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.
Vegan Uncensored is a weekly space on this blog where people can bring interesting topics of discussion to do with veganism to the fore. Read it, respond to it, pass it on to your friends – vegan and non-vegan – through Facebook, Twitter, or by sending them a link to this blog. Do you have a vegan issue you’d like to see in this space? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.