Just because there aren’t already enough labels in the veg world, I was interested to read an article recently about the difference between a ‘practical’ vegan and an ‘ideological’ vegan. It’s an issue that I have seen many people struggle with – and it’s something that I struggled with myself upon making the transition from vegetarian to vegan. Looking at my closet full of leather shoes, wool sweaters and leather belts, my eco-friendly brain started buzzing at the thought of getting rid of this “stuff” so that I could buy more “stuff” to take its place. Then my pocket book started vibrating as I assessed the cost of replacing these items with animal-friendly ones. That’s ridiculous, I thought – and I guess I started down the path of a practical vegan. I no longer purchased anything that was made with animal products, or tested on animals, but I continued to wear my leather shoes and other animal clothing items.
But then I bought a t-shirt one day that had a vegan slogan on it. I didn’t give it much thought at the time, but the first time I wore it I noticed people staring at me. When I wore that shirt, waiters and waitresses considerately pointed out vegan items on their menus, strangers complimented me on my gorgeous non-leather handbag. And I made sure that when I wore that shirt I didn’t wear my leather shoes with it. I started to think about the fact that, no matter what my reasoning, no matter how eco-conscious and responsible I thought I was being, that I was unconsciously making a statement to others by still wearing these items – or not making a statement is perhaps more accurate. While I was abstaining from purchasing any more animal-related products, no one who I hadn’t talked to directly knew that. What they knew was that I was wearing leather. Period.
So, pocket book ringing, I put on my vegan t-shirt and packed up a box with all my animal-related items and took it to a charity shop. Boy, my arms felt lighter once I’d dropped that thing off. And, it turned out, I didn’t have to replace EVERYTHING in my closet. Sometimes it’s better to live with less, when everything you wear is a statement about who you truly are.
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