It’s safe to say that the vast majority of vegans were not born vegan, and that means many of us own problematic relics from our past lifestyles. For me, it’s everything from my Dr Martens to my Mongolian sheepskin seat-cushion, my Radley watch to my huge collection of second-hand wooly scarves. Changing your diet is one thing, but seeing your possessions (often carefully-chosen or gifted) in a darker light, can be difficult to come to terms with. A lot of my animal skin or hair products have been my favourite items, due to their sheer functionality or because they were given to me as gifts from family or friends.
As someone who attributes great meaning to ‘things’, this moral debate interests me greatly, and so I’ve dug deep and laid out all the possible arguments for and against vegans deciding to hold onto their animal home & fashion products.
Arguments For & Against
“In my opinion, since the animal has already died, you dishonour it more by not using the product. Second-hand products are not creating demand for new products, so there’s really no issue in continuing to use leather or wool products you already own.”
“I think that continuing to use animal products sends the wrong message to others. Even if the item is second-hand, you’re saying that it’s still OK to use animal remains as decoration.”
“Our domestic waste is a big issue too. Fast fashion sends 10,000 items of clothing to landfill every 5 minutes! We should be aiming to keep and make full use of second-hand animal products, to avoid contributing to our waste problem.”
“Although domestic waste is an issue, it’s more important to spread the correct message to others. Even owning & shopping second-hand animal products still counts as creating demand. There are plenty of ‘faux’ products on the market that don’t have any victims involved.”
“Faux fur, leather and wool are made from synthetic materials that greatly harm our environment. If we’re trying to lessen our impact on the planet, then opting for these alternatives over second-hand products is a poor decision.”
“Actually, the 2017 Pulse of the Fashion Industry Report has revealed that faux leather only contributes one third of the environmental impact that cow leather does. Synthetic materials aren’t perfect, but they cause less harm to our planet AND to our animals – what’s not to like?”
“That’s fair enough. However, even if we all agree to buy ‘faux’ products in the future, is it really fair to have to donate our old products, in order to live out our morals? Doing this only gives other people the opportunity to own these animal products – surely we have no choice but to destroy the items instead, which seems destructive and wasteful.”
“When you donate your things to charity, it’s important to remember that your donations may reach people who literally have nothing! It’s better to pass your possessions on to those who truly need them, and to use this act of kindness to educate others with the same privileges as you, as to why we should no longer own animal products of any kind, if we have the power to avoid it.”
“OK, but where do we draw the line? Does this mean we should get rid of all problematic products? For example, we probably all own some clothing made from cotton produced by child/slave labour and should banish these items from our home immediately.”
This last opinion is difficult to argue with, because morality has become a hugely grey area, thanks to the complex world we’re living in. My final thoughts are that if we can easily part with our problematic items, we should BUT on the proviso that we do so in a way that benefits or educates someone else in the process. I am vegan for the animals, but I also care deeply about the environment and I don’t think it’s smart to throw out and replace your old possessions with new ones, when they haven’t finished serving their purpose. I’ll be wearing my beloved Dr Martens until they’re falling apart, and when that day comes I’ll be buying myself some faux leather replacements.
What’s your opinion?