Friday, April 17, 2009

The Leather Question - Where Green & Vegan Butt Heads

Eddo's First Trip to The Wall

A dear friend & yoga instructor, Chris, gave me this fantastic vintage women's racing suit - it's about 35 years old, leather and has all the shoulder, back, hip and knee armor in it. It fits me perfectly - and, aside from a few high stress points where threads are occasionally going out (near the zipper bottom on the jacket front, first the left, then the right) and the failure of the pants zipper -- I imagine I'll be wearing this for a very long time.

As a vegan and as someone who tries to be "green", I do not buy new leather. The processing of leather is toxic -- cruel both to animals and to the people working in the industry. Regardless of what people may think, leather is not strictly a by-product of the meat industry.

However, as someone who believes in re-using and re-cycling, I don't think it makes sense to purge your wardrobe of every animal product. What good will that do? The animal has already suffered -- and truly, I cannot afford to buy a new motorcycle suit and it makes little sense to jettison 12 year old cashmere sweaters (it's all I can do to keep the moths off of them). I will continue to hang onto my old leather coats - and shoes - and wear them until they completely fall apart or I find a new homes for them with people who can give them better use.

How do you reconcile your concerns for animal with your concerns for the environment where they intersect and may conflict?


Melissa Joy said...

I inherited my grandma's vintage coat w/ a fur collar. Now, it's been dead longer than I've been alive, so that is how I justify that.

My vintage coats that are wool are again, being recycled.

The shoe issue, however, I'm still working on. I did the vegan shoe thing and got such awful athlete's foot...I'm on my feet all day with work. I had to switch back.

I had a discussion w/ a friend a while back about there really isn't too many "green" winter fabrics. Polar-fleece is petroleum based. Wool is...well,just not nice to the animals.

I sew and I use as much of the scraps as I can, whether it be patchwork pillowcases, dishrags, menstrual pads. Luckily, my area also has fabric recycling.

Leslie Richman said...

It is a challenge to use "pre-gan" stuff, but I like to look at it as an opportunity to start a conversation with someone. They do the "oh I caught you being un-vegan" which opens up a discussion on why I no longer buy/eat animal products. I agree with you, I am too green-minded as well to simply trash ok things, but I do give them away if I find a good home.

My Year Without said...

Excellent question. I appreciate your thinking on this. I have been in the same philosophical quandry. I think you're right in keeping clothes/shoes you already own. You are not contributing to animal abuse. What happened is in the past. I have vegan friends who shop at thrift stores for things like belts, shoes and other items of clothing that may have leather.

I feel like as long as we are aware of the choices we are making, that is a good step in the right direction. We all have to start somewhere. One person's launching/starting point may be different from someone else, but if both are aiming for the same goal, then so be it!

Jeannette said...

Hi. It's nice to see that I am not the only vegan who thinks along these lines. If the leather is already in my wardrobe or used I will wear it till it falls apart. I am also willing to purchase used leather belts, purses, etc at thrift stores but would never purchase new leather. I just don't make enough $$ to buy all new vegan stuff and I am too environmentally concerned to throw out old stuff in perfectly good condition.

Jenn said...

Sadly, my experience with vegan shoes has been mixed - they often fall apart badly and aren't very orthopaedically correct and cause severe foot pain after prolonged use. :(

Hopefully my Garamond hiking boots will be better!