Your Thoughts Thursday: Pre-Vegan Possessions

April 15, 2010 by Keri

Most of us weren’t born vegan.  In fact, many of us didn’t even find vegan until 15, 20, 35, (50?) years into our lives.  And if there’s one thing that comes with that many years of life, it’s stuff.  Things.  Most people in our society don’t even think about their “stuff” being vegan or nonvegan, animal byproduct or man made materials.  Leather and wool  are just like cotton or bamboo fabrics to someone who doesn’t choose to see lives in them.  So chances are, if you weren’t born vegan, you had a few pairs of leather shoes, a leather or lambskin jacket, wool coats and sweaters, silk pajamas or goose down blankets, maybe even animal skin bound books.  Leather handbags! Fur trimmed hoods?  It’s not even a conscious use for most because these things are so common and widely used in merchandise.   They sell, therefore I buy.  Don’t get me wrong, I understand people are vegan for different reasons- ethical, environmental, health- but it’s an obviously relevant issue to at least the first two and a less apparent one to the third, my point being that it doesn’t take a lot of healthy chemicals to make sure something meant to decay in nature stays in its intended form for your use.  So my question is, What did you do with the animal products you acquired before going vegan?

  • Did you donate them?  Toss/recycle? Keep them?
  • Do you think it’s okay to wear leather goods, etc purchased before one went vegan?
  • If you’re an ethical vegan, does it send the wrong message?
  • Do you still buy leather and wool even while shunning meat, dairy, and eggs? If so, why?
  • Even if you aren’t vegan at all, do you have an opinion on people vegan in diet using vanity animal goods?

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  1. Andria @ Veg is Sexy says:

    I 100% agree with James. For me the stuff is about being less wasteful, so I still use/wear things I got before I become vegan.

    As far as buying new stuff, if there is something I need – like nice shoes, etc – I will always look online first at vegan stuff. Spur-of-the-moment shopping trips are a little harder, but yes, I am way more conscious of what I am buying now to make sure there are no animal products.

  2. Danielle (Coffee Run) says:

    Honestly, I kept all my stuff after going vegan. I think the whole point is to not support the killing/mistreatment of animals by purchasing animal products. But, if you already bought it…then it doesn’t really serve a purpose to throw it away (unless it’s a moral issue!) I’m really not too strict when it comes to buying products except I do stay away from leather/other skins [ew] 😕

  3. Tasha - The Clean Eating Mama says:

    I have never liked wool and I stayed away from leather due to the fact I can not stand the sight of items being made out of animal skin (yuck!). Although I am sure I have a few items that contain animal products. With all of that being said, I will not toss them unless I have to. I try to purchase my clothes second-hand to reduce waste and keep something until it is literally falling apart.
    I can see where people would throw items away but I am making a conscience effort to not support those items and companies today by not buying them.

  4. I went vegan only late last year, so I still have leather belts and a few other items that I wouldn’t buy today.

    I will use them until I wear them out and then replace them with more ethical choices. The reason for that is simple: it’s the least wasteful path.

    Although if I were disgusted by the stuff, or if I were encountering weird situations by being a vegan who wears leather, then giving the stuff away and replacing it now would be fine, too.

    The worst option would to throw something away when it could be of use. (Unless it’s some egregious fur item, for example, which you believe may simply by its existence encourage people to buy fur.)

  5. Woz says:

    You know this is an interesting question because I hear different answers and justifications for this all the time. Deciding what to do with some of my non-vegan items really was one of the reasons it took me so long to actually commit to being Vegan. I knew that I couldn’t, in good conscience, still wear items that were animal based because, in my eyes, this would send a completely contradictory to those who knew me as a Vegan. There was one pair of shoes that I adored (Doc Marten Mary Jane cat shoes) and those shoes were the reason I kept thinking I couldn’t go Vegan. One pair of shoes.

    Then one day I found a new home for them and finally let go because, for me, it was the right thing to do at the right time. I had no problem thrifting all the other clothing items that didn’t fit my new lifestyle and as I ran out of certain personal products, they were happily replaced with Vegan items.

    So, that’s what worked for me 🙂

  6. elena says:

    Got a big trash can and cleaned up my non-vegan foods. Never was a fan of leather, so no problems there. Wool? Well, no animals are killed there–it actually helps sheep when they get sheered. But I don’t have too much of that either [maybe even any].

