(Photo from mattandnat.com)
So… this is a controversial topic for sure.
Of course if you look at any Peta campaign or youtube video calling out a popular youtube as “not a real vegan” you’ll see that the vegan community does not look kindly upon leather. And yes, no doubt about it that an animal has to be killed to produce animal leather. So yes, if you’re an ethical vegan, leather is a no go. However, if you choose to eat vegan for health or environmental reasons, it’s a whole other story.
I personally am not an ethical vegan. To a certain extent of course. When I first went vegan, I think my main concern was environmental, since I love the earth and nature and want to conserve it. My family also bought a lot of local, island grown eggs and meats, so when we would pick it up, I would see exactly where my food had come from. A visceral image comes to mind of when we went to pick up our Thanksgiving turkey. The farmer was of course a lovely lady my dad worked with, who lived on a lot of land and farmed turkeys a a hobby and a tax write-off. The farm was the epitome of ‘humane farming’. But when we drove in and my eyes locked on a wheelbarrow brimming with blood-rank, old, turkey blood-I just felt like I didn’t want to contribute to that.
But like my ethics professor asked everyone, “if it was the dead of winter, your kids were starving, there as no other food, and you see a cute bunny bouncing along in the snow, do you kill it and feed it to your kids?” While I have an earthquake kit full of oatmeal packets and other provisions to prevent this scenario, yes, I would kill the bunny to feed my children. General vegan culture is sometimes criticized for putting animal lives over human lives, which I can understand where this critique comes from. I understand people need livelihoods, like the cattle farmer needs and job and so does the meatpacker. In a world where everyone suddenly went vegan overnight (which I don’t see happening) I would hope the plan included finding jobs for those out of work. I choose people over animals in dire decisions, but I don’t think we have to in today’s world.
Ok well anyways this is not a conversation about eating meat, it’s about wearing leather. So leather. It’s great stuff. We can make waterproof and durable shoes with it, couches and chairs, belts, fashionable jackets, bags, and purses, and so much more. I haven’t looked into the peer-reviewed academic article side of the environmental effects of leather vs. pleather, but here’s a nice article to give you some info:
Also, compounded with that, vegan leather does not wear as well as animal leather. An old animal leather jacket looks worn in chic, while a PVC leather jacket looks worse for wear.
To sum things up, I am at a cross-roads with leather. I still wear my mom’s old leather hiking boots until they die, since I feel that reusing an old item is better for the environment than buying a new one when the only issue is that it’s made of leather. I live in Canada, where it can be cold, snowy, wet and unforgiving conditions. Blundstone boots are really popular at my university, and I’m all for them! Having a trend of durable, weatherproof boots that people wear everyday instead of fast fashion boots is incredible!
And I’ve considered getting a pair of my own but…. the leather issue. It can be an easy fix for someone who lives in say Australia, Hawaii, or California to say “boycott leather!” since they don’t need durable weatherproof shoes! I just am not completely convinced that pleather can live up to the endlessly durable, polishable, waterproof qualities of leather. But please prove me wrong!
And yes, I realize I could wear rubber boots everyday for waterproof-ness, but that ain’t comfortable. Also a look that puts you in the ‘crazy left wing vegan’ category. I (and a lot companies now, yay!) aim to make veganism and sustainable living fashionable and easy, not living on the fringes of society in a tiny home in California. (Nothing against tiny homes, I drool over them too). Having more and more options in stores makes the decision even easier. There is item A or B. They both function just as well. They are also both just as fashionable. Except, item B is better for the planet, better for the workers who make it, and no animals were harmed to make it. Which would you choose?
Industry is definitely changing their offerings and technology is rapidly catching up. But in the meantime, can we reach some kind of compromise?
Here’s some awesome news:
Birkenstocks now come with vegan leather! http://www.peta.org/living/fashion/vegan-birkenstocks/
Leather made of mushrooms! http://www.popsci.com/next-leather-jacket-will-made-from-mushrooms
The online store Matt and Nat also makes beautiful vegan leather bags, wallets, belts and some shoes http://www.mattandnat.com
Sorry this was so long 😛