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Most people “get it” that I don’t eat animals or their products.
But I get some quizzical looks and lots of questions when people realize vegans also don’t wear leather, fur, or wool.
“But fur is luxurious and surely, the animals are treated fine!”
“What the heck could be wrong with wool?! It doesn’t hurt the sheep.”
In today’s post, I’m going to share why I don’t buy leather or fur.
I’ll post about the problems with wool another time, closer to sweater season, but if you can’t wait to know, here’s a great site that explains it in an entertaining way without graphic photos.
[Update: I’ve written a post all about wool now. Check it out here: What I Don’t Wear: Wool!]
Basically, I don’t buy leather because it makes it possible for factory farms, which inflict cruelty to animals on a massive scale, to be in business.
Tom Regan, in his book Empty Cages, explains:
“ …farmers and economists alike know that the leather industry provides a necessary revenue stream for people who farm cattle. Raising animals is not cheap, and producers cannot afford to do without the 10 percent of their income that comes from animal ‘by-products,’ leather chief among them….Whenever we purchase leather goods, therefore, we lend our support (at a minimum) to the animal abuse that is inseparable from the mass production of animals on factory farms today.” (Regan, 2004, p. 120)
That indirect support of cruelty is not the only reason I don’t buy leather, though.
In some countries, contrary to what most of us think, cows are raised just so we can take the skin off their backs.
An undercover investigation of the leather trade by PETA India revealed cows forced to march hundreds of miles, with workers sometimes rubbing chili pepper or salt in their eyes and breaking their tails to keep them moving.
I think of how bad it hurt when I accidentally rubbed my eye after touching a pepper while cooking– pure agony! Imagine having that done to you as you have to march to your slaughter!
In addition, leather causes some real environmental problems and health issues for workers. Click here to read the article “Toxic chemicals used for leather production poisoning India’s tannery workers.”
I care about human animals too, and I’m just not ok with workers being put in such danger.
It’s pretty clear that leather is not a cruelty-free, worker-friendly or environmentally-conscious product by any means.
And happily, it’s not a necessary product either!
There are TONS of gorgeous purses, wallets, belts, and shoes out there that are non-leather.
At the end of this post, I’ll show them to you and give you tips on how to find them!
Thanks to the villain Cruella de Vil in Disney’s “One Hundred and One Dalmations,” most people understand that fur is a cruel product. Just like Cruella, people only wear fur for fashion.
We don’t need it to stay warm when there are all sorts of better alternatives out there.
Here’s a short, NOT graphic video that shows just what’s wrong with fur, narrated by Woody Harrelson (who is vegan, and btw, I can’t WAIT for Catching Fire to come out! OK, back to the post…):
Fur animals are either trapped in the wild or raised on fur ranches. Both are killed in horrific ways.
Turning to Regan’s Empty Cages again, we learn that animals trapped in the wild with devices like steel-jawed leg traps can languish for up to a week (the average is 15 hours) before dying or being killed by a trapper (p. 110).
Some of these wild animals’ pelts are so bloody and mangled from the traps that they cannot even be used (these are “wastage”), and other desperate animals chew off their own legs in an attempt to escape (this is called “wring off”) (p. 110).
Inevitably, animals not targeted by the fur industry, including people’s dogs, are caught and killed in these traps; these are called “trash animals” by furriers (p. 111).
The majority of fur animals these days are bred and raised on fur ranches, which are basically fur factory farms.
The animals are intensively confined in wire cages, deprived of their natural environment and behaviors. They are gruesomely killed to make sure the coat is not bloodied. Methods include neck-breaking, asphyxiation, and anal electrocution (p. 109).
In the US, the most common animals used for fur are chinchilla, raccoon, mink, lynx, and foxes (p. 109), but in China, dogs and cats – that’s right, our companions – are killed for their fur; sometimes they’re even skinned alive.
This is no piece of cake to read about; imagine what it’d be like to live it.
Alternatives to Leather and Fur
Fortunately, we live in a time when fabulous alternatives to both leather and fur exist in all price ranges.
From $20 pumps at Payless to $500 slingbacks from Stella McCartney, there are vegan products for everyone’s tastes.
Here are my tips for shopping for them:
1. Check the inside of the shoes or purse at stores. It will say “All Man Made Materials” if they aren’t made of leather!
Sometimes it will say “Leather upper, balance man made” and such. Just avoid anything with leather on the tag.
HSUS did an investigation showing that some fur labeled as faux was really dog fur from China! You don’t want to take that chance!
Here are a couple of good faux fur companies, if you really must have the look and feel of fur: Imposter and Donna Salyer’s Fabulous Furs (fun fact: this company provided all the ‘fur’ worn in the 2013 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue.)
3. Shop Vegan Friendly Stores!
Here’s a list of several places I’ve purchased vegan shoes and bags:
- Vegan Chic
- Susan Nichole (purses)
- Melie Bianco (purses)
- Matt & Nat
- Target and Payless (both have a big selection of ‘all man made materials’ shoes and bags!)
Check out my Compassion in Fashion post for pics of some of my favorite non-leather purses, wallets, and shoes.
You can also check out my Facebook album of What I Wear (& Accessorize With).
What do I do with my old leather and fur now?
Have leather and fur products that you don’t want anymore?
If it’s financially impractical to give away all your leather shoes and purses (or couches!) and buy new vegan ones, you can always use them until they wear out and then buy vegan replacements.
That’s what I’ve done (and I haven’t been arrested by the Vegan Police!). Or you could sell them and donate some or all of the money to an animal charity!
If you inherited a fur coat from Granny or bought one yourself before realizing how it was made, you can donate it to Coats for Cubs. The furs sent here are used to comfort orphaned wildlife. Pretty cool, huh?
They’re only in business because we pay them for their products; we all have the power to change that.
Join me and vote with your dollars for more compassion in fashion!
To Not Being Cruella!
1. Regan, T. (2004). Empty Cages: Facing the challenge of animal rights. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, Inc.