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as well as general inquiries about vegan ethics, philosophy,
practical applications, and living compassionately.
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in the Saddle?
I've been a practicing vegan for over
three months now. What I want to know is, am I still
considered a vegan if I have leather products from before?
I have horses -- and who uses leather products more
than horse people; everything is leather. I won't buy
any more, but there are no nonleather options. What
should I do with what I already have? Whoever came up
with putting dead cows on horses?!
The majority of people who are vegan
today were not raised vegan from birth. Hence, sooner
or later, most vegans need to address what to do with
their old nonvegan possessions, including items made
from animal hides. It could be argued that as long as
vegans don't purchase any additional animal-based commodities,
there is no problem with continuing to use the ones
they already have. After all, there is no way to return
these products to their original owners. However, as
a moral issue, it's not that simple.
Often new vegans are not in an economic
position to dispose of all their nonvegan items at once
and purchase vegan replacements. For some people this
might mean buying an entire wardrobe, a new jacket or
coat, and several pairs of shoes, which could become
very expensive. Frequently, new vegans simply opt to
use their animal-based commodities until they wear out;
then they invest in vegan products.
One problem with continuing to use nonvegan
goods is that it could easily be misconstrued as inconsistent
with one's beliefs and therefore disingenuous. Another
troubling aspect is that wearing or using animal products,
especially animal skins, gives the appearance of acceptability
To determine the best solution, two
issues must be weighed: 1) are suitable vegan substitutes
available, and 2) if so, are they affordable. When satisfactory
vegan alternatives exist, and a vegan has the means
to purchase them, then they have a moral obligation
to do so. Otherwise, individuals must determine for
themselves what they are capable of living with.
Some vegans find it intolerable to continue
to use or wear animal-based commodities, finding them
repugnant or depressing, and believe that the only proper
place for them is in a tomb. Others feel that because
the majority of humans will continue to use animal products
for many years to come, it is offensive to treat these
items like refuse, especially when there are so many
indigent people who could desperately use a coat or
pair of shoes and would be grateful regardless of what
they were made from. Consequently, many vegans decide
to donate these goods to shelters or thrift stores,
choosing not to profit from them. Others give these
items to nonvegan family members, friends, or coworkers.
And still others may sell these items and contribute
the proceeds to needy animal rights groups or nonprofit
organizations. There are lots of creative and compassionate
ways for vegans to eliminate animal commodities from
their life while enriching the lives of others (humans
and nonhumans) who might otherwise be suffering.
With regard to riding gear, you do have
nonvegan choices! There are several manufacturers that
make nonleather saddles (English and Western) using
a fake suede-like material. Two popular ones are Thorowgood
and Wintec. The saddles are lightweight and very comfortable
for the horse. Nylon or polyurethane bridles, halters,
lead ropes, "leathers," and girths are also readily
available, as are non-wool blankets and nonleather riding
boots. Virtually everything you might need for horse
care and riding is available using vegan materials,
and these items will be significantly less expensive.
If your local tack shop doesn't carry
or cannot get these items in for you, you can order
them through Horseman's General Store, a mail order
catalog. They are located at 345 W. Leffel Lane, Springfield,
OH 45506. Their telephone number is 1-800-343-5046 or
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