy these things new nor do I go out of my way to find them. I also believe that recycling (going to thrift stores instead of buying new, etc) is a very good way to reduce resource consumption and waste. If you have these things it makes sense to use them until they are worn. It seems wasteful to throw them or give them away only to buy new. Do you want to buy fake leather shoes? What are the resources that go into making them? Are they a petroleum product? Where are they made? Who makes them? On and on. I honor that you are asking these questions. Buy used and slow down the excessive consumption. This is the kindest thing you can do for all.
Janell: I am in the same boat. For me, it helps to think of the bigger picture—being vegan is not what solely defines me. I am defined by many other qualities, including a desire not to be wasteful. Coming from a poorer background, I learned to use something until it is worn out. I also look to our ancestry and remember that native cultures honored an animal by making use of every part. Nothing was wasted. So for me, the bottom line is that I will not make the animal’s loss doubly wrong and waste its gifts by tossing them aside. What to say to those who might object or criticize? First, does it really matter to you what others think? Would you let others decide for you the flavor of your religion, or would you follow the path that is best for you? This decision shouldn’t be any different.
Kelsy: While it’s essentially your decision, I know that I would come down upon someone who called his-/herself a vegetarian if they wore LEATHER. You’d wear a cow, but you wouldn’t eat it? In my opinion, you’d be a total hypocrite. The down is a slightly different story, I suppose. Well, no it’s not. If it were wool, it wouldn’t really matter. But down is goose feathers, and they obviously mistreat and kill (duh!) the geese in order to obtain said feathers. If you truly care about the animals, you can replace them. Plus, the alternatives are CHEAPER. You just want to part with your cherished items. Still, it comes down to being your choice, but I believe most vegetarians and vegans would agree with me.
Monica: Of course! We do what we can to ease the suffering of animals… don’t let anyone else make decisions for you! I’ve been a vegan for 15 years and I own a few leather and wool items that I can’t part with. My new rule is that I don’t buy any new leather or wool anymore. What I already have, I have. Target has a great line of vegan shoes and boots for very cheap!
Carrie: Yes. Living vegan is a journey. We are all at different stages. I have been vegan for eight years. As my leather items have worn out I replaced them with non-animal products. Also I do not buy any animal products or by-products.
Jennifer: That depends on your reasons for becoming vegan. You must stay true to your core beliefs regarding the purpose of your vegan choice. For myself, I would says yes in that I believe are responible to be good stewards of the earth’s resources. Not only would discarding those long ago purchased items not save the animal who gave them, but it would be wasteful of the ultimate offering it made. The consideration, however, is that you may be viewed as a hipocrite depending on your vegan advocacy position to others. If you cause someone else to question vegan values as a result of your actions, it simply is not worth it.
Paul: I cleared out my leather jackets some years after becoming vegetarian. I hadn’t worn them for years because of the effect they had on other people who knew I was vegetarian. It just gave them an excuse to accuse me of hypocricy, and maybe they were right. The hard-line vegan view must be that if you wouldn’t eat an old, unwanted beefburger if it were given to you, then you shouldn’t wear animal products either. Ideally you could give them to someone or somewhere that will mean that a non-vegetarian will be able to avoid buying a new leather or down product so you’re doing a little bit towards a meat-free world. On the other hand, an environmentalist who is also a vegan might argue that you should keep the things you have rather than replacing them with new products, especially as the new products might also throw up ethical dilemmas (I remember my first PVC shoes well!). In my view you should decide how much you love the objects you have, find out whether you can replace them affordably with vegan alternatives, and see whether you can cope with non-vegetarians using them to bait you, and maybe even other vegans eyening them suspiciously. I still have a couple of leather-bound books which belonged to a great aunt. I can’t dispose of them, as they mean too much to me, though touching them gives me the shivers!
Sasha: Use them until they deteriorate. Honor the animal. Do not disguard it. I use second hand leather. I don’t buy into the animal killing market, but extend the life of products already made. This also minimizes landfill waste.
Jodee: Congrats on your decision to become vegan!!! Of course you can keep your previously owned items, especially if you cannot afford to replce them at this time. When I did it, I pledged not to purchase anything made from animals or tested on animals. As for the things I already owned —would they not contribute to polluting our landfills if I threw them away? I thought it wasteful to throw slightly used things away. When the time comes and you want to buy new things, buy vegan, and donate your old items to Goodwill! The main reasons for me when I made my choices, were to be more at peace with myself and all living things, and to do that, I don’t wish to become judgemental or a fanatic. I just do the very best I can under the circumstances.
Gigi: I’ve been vegan for a year myself and felt the same dilemma. I really can’t afford to spend a lot of money either but ethically couldn’t continue to wear them. I gave all my stuff away to my twin sister. A couple of items I sold on eBay and gave the rest away. In turn, I acquired my non-leather shoes and coats from other places. You can try Goodwill shops or thrift stores; Walmart sells very stylish non-leather goods, or even sign up for free-cycle. (www.freecycle.org). It is world-wide; people “give” things away but I also give away to balance it out. Sign up for it; it is easy; just put “wanted: non-leather shoes, jackets, handbags etc., you’ll be surprised at the responses. From one vegan to another, thank you for your kindness and consideration. (It was tempting to hold onto some of my stuff but ethically I could not wear them any longer. It sends a clear message to your veganism lifestyle to sacrifice your leather for the non-leather versions. Let me know how you make out.veganfitness@AIM.com.
Joan: Of course you can call yourself a vegan. When you get to the point of needing to replace those items, then you can look for better vegan choices.
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