I know more than a few vegans who turn up their noses at oysters and honey but have little-to-no problem wearing leather shoes.
The weirdness of that contradiction stems from the fact that animal-derived products are ubiquitous in fashion. They’ve become standards that every substitute has to emulate. Vegan dress shoes must be indistinguishable from suede ones, vegan handbags need the durability and sheen of those made from leather — otherwise, the market for those products is limited, and so is the potential profit.
As a result, vegans have three choices when it comes to fashion:
- They can shell out big bucks for vegan clothing that may not be as well-made as animal-derived equivalents.
- They can buck fashion trends and opt for cheaper, cruelty-free clothing, like sneakers and canvas totes.
- They can hold their noses and use animal-based products like most of the world.
I go with option #2 when I can, but sometimes, #3 is the only way forward. I know I’m not alone in that.
And so, the fashion industry remains a huge cause of animal suffering and death. As fashion blogger Joshua Katcher notes in this infographic, each year 3.2 billion animals are used — many slaughtered — for everything from leather to wool to down.
And even carnivores can appreciate the fact that tanneries and other animal-processing facilities are terrible for humans and the environment. They thrive on cheap labor, often employing children, and they spew billions of chemicals into rivers and lakes each year. It’s not just cruel, it seems wholly unsustainable.