When we think of vegan, we think of someone who does not invite any products derived from an animal into their home, in any way. It almost feels like a rule book you have to follow, I know I felt this way when I took the leap. However, is it really that black and white?
I remember reading a comment from a Facebook post on the Norwich vegan's discussion page. A woman had been given a bunch of old fur coats from her great grand-mother after passing away. Being new to veganism, the lady was conflicted on what to do with them. Scrolling through the friendly comments, most people were advising to give them to charity, however, one comment suggested that she burnt them as they were 'disgusting'. I couldn't help feel astonished. How could this be a better option? My first thought was that this is more insulting to the animal who suffered in the first place. And could we not make better use of these coats, even if they came from a horrible place?
I have done some research into wether it is morally right for a vegan to wear second-hand clothing made from animals. Can we still buy old fur, wool or leather clothes from a charity shop? What if they are already in our wardrobes before going vegan? If we still wear them, is that promoting the use of animal made clothing? - - These are all questions I think about from time to time and wanted to get the opinions of fellow vegans and non-vegans too.
The general feedback was brilliant and surprisingly very positive and thought provoking. Everyone who replied said that they would never destroy the item, what good could come of doing this? Some said similar things to this opinion, "As sad as it is, they have already been bought and made and nobody benefits from having them destroyed--just don't buy in future, replace with vegan alternatives when they wear out".
Another interesting point made by some was: buying second-hand is always better than buying new. Consumption, especially within fashion, has increased at an alarming rate, I am a huge advocate for buying second-hand and not new. Which brings me to another point, animal skins biodegrade easily, however, synthetic materials don't and use a lot more chemicals and oils to make, so could buying second-hand fur or leather be the most environmentally friendly choice? Someone said in reply, "I don’t like using synthetic as I don’t like the environmental consequences and I also struggle to find synthetic wool jumpers that keep me warm and that are good quality. So for me it is a constant battle between synthetic and non-vegan and I usually fall on the side of non-vegan second-hand, but only when for me, there seems to be no adequate alternative that is vegan!".
For fur in particular, donating old coats to charities and foundations such as PETA is possibly the most optimal way of getting rid. PETA uses old fur coats to keep the homeless warm during winter and have even shipped hundreds of fur coats to women and children in Afghanistan and Iraq. Donating to animal sanctuaries is also a great approach as they can use these to keep injured or sick animals warm.
So, taken from what I have read, most vegans still think it's okay to wear second-hand items (mostly leather and wool) and even buy it second-hand. However, even though we are reducing consumption and not buying new, are we promoting the acceptance of non-vegan clothing? Speaking to a friend who is also vegan made a good point. He said "Even if a vegan wears faux fur/leather/wool; will anyone really notice the difference or even care? Wearing something that resembles fur, leather or wool is still promoting these products as clothing wether they are vegan or not".
When it comes to this particular subject, I believe you can twist the rules to suit what you believe is right as long as it does not directly harm animals. Personally, I have been corrected by other vegans for wearing something that's not 100% vegan and I felt judged. Honestly, I was quite angered by this because, as I stated above, not everything is so black and white. Food is. However, clothing and other aspects need a bit more thought as it is (despite the message the fast fashion industry wants us to feel), not disposable and is something we usually re-use. We keep clothing, which means it's life has longevity and needs to be taken care of responsibly.
The bottom line for me when the topic of clothing is concerned, is that buying into second-hand instead of buying anything new, wether it be vegan or not, is always the better option. Better yet, don't buy anything at all!