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as well as general inquiries about vegan ethics, philosophy,
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I'm shopping for pants and finding virtually
everything (khakis, cotton dress pants, jeans) is now
"pre-washed for softness." I'm aware that most consumer
softeners are animal based, made from tallow. (Seventh
Generation makes a great vegan alternative.) When I
call the companies, I'm told someone will get back to
me, but no one does. I was told by one company that
their jeans are softened using pumice stone, but I'm
not sure if that completely replaces the use of a softener.
I am aware of some smaller companies that make fine
natural clothing. Unfortunately, I find them best suited
for particular settings and warmer climates.
Help! I've got to wear something! Is
there a way to buy all-cotton clothing for men (other
than sweatpants and yoga wear) and know that it hasn't
had an animal bath? Or is this one of those unavoidable
vegan compromise situations?
can appreciate your concern about cotton clothing being
pre-washed with nonvegan fabric softeners. However,
if we thoroughly dissect the clothing industry, we discover
many other important points that could be of concern
For instance, cotton is typically grown
in fields saturated with chemicals and pesticides, creating
hazardous run-off, dangerous working conditions, and
damage to the Earth. Picking and collecting cotton inadvertently
injures or kills small animals and insects. If cotton
is bleached, the process adds carcinogenic dioxins to
our land and water supplies. Hauling cotton requires
transporting it in trucks that pollute our air and contribute
to global warming. The tires of trucks contain animal
by-products and the roads they use caused destruction
of habitat and native plant species and displaced wildlife
when they were built. The employees at the plants where
cotton is spun and woven into fiber and the factories
where the clothing is sewn utilize equipment that, at
the very least, requires animal-based lubricants. In
addition, many articles of clothing are made in sweatshops
in other countries where the labor force (which often
includes children and minors) works painfully long hours
in filthy conditions for dastardly owners who pay a
pittance for wages. Finished items must be transported
to various stores and warehouses or are promoted in
catalogs that don't used recycled paper and which contain
images that were photographed on gelatin-based film.
So, is cotton vegan? Yes, as much as
anything can be vegan in our modern world. This is not
necessarily a compromise. It is a matter of being realistic
and reasonable in light of the resources available to
us. It is easy to get caught up in and weighed down
by the technicalities of vegan living. But, if we scrutinize
the components of practically any commodity, we will
undoubtedly discover something in its development or
processing that is animal-based or otherwise nonvegan.
The key to vegan sanity is to refrain
from over-analyzing, accept that vegan "purity" is unattainable,
and realize that aiming for perfection is counterproductive.
This does not imply that we toss in the towel and give
up. It merely means that we must realign our priorities
if veganism is to have any meaningful and lasting effect.
The purpose of being vegan is to alleviate
suffering, not inflict more upon ourselves or others.
Obsessing about minutia can drive a person crazy or
even discourage vegan practice because animal products
contaminate virtually every element of our culture.
There is simply no escaping this fact if vegans are
to participate on any level in our society. Therefore,
vegans can be most effective by concentrating on the
bigger pieces of the picture -- the industries that
profit literally and most significantly off the backs
of our fellow creatures. This includes all the sundry
animal based food industries and their offshoots, such
as leather and wool manufacturers. It also means rejecting
commodities that overtly contain animal products or
were tested on animals, and refusing to support organizations
or industries that abuse, harm, kill, or otherwise cause
suffering to sentient beings.
Your desire for "purity" is understandable,
but the goal itself is presently impossible and will
only set you up for failure and disappointment. Furthermore,
if vegans become overly concerned about every trace
of animal products, we could easily forget that it is
the meat, dairy, and egg producers that are responsible
for animal ingredients in the first place. Manufacturers
that use animal by-products do so only because they
are readily available from the slaughter industries
and can be purchased more cheaply than alternatives.
Therefore, if we focus our energies more on encouraging
others to adopt a plant-based diet rather than on purging
the last iota of cruelty from our personal cupboards
and closets, we will have greater promise for a vegan
world, have more hope for maintaining our own vegan
lifestyle, and be models of kindness and compassion
that others can realistically emulate.
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