    With food, I felt bad giving it to anyone knowing what I learned, so it went either down the drain or into trash. Unopened boxes of everydays stuff, however, that I knew others would still buy, I passed on to those who could use help.

    • Jess - The Domestic Vegan says:

      @Elena – It is a HUGE misconception that it doesn’t hurt (let alone “helps”) sheep to be sheered! That is NOT true at all. Here is a video (warning: it’s a little graphic) about cruelty in the wool industry.

      Besides the mutilation incurred during the sheering process, when sheep age & stop producing enough wool to make them “profitable,” they’re shipped off to slaughter (the same way dairy cows are once they stop producing milk). Wool is NOT cruelty-free!

  7. vegmom says:

    When I went Veg, I had a Non-Veg hubby, so I just slowly transitioned everything out of the house. He still likes Eggs and One kind of cheese and honey that he keeps in the house, otherwise we are animal-less on the foods.

    As for stuff!! None of us like wool or angora, i don’t wear makeup, and I’ve already transitioned all our house hold and cleansing other products to animal friendly.

    BUT – Leather.. now that is another story! Shoes, furniture, hubby’s belts, and old jacket… They all stay. We just don’t buy any more.

  8. Mary says:

    I found out I was allergic to dairy, eggs, cheese, nuts. I still eat meat occasionally. I guess i’m what treehugger would call a weekday vegan, so i don’t use the label, but I’m working on it.

    @James Kimbell, even fur doesn’t need to be thrown away, it could be donated for use with orphaned and injured wildlife.

    Here’s one organization that i found:

  9. @Mary,

    That’s pretty cool. Thanks for the link.

  10. Amanda says:

    I’m up with the camp of not being wasteful – I really don’t own too many leather/wool items, but the few I do have I have kept but haven’t bought anything more. I think the hard part for me is foodshopping with/for the boyfriend who eats meat and dairy.

  11. Jess - The Domestic Vegan says:

    Very interesting discussion! I personally used my non-vegan clothing items (sweaters, shoes, purses, etc.) when I first became vegan, since I didn’t want to be wasteful. I’ll definitely never buy anything non-vegan again, but I don’t see the harm in using what you’ve got until it wears out. I still have a few cashmere sweaters & a North Face down vest that I wear occasionally, but I have now donated the vast majority of my non-vegan wares. It just makes me sad to think about wearing leather!

    You might not mind, but I thought I’d let you know – The ads running on this page right now are for “luxury leather handbags” and “exotic animal goods” like python, stingray, and ostrich boots… Kind of ironic! Eek!

    • Keri says:

      Thank you for letting me know, Jess! I definitely mind- I’ve been trying to filter out those kinds of ads.

  12. Amy says:

    Got a big trash can and cleaned up my non-vegan foods. Never was a fan of leather, so no problems there. Wool? Well, no animals are killed there–it actually helps sheep when they get sheered. But I don’t have too much of that either [maybe even any].

    With food, I felt bad giving it to anyone knowing what I learned, so it went either down the drain or into trash. Unopened boxes of everydays stuff, however, that I knew others would still buy, I passed on to those who could use help.

  13. Keri says:

    Thank you for all of the wonderful responses! When I went vegan I donated most everything I had that wasn’t vegan. I don’t think it was wasteful to donate since I didn’t buy new “stuff” just to replace it. I still had shoes, just not as many pairs because I had donated any with leather. I ended up trading a couple of down comforters with a family member for a non animal product comforter so that worked out as well. That’s just what was best for me and I’m sure different things work better for different people.

  14. Rob says:

    The question of what to do with my non-vegan stuff was an ethical dilemma for me. I didn’t want to throw it out – and thus the life was sacrificed for nothing – but also didn’t want to give the items to someone else – thus promoting the use of non-vegan items. In the end I gave the non-vegan food to some struggling friends and neighbors, and all the leather stuff – belts, shoes, coats, etc – represented dead bodies to me. Bodies are normally buried, so that’s what I did. I said a few words, apologizing to the animals, and laid them to rest.

  15. Rowan says:

    I only have a leather belt. I hate myself every time I put it on, but my pants need to stay up and I cannot find a cheap non-leather belt anywhere. It’s on my Christmas list.
    But I do not buy or wear things made from animal products.
    I have some chapstick from before I went vegan, and it has beeswax in it.
    I don’t wear it anymore.