If you’re new to veganism, you might think that being a vegan is only about abstaining from meat, dairy, eggs, and honey. But having a cruelty-free diet is just part of what it means to be a vegan. Veganism is a lifestyle that includes not eating, wearing, or using any products or services that exploit animals.
Unfortunately, the animals that are used for clothing go through the same pain and suffering that animals farmed for meat go through.
Here are some common clothing materials that are not vegan and should be avoided because of their cruelty to animals.
Fur is awful for so many reasons. Animals that are bred and killed for their furs like foxes, minks, beavers, chinchillas, wolves, and rabbits are murdered in horrendous ways so as not to damage their fur when they are killed. This includes neck-snapping, drowning, and even electrocution.
Fur farms are notorious for keeping these innocent animals crammed into filthy cages where they end up attacking each other or getting sick. Animals farmed for their fur live extremely stressful lives that end in excruciating pain just like animals that are farmed for their meat.
The alternative to using animal fur is to use faux fur. I love faux fur and used to wear it all the time before I moved to a hot-ass climate in SE Asia.
H&M has a lot of cheap, faux fur options. I love this long, black, faux fur trench coat which is currently sold out here in Thailand. You can pair that with this matching black, faux fur shopping bag that reminds me of shopping at Melrose in the 90s. I actually had that exact outfit in high school.
The main problem with H&M and all “fast fashion” brands, is that their workers are basically slaves, plus their clothes are destroying the environment. But many people can’t afford eco-friendly and sustainable clothing options since they are more expensive.
You can find cheaper, vegan clothes, but it’s a lot harder to find cheap, eco-friendly, fair trade, vegan clothes. I think it’s better to go cheap and vegan than buying something that isn’t vegan at all. Do what you can.
If you’re able to spend a bit more on faux fur that didn’t pollute a river in Mumbai and wasn’t made by children from Bangladesh, then you should check out Unreal Fur. Using eco-friendly, vegan fur, this company is 100% cruelty-free and even pays their workers a wage that is higher than the standard wage. That is pretty much unheard of in the garment industry!
This Casablanca coat has a fun, 1970s music festival vibe and would be perfect for a casual winter party as long as you’re ok with stoned and drunk people following you around, trying to pet your jacket.
Wearing wool might not seem like a big deal since sheep and alpacas aren’t killed to obtain it, but it’s still harmful and very painful for the animals. Most of the world’s wool comes from Australia, where sheep are sheared by overworked and poorly paid workers who have to rush to shear as many sheep as possible in a day.
Sheep also go through a terrible procedure called “mulesing” where loose skin around the sheep’s anus is peeled off and their tails are cut without any anaesthetic. This barbaric practice is done to prevent flies from laying eggs in the loose folds of skin which causes a maggot infestation and can kill the sheep.
Sheep-shearing is one of the most dangerous jobs in Australia for human workers and is even worse for the animals. Sheep have their wool harshly and quickly scraped from their skin which causes their skin to become raw and even bleed. Sheep also have to suffer through scrapes, cuts, and even accidental amputation and removal of skin during the shearing process.
On top of that, sheep go through the same, tortuous process of forced breeding, having their babies taken away, and being castrated without any anaesthesia that most farm animals have to suffer through.
Alpacas and angora rabbits are also abused and exploited for their wool. It’s also important to remember that these animals have wool for warmth and protection. They need their wool and we don’t need to steal it from them where there are so many cruelty-free options to stay warm and still look fashionable.
Hemp is one of the most sustainable plants and can be made into pretty much anything. Hemp fabric can be very cool during summer and keep you warm during winter. It’s very soft and perfect for extreme climates. The Hemp Shop has a bunch of very affordable hemp clothes and accessories for all seasons.
Not all leather comes from cows that are murdered for their meat. Because of the high demand for leather, millions of cows are killed specifically for their skin.
Most of the cows used in the leather industry come from India where it is illegal to kill a cow in all but two states. Cows are forced to walk for long distances without food or water and they are smuggled into the regions where cow-killing is legal.
Many cows suffer from exhaustion and are extremely stressed from this long journey only to meet gruesome ends where they are killed using blunt knives in front of each other. As with cows killed for meat, a lot of them are still alive when they are being skinned and dismembered.
Polyurethane leather is the most readily available and cheapest type of vegan leather, but it is bad for the environment. If you’re on a budget, this might be your only option for replacing your shoes, bags, and other leather items.
If you have a bit of money to spend, there are so many eco-friendly vegan leather companies that are springing up all the time. There’s mushroom leather, pineapple, coconut leather, cactus leather, and coffee leather! Check out these cool cactus leather sneakers by Clae.
Silk comes from the cocoons of silkworms. After mating, male silk rooms are considered useless and are immediately killed while female silkworms are immediately killed after they lay their eggs. Once the baby silkworm hatches and makes a cocoon, the babies are boiled alive or pierced with a needle while still inside their cocoon.
It is estimated that “420 trillion to 1 billion silkworms are killed annually to produce silk.” Not only is this bad for silkworms but the environment as well. Silk production causes more damage to the environment than the production of synthetic fabrics since it uses a lot of water and energy. The chemicals used to dye and clean the silk pollute the water and cause greenhouse gas. So if you want to stop climate change, don’t buy silk!
There are some eco-friendly, plant-based silks like bamboo silk, lotus silk, orange silk, and pineapple silk. This Unisex Vegan Silk Kimono and matching pants from Kokoro Zenwear are a vibe but not cheap. You can find cheap synthetic silks quite easily at most clothing stores. Before buying, just check the label to make sure it’s vegan.
Ducks and geese are treated horribly and have their feathers ripped from their bodies to make down. The feather industry is directly linked to the foie gras industry. Once these geese are slaughtered for their swelled-up liver, their feathers are also sold to make down and other feather products.
Down is used to insulate winter clothes like coats and shoes but there are vegan ways to stay warm in cold climates using cotton and synthetic fibers.
Pharrell’s favourite ethical fashion brand PANGAIA has created a sustainable, vegan down alternative using flowers called FLWRDWN™. I really like this sky blue, unisex puffer jacket.
For an extensive list of vegan and non-vegan fabrics and textiles, you can check out this awesome list from The Compassionate Closet.
If you have non-vegan articles of clothing in your closet, should you throw them or donate them? This is a personal choice and also depends on whether you have the financial ability to replace your non-vegan items with vegan ones.
You can start by no longer buying clothing made from animals and then replacing worn-out clothes with vegan alternatives. You can also go piece-by-piece, donating or recycling non-vegan items as soon as you can replace them with vegan options. This can be as quick or as gradual as you are comfortable with. It’s really up to you.
The good news is there are lots of vegan clothing options out there for any budget, so switching to a more ethical option can be pain-free for you, as well as the animals!
If you enjoyed this article, check out my one on vegan shoes (that actually look good!)