Your Thoughts Thursday: Selective Veganism

July 22, 2010 by Keri

Last week, Stacey Bendet, designer and founder of the alice + olivia brand, showed up at an event wearing a fur vest.  The thing is, Bendet is “vegan”.  She commented,

“I’m vegan, actually. I don’t eat [animals], I don’t put meat in my body. So every once in a while I think it’s okay to wear it. But I made it — I’m probably going to hell.I don’t feel that guilty wearing it. I don’t know why. It doesn’t make sense. But something about putting it inside me feels really barbaric. Something about wearing it just feels a little glamorous.”

It doesn’t even make sense to her and she’s still okay with it.  And then there are the celebrities crying over the dolphins in their sheep skin boots and leather jackets.  Why does society think some animals need saving and others need grilling or wearing?  I’ve heard the cuteness factor comes into play, but is a cow or a pig really any less adorable than a dolphin or a tiger?  As a child I remember hearing, “Don’t buy canned tuna because dolphins get trapped in the net and you might be eating a piece of dolphin!!!,”  and thinking, “But what about the tuna?  Why did he deserve to get trapped in the net if it’s an injustice to the dolphins?!”  And manatees certainly aren’t bunny rabbits, but everyone wants to rush to save a sea cow.  When the horse meat rumor went around, no one wanted to get anywhere near a Taco Bell, but once patrons were assured they were being fed cow, they were once again pleased. 

So how do you think an individual comes to pick and choose who deserves to live- which species deserve fighting for- and which make great lunches and shoes?

  • Why do you think people don’t draw a connection when they’re planning a Save the Whales campaign over cheeseburgers?
  • Or when they donate to the Wildlife Fund in their guests’ honor and then go on to make the ever-pressing reception decision between chicken or fish?
  • Do these inconsistencies bother you or do you take an “it is what it is” attitude about speciesism?
  • Do you allow yourself similar justifications, “I don’t eat it, so I can wear it,” or “I eat fish and chickens because they don’t seem all that bright anyway, but I never eat cows or pigs.”?
  • Is such thinking hypocritical or do you think we’re just all hypocrites in our own special way?
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  1. Tim Gier says:


    When we make changes in our lives for “us,” then we justify those changes in terms of what they do for us. Only when we make changes in our lives for the sake of others are we respecting them and their rights. Ms. Bendet may not appreciate that distinction, which is why she says “I don’t put meat in MY body.” In her mind, it’s what happens to her that matters, and not what happens to others (at least with respect to animals.)

    We are all guilty of doing similar things, in various ways to varying degrees. The key is to act mindfully, in keeping with a well-thought-out and consistent moral philosophy.

    Excellent question! Thanks for asking.

  2. JL Goes Vegan says:

    Great question, Kari, and Tim’s response is really great, too. On the vegan continuum I’m at the beginning. It was a dietary decision. But what I find is the more I know and the more I make decisions with intention, I’m confronted with a variety of much bigger picture issues and I’m going to have to find my way.

  3. Woz says:

    I think the first thing that gets under my skin about this is she’s NOT a vegan. I get frustrated with people who eat a strict vegetarian diet (and sometimes not even that) and call themselves vegan. We know that veganism isn’t a diet but rather a lifestyle and it bothers me when people misrepresent that fact.

    As for the question at hand, I think that is just how most of us were raised. It took me a little longer than some others to make the connection. I was working in animal welfare because we all know that cats and dogs are animal royalty! I would be working away saving their lives by day and eating chicken wings by night. I honestly don’t even remember when I made the connection of how ironic it was to save one and then eat another but when it did, there was just not arguing the other way. I’ve presented this question to many people on different occasions and the answers vary from “cows are stupid” to “it’s in the Bible” but really, no one gave a valid answer. They just grasped for a way for them to be okay with cuddling with their kitty at night whilst the two of them share a tuna sandwich.

