The vegan philosophy is based on the premise that human beings do not have any right to “use” animals for anything. According to veganism, using animals is a form of exploitation as the animals have no say or choice in the process. Proponents of veganism strongly oppose all forms of such exploitation.
Coined in 1944, the term ‘vegan’ found its way into popular language with the founding of The Vegan Society in London. Started by six non-dairy vegetarians, keen to "promote ways of living free of animal products for the benefit of people, animals and the environment”, the concept found acceptance amongst many people in different parts of the world.
Why should I be aware of this?
Most of us are opting for ethical clothing items as we are against and do not directly or indirectly want to be responsible for exploitation of sweatshop workers. However, are we aware that by purchasing fabrics such as leather, wool and fur, we are giving a vote of acceptance towards the inhuman exploitation of animals for sourcing such fabrics.
All about vegan clothing
Vegan clothing does not include fabrics created from a living creature. These include fabrics such as
- Wool -- Raising and shearing sheep is sometimes exploitive and cruel
- Silk -- Silk comes from the cocoons of silkworms which are killed when the silkworm cocoon and the larva inside are dropped in boiling water to unravel the silkworm cocoon for silk fiber.
- Leather -- As leather can only come from a dead animal.
- Fur -- Because animals are killed to make fur.
- Down - Because of the harsh way that down feathers are plucked from live geese
Vegan clothing can be made from natural plant based fibres such as bamboo, cotton, jute, hemp or linen. Again it may or may not be organic i.e. vegan clothing does not mean chemical free, fertilizer or pesticide free clothing. Vegan clothing does not necessarily mean eco fibres and synthetic or artificial fibres such as plastic is acceptable.
- Leather made from plastic or pleather is seen as a great alternative to leather by vegan fashion designers.
- Wool is avoided by many vegans because of a practice called mulesing on young lambs in Australia. Mulesing is the nasty practice of cutting away the folds of skin, without the use of anesthetics, around the anal area of sheep to prevent flies from laying eggs.
- Faux fur has also come a long way to mimicking the real thing. It can be made from cotton, polyester or more frequently acrylic or mod acrylic fibers which are available in a color, pile and density that resemble real fur.
Vegan clothing and environment
Vegans believe that their lifestyle practices would contribute to a healthier world ecology. The animals reared or killed for skin take many more resources than plant based fibres.
However pesticides and fertilizers used for growing natural fibres contaminate ground water and soil. The plastic used to make artificial fur and leather is not biodegradable and releases toxic chemicals into the environment, contributing to global warming.
Vegan clothing and health
Vegan clothing made from natural fibres such as cotton, jute, bamboo and hemp 'breath' and is good for our health. However if they are grown using chemical fertilisers and pesticides, then some chemicals remain in the fabric. These might cause irritation and allergies.
What can I do?
- Go for organic clothing. It also meets the vegan principles and is eco friendly.
- Avoid clothing products containing wool. The living conditions of sheep sheared for wool are not humane. Practices such as mulesing physically harm sheep.
- Opt for leather free apparel. Leather alternatives such as vinyl, microfiber and canvas are god options for everything from purses and belts to shoes. These look like leather but are made from animal free materials.
- In cold climates go for various alternatives to wool. These might include clothing made from heavy cotton or hemp or coat made of recycled plastic bottles.
- Go for fur alternatives that are just as warm and attractive and are far less expensive.
- About 25% of the world’s wool and almost 50% of the fine merino wool come from Australia. About 60% of the global wool supply is used in manufacturing clothing.
- According to the Humane Society of the United States the fur industry is going to great lengths to disguise real fur to look like fake. Some of the cheap looking fur trims on some of our clothing may actually be rabbit, fox or even cat or dog. A loophole in product labeling could allow all materials to be listed except fur.
- Vegan Clothing Explained
- Vegan Clothing, Kinder Gentler Fashion