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My diet is vegan, and I am thinking
about other vegan choices, notably in clothing. Living
in a cold, wet city, I wear both leather (on my feet)
and wool (on my back) nearly every day. Nature's designs
for warmth and dryness, stolen from other animals, do
work very well. The alternatives seem to all be petroleum
products like Polartec® and plastics, often made
by large (ethical?) chemical companies. The petroleum
and chemical industries are responsible for suffering,
environmental destruction, and poor use of resources
as well. Do you think there's a clear ethical choice?
in the modern world often necessitates a modicum of
concessions by people who choose a humane lifestyle.
There are sometimes no perfect solutions. Nevertheless,
the vegan ethic does provide explicit guidelines for
determining the most compassionate answers to the majority
of everyday challenges. Certainly there are occasions
when choices seem more subjective than clear-cut, but
fortunately these are the exception rather than the
There are numerous garments which implicitly
involve deliberate, unwarranted suffering and death.
These include the obvious fur, fleece, feathers, skin,
shells, bristles, and secretions of sentient animals.
Nature designed these parts with a purpose -- insulating
and protecting the bodies of the individuals who grow
them -- and, indeed, they are extremely effective. Animals
do not have a closetful of clothing; what nature provides
is all they possess. In order for humans to expropriate
an animal's effects, they must deny its basic needs
and ultimately take its life. Every piece of animal-derived
apparel represents a minimum of one -- and often multiple
-- lives that have been needlessly sacrificed for human
People who wear an animal's remains
display callous disregard for the item's sentient origins,
regardless of how recent or long ago the animal perished.
When vegans use these products, even if they owned them
before becoming vegan or purchased them second-hand,
it lends credence to the social acceptability of using
Every day more and more vegan alternatives
become available because there is a growing demand for
them. While the situation is not yet ideal, reasonable
replacements for leather and wool do exist. Synthetic
leathers are flexible, sturdy, "breathe," and preserve
all the functional qualities of animal hides without
the carnage. Although a few large corporations produce
a preponderance of these products, several small start-up
companies make fantastic vegan "leather" shoes and jackets,
and some manufacture their goods from vegan recyclables,
making them environmentally-sound as well as practical.
The same is true for polar fleece articles, which can
be spun from recycled plastics and other reusable items.
In addition, these products are durable, so they seldom
need to be replaced.
Layered cotton and corduroy and synthetic
fleece-filled outwear lend weightless warmth. Nylon,
vinyl, rubberized cotton, and other treated fabrics
guard against the elements without forfeiting ethics.
It is true that petroleum-based products are not exemplary,
but they are not the only option in many situations
and, whenever they are, the key is to buy infrequently
and make the items you currently own last as long as
Leather and wool are the direct result
of willful, premeditated slaughter. Harm caused by petroleum-based
products is ancillary. The distinction is intention
as well as repercussion. Both industries wreak environmental
havoc, but only one aims its artillery at someone's
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