  4. HappyAly says:

    Those hypocricies drive me mad. A dear friend of mine eats meat and says she can’t stand the idea of cutting her steak because it’s a cow, but if someone else cuts it for her, she will eat it. WTF? Really? Is what I’ve wanted to, and once did say, but it really never has gotten me anywhere. Discussions/arguments with people who don’t understand why they do what they do inevitably go nowhere because how can you change your behavior when you don’t even understand it? For a long time I argued with people about it, and sometimes . Also, I do think that some people require/function better with some animal by-products/products, though I know I’m probably in the minority on that one. I still will ride the arguement out as long as I can, but for the most part I’ve learned that the best way to get people to come around is lead by example and answer questions when asked. I’ve slowly started bringing large numbers of friends over to the more green side of life that way.

  5. Sarah S. says:

    My vegan experience started only 6 months ago, so I don’t have much to weigh in on regarding thoughts on what other vegans do. My journey started with a change of diet and is growing from there. The issue on my mind the most lately is leather. I plan to continue wearing the leather that I own until it wears out, but I am not adding buying new leather items. Finding vegan shoes is my newest venture, and I am struggling. Generally I wear size 11, though most of the time shoes are a tad too big, but since 10.5 doesn’t really exist I deal with it. I have a terrible time finding shoes that fit right AND that I love (so often times I settle for what fits). Throwing vegan into the mix has proved to be an extreme challenge so far. I’m not having success with vegan online retailers, and I’m not sure how to tell when shoes off the rack use animal products (where’s an ingredients list when you need it??). If you have any tips I’d love to hear them. Sorry answering your question turned into a whiny rant about my shoe woes! 🙂

  6. LynziMarie says:

    Wow… I don’t understand that at all. An animal is an animal regardless of how ‘cute’ you think it is or isn’t. Naked mole rats deserve the same ethical treatment as a kitten or a puppy. You can’t put a dead animal on your body but refuse to eat it. Either way the animal is still dead and probably didn’t die in a “quick and painless” way, let alone live in environments that are safe for any living creature to live and thrive in. That is just ridiculous.

  7. Rashdent says:

    I see this phenomenon all the time. I don’t think cuteness is a factor !! I personally feel.. that these individuals are not mentally prepared to start caring for animals in general. They are not ready to give up something they like…some like cheeseburgers,some like tuna and some like fur…to each his own…It’s like they are attached and dependant on these things. They need to let go of these threads holding them and only then can they become a true vegan !!

  8. Tiffany says:

    I think that’s ridiculous and there is NOTHING glamourous about wearing a dead animal. Not trying to be rude, but that statement made her sound like an idiot. I don’t understand why some people are vegetarians because they don’t like what is done to animals, yet they continue to consume dairy like it’s going out of style. I don’t understand why if I try to show someone a gruesome video on what is done to animals so THEY can eat them, they tell me they don’t want to watch it because it’s gross. YES! EXACTLY! It is gross, so why do they turn away? Instead they live in this denial and sort of act as sheep and just continue on that path, whether it be because they did it in the Bible or they’ve done it “since the beginning of time” or whatever excuse they want to throw out. Sorry, that was quite a rant! 🙂

  9. Averie (LoveVeggiesAndYoga) says:

    whoa, amazing post, keri!

    i was here first and foremost to thank you for my loot! it arrived today; that’s the fastest i have ever received anything and thank you!!! Most of all, thank you for your handwritten note, the things you said, the stickers (20 yrs, omg I need to frame them not use them!) and just being you. You really!!! brightened my day and I am sooo happy we have “met”.

    Ok this post…
    In general (i answered this on evan’s blog about a week ago similarly) i do wear leather and have old fur. as in from the 1950s that i bought at 2nd hand stores. the animals were long gone and dead. I didnt kill them and i bought it 2nd (or 5th!) hand. So it’s eco friendly to re-use things, not just not wear them b/c they happen to be leather or fur. I dont support new fur AT ALL!! And i do support leather shoes for gym shoes…sorry, I am too hard on shoes that have 0 leather on them. Most of my shoes are nearly leather-free but i cant say they are “vegan shoes”.

    I wish more ppl understood the ethical and compassionate side of veganism and could discuss it calmly and without judgment for those that arent quite there yet. It’s the preeachy, judgey types who turn mainstream people away from our wonderful lifestyle 🙂


  10. James says:

    We’re all hypocrites, but we’re not all equally hypocritical. There’s always room for improvement, and the impossibility of perfection is not an argument for doing something clearly dumb/bad/harmful/whatever.

  11. James says:

    Let me add that I agree with Averie’s post all the way.