Veganism, clothing, exploitation and how to respond?


May 29, 2015
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London UK
  1. Vegan
Hello all,
after being vegetarian for 10 years or so I turned vegan two months ago. I've done my research and have had all my responses ready for the usual questions from friends and family ('where do you get your protein et al). But there has been one which has proven harder to respond to, though I feel I know what I want to say, I just don't know how to respond articulately:

"you won't exploit or eat animals but you will wear clothes made by exploited humans"

My response to this has been along the lines of the meat/dairy/egg etc. industry is based on death. An animal HAS to die to produce the end product is dead body. (I'm not denying the clothing industry has HUGE ethics issues in any way shape or form.) I feel the two are not really comparable. A similar thing that has been said to me is "there are thousands of humans dying of war, famine and disease every day..."

I've responded the best as I can, but I still don't feel I can articulately communicate my point, has anyone got any ideas?

Being an ethical vegan is about adapting to not using silk, leather, suede, wool and any other products (tallow used for soap manufacture), plus animal free cosmetics and the likes.

However, and I have posted something similar in a thread, I will use any clothing, sleeping bags, duvets, you name it, until it dies before I throw it away/recycle what is left of it. I don't see the point in throwing away/recycling a family heirloom which is a handknitted woollen blanket. I have duvets and sleeping bags I purchased 20 years ago which I carry on using. The same applies to my mountaineering boots which are leather/suede. Until the fail/wear out I won't replace them - I wasn't vegan when they were purchased. But once they do and they may well do in my life time, I will replace them with something that is vegan friendly. And there in lies the difference.

If I had something that is not vegan before I became vegan, I am fine with it. It is still going and still lasting, but once it has to be replaced because it has worn out, it will be replaced with something vegan. (Ethical) Vegan's do not contribute to animal suffering and if you are now an ethical vegan, buying silk underwear or a woollen suit goes directly against that.

If you are only considering yourself to be a dietary vegan then you don't have a problem.

Sorry if that does not help.
There are animals dying by the hands ( or hooves) of their predators, famine, and disease everyday. The people dying at war has a choice. The animals being used to test don't. The people dying of famine are very unfortunate, but no one is intentionally starving them, like they do animals.
Human beings have the ability to choose and to take action to better their lives. The animals don't have a choice. The animals don't have beautiful memories of that one birthday party or what not, because they are locked in a cage their entire lives.

I don't know if my point is coming across the way I intend for it to. But hopefully that made some kind of send to you.
First of all I don't need to respond to people and it's the small minded that expect a response. I don't need to validate my choices to anyone.

What I choose to put in my body is my business and I choose not to eat animals. As for clothes, that is a choice too. Some people who eat meat don't like to wear leather or fur. I used to model and there are certain things you have to wear for a brief moment. Imagine a model refusing to wear something, basically you would have no work and get a bad reputation.

We all choose what suits and fits our lifestyles and you owe no explanation to anyone.
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I just laugh and tell people not to be nit picky. People that do that are challenging you, they don't like what you're doing and it's none of their concern. Just tell them, you're doing the best you can and as time goes by, you'll get better at it and be able to replace more and more things in your home etc. Nobody can be a purist.. they sneak dead animals into pretty much every aspect of our lives. Even the computers we're on right now. As for human suffering, you don't contribute to it do you? You're doing what you can there too. You can boycott those who you know for sure to be causing suffering, you can go to all the events and protests, you can you can you can.. but you'll never be able to live your life lol. You don't torture people and animals. You are kind and you will do your best to not contribute via the millions of indirect ways we are still learning about. But to figure them all out right now and to cut them all out of your life will leave you with nothing. All on your own, with just the act of cutting out meat, you're saving thousands of animals.. that's huge. We just do what we can.
Hello all,
A similar thing that has been said to me is "there are thousands of humans dying of war, famine and disease every day..."

I've responded the best as I can, but I still don't feel I can articulately communicate my point, has anyone got any ideas?

Tell them that you don't eat humans either:p. Sorry, I couldn't resist. No, seriously some people will go to great lengths to guilt or challenge you into doing things their way. Don't it get to you.
Typically, those omnivores who point that out to you would themselves NOT do anything to improve the living conditions of people exploited by the clothing industry or avoid non sustainably sourced clothes themselves.

They simply like to point this out to you as if that would somehow devalue your veganism. So in my opinion you can ignore these questions....

Best regards,
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I agree with Andy_T but just wanted to add to what he is saying.

Maybe you should be questioning why you are buying clothes made in sweat shops.

Start buying from thift/charity shops. It will save you money, recycle unwanted clothes and give you a unique style.
What you are encountering with this criticism is called the Nirvana fallacy or the perfect solution fallacy. The gist of it is that if your approach to a problem isn't perfect or all encompassing, that solution isn't worth doing. I had a friend tell me he gave up vegetarianism because he didn't want to be a hypocrite since his guitar contained animal products. Not only does there exist vegan alternatives for those things (or you could just buy second hand), but just because you fail to be a perfect steward for animal well-being, doesn't mean what you are doing isn't of value.

Changing you diet to be more animal friendly makes a huge difference. There is nothing wrong with taking some time to figure out how to reduce harm in other ways.

Also, the fact that there is suffering in the world doesn't mean you can't change your lifestyle to reduce suffering in the most direct and straight-forward way possible.
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