Hope everyone had a festive holiday. I feasted on a cashew nut roast, sweet potato mash and broccoli made by the best un-vegan mother ever. I also hit the stores for some great sales. If you're in the market for vegan clothes, now is the time to buy. I picked up a cute vegan coat for under $50, and even scored $5 ballet flats at Old Navy.
In my nearly 20 years as a vegetarian, I never gave much thought to leather or wool. I would justify my purchase of a pair of leather boots or shoes by saying, "I don't eat animal flesh, which saves a lot of suffering." Truthfully, like most people, I just didn't think that much about it.
When I started to research veganism, I was horrified to learn about the cruelties involved in leather production and that I had, even in a small way, contributed to it. Most leather comes from India and China, where animal welfare laws are either non-existent or not enforced, according to PETA's Cows are Cool web site. These suffering souls face extreme crowding, deprivation, castration, branding, tail-docking, and dehorning, all without any anesthetics.
Wool is no better. Australia is the leading producer, accounting for 30 percent of all wool used worldwide, according to PETA's Save the Sheep web site. Animal welfare standards are atrocious for the 100 million sheep there. Lambs' ears are hole-punched, their tails are cut off, and the males are castrated without painkillers.
With so many man-made alternatives, both stylish and inexpensive, now widely available, there is no need for the suffering to continue. For vegan shoes, I recommend Payless Shoes for price and availability. Just beware: many of their sneakers do have leather, but the majority of their shoes are manufactured from man-made materials. Target also has a large man-made shoe line. PETA's Dan Mathews recommended both of these stores when I heard him speak at his book signing. Most people don't have money for Natalie Portman's vegan shoes at Te Casan, typically $200 a pair, and in today's economic climate, that just seems frivolous anyway.
Finding a vegan coat may be a bit more of a challenge, but inexpensive options are available at H&M, Forever 21 and Old Navy. Besides, it's worth the little extra effort to purchase products without any animal by-products. While no one can un-do their past purchases of animal products, we can go forward by making more educated purchasing decisions, and showing, not only how much healthier and better for the animals and planet veganism is, but that you can look great doing so.
Check out PETA Living's guide to vegan coats.
PETA's Cows are Cool
PETA's Save the Sheep
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