Editor’s note: after one of our readers, Vicky, sent us a comment asking what we advised her to do with a leather-trimmed bag that was given to her before going vegan, this piece was born. What do you think?
Those of us who were not raised vegan have all, at one time, faced the predicament of what to do with our non-vegan belongings once we committed to this kinder lifestyle.
Do we throw these items out, give them all away, or continue to use them? Those of us who have eschewed the use of animal products for ethical reasons might find the idea of continuing to use a handbag made of leather or a sweater made from wool both hypocritical and distressing; while others might feel that discontinuing the use of these items is disingenuous (since the damage, if you will, has already been done) and wasteful. So what do you do? To be sure, there are those who believe there is a definitive answer to this dilemma; however, I feel that it is a personal choice fraught with various considerations that are unique to each individual who may choose to do any number of things.
The first, and probably most obvious, consideration is economical. Unfortunately, not all of us are in the financial position to clean out and replace our entire wardrobes. In fact, replacing even just one pair of leather boots with a vegan-friendly pair may be a stretch or completely unrealistic to some of you. In this situation one can do their best to gradually, over time, phase out the use of their non-vegan clothing, footwear, beauty products, and accessories by replacing them as finances allow. One could also consider selling or consigning their clothing, footwear, and accessories made from animal products. There are several consignment shops in my city and all are very happy to accept leather goods, particularly from ‘designer’ brands. While you may not make as much as you would if you try to sell on your own, the convenience factor is certainly worth it. And for someone who may be a bit strapped for cash, but really does not want to use that leather handbag or wear those leather shoes anymore, this is likely the best option as the money made from selling the old items can go directly to purchasing new ones.
If you are in the financial position to snap up some new vegan boots or a snazzy new vegan leather handbag, then a really lovely thing you might consider doing is consigning any non-vegan belongings and donating the profits to an animal related charity of your choosing. Perhaps there is a local animal shelter that could use some donations, or maybe you’d like to donate to a farm animal sanctuary or an organization raising awareness about factory farming. There are so many wonderful animal rights, animal conservation, and other animal related organizations that find even the smallest donations quite helpful!
Another consideration I’m asked about a lot is what to do with the items that were gifts or have sentimental value? This is obviously the most personal consideration and one that is ultimately up to each individual: who am I to tell you that it’s wrong to continue wearing a leather jacket given to you by your beloved late grandmother? As a bit of a pack rat myself, I can understand how difficult it is to get rid of things, particularly if there is some sort of emotional value attached. In this situation it’s important to put things into perspective: you’ve made a commitment to a lifestyle that is better for you, better for animals, and better for the environment. The way you’ve chosen to live your life is doing a great deal to alleviate the suffering of a number of animals every single day. Is it the end of the world if you choose to keep something that is non-vegan if it reminds you of a special memory or of the person who gave it to you? I don’t think so. But, as noted before, if you do find yourself troubled by keeping the item then the previously mentioned idea of selling it and donating the proceeds to an animal related non-profit might be particularly appealing to you. In this respect you are creating a new memory and putting the money that was spent on that item to use for a worthier cause. If you’re worried about offending the person who gave you the gift talk it over with them; I’m sure they’ll understand and even admire you for your devotion to your principles!
Then there is the notion of waste: there are those who worry that throwing away their non-vegan belongings is wasteful. Some people really find it difficult to continue using non-vegan products, particularly leather, once the connection between the item and a once living, breathing, sentient being has been made. When you come to the realization that an animal is not a commodity or resource it’s hard to justify using something that is made from one. So much so, in fact, that you may not want anyone to use that item ever again so you’d rather throw it out instead of donating it for another person to wear. After all, simply wearing or using something communicates that it’s an appropriate, normal, or even fashionable thing to do. In this scenario, the person does not believe that throwing out non-vegan items is wasteful because the animal used in making the product was never a product or resource to begin with. While others might roll their eyes or even object, one must consider that a person who feels this way now looks at their old leather purse and fur-trimmed jacket as a macabre reminder of the life that was taken and used for our gratification.
While this all might seem daunting, the good news is that you’re taking steps to live in a way that is as cruelty-free as possible and, in doing so, you’ll hopefully inspire others to do the same! It’s also important to remember that being vegan isn’t about being perfect all of the time. As with any lifestyle, there are times when we have to make compromises, and this is just one of those situations. Remember: whatever you ultimately do is what is best for you and that is really all that matters.
Photo from Unsplash via Pixabay