Q: What is your position on the incorporation of recycled/reclaimed animal skins into garments.
A: Objectively speaking, anything re-used is better than new when it comes to resource extraction and production. In a perfect world, everything would be cycled through over and over until it was just not usable anymore…. and then it would harmlessly be reincorporated into an ecosystem.
However, animals are not objects. Fashion is a form of visual communication (one of the most powerful in our current culture) – so my advice to people who care about animals used in the fashion industry is to avoid any “loud” garments like fur coats, or fox tail key chains or leather trench coats…. because whether we want to or not, when we make garments look good it creates a demand, and there is a chance someone who doesn’t know it’s thrift or recycled will go buy a new garment. No one is going to jump down your throat for having a vintage wool-blend jacket or vintage silk tie – but as long as we even consider it acceptable for animals to be exploited or killed and their body parts to be turned into objects of consumption and symbols of class/status/wealth/power/beauty, respecting and liberating animals from their current status as “units of production” or “resources” will never be accomplished.All in all, it’s pretty easy to avoid animal products in fashion. There are so many amazing, durable, beautiful and eco-friendly alternatives- it just requires designers to look outside the box.
A: I wish! Momma nature gives many mammals the perfect design when it comes to staying warm and dry, so it’s no surprise that humans who lack that body-hair want to wear it themselves. Many consider wool sustainable because it’s a ‘natural’ product. But, shockingly, wool production is one of the leading causes of greenhouse gas emissions, water pollution, land erosion, and animal cruelty:
•According to the United Nations:
“The world’s sheep population is just over one billion – one for roughly every six people. Nearly half are in Asia and the Near and Middle East. Sheep are the species with the highest number of recorded breeds – contributing 25 percent to the global total for mammals.” (source)
• The impact that livestock (including sheep AKA wool) has on the environment, from the United Nations Food & Agricultural Organization:
• In New Zealand, which has approx. 48 million sheep, methane emissions from enteric fermentation, coming mostly from sheep, constitute almost 50% of the nation’s total greenhouse gas emissions. This has a huge impact on climate change. Combine that with erosion, water pollution, resource needs like water, graze-land, processing needs, etc, and wool becomes a lot less sustainable that we’d like to think. The breeding and perpetuation of this industry is ecologically devastating.
• The Cruel Australian Live Export of Sheep:
• Ultra-Fine Wool production:
All in all, from an ecological and ethical perspective, if you can avoid financing and perpetuating any industry that is not necessary and that exploits animals in any way, and takes such a major ecological toll, it’s easy to make that choice. I hope this provides some clarity in the desire to avoid using any wool for any reason.
A: Various Fur Industry cooperatives, much like lobbying groups representing breeders, farmers and auction houses around the world, solicit designers to use their furs. The solicitation often includes financial incentives, press incentives, free materials (fur), free training and travel, and classic wining and dining. Read this article from the New York times on this phenomenon.Often, the fur items seen on the runways do not make it to market, and function to maintain the illusion that fur is incredibly popular, when in fact it is much less prevalent. More Info.
A: The average medical doctor has a total of 3 hours of nutritional training. Taking advice from a medical doctor about nutrition is like taking advice from a dentist about fixing your computer. If you want accurate nutritional advice, talk to a nutritionist. The largest and most well respected group of nutritionists in the world says that not only are vegan diets appropriate for everyone, they are helpful in preventing some of the most deadly diseases, including heart disease and many cancers.
A: There are some great resources! First you should know about HappyCow.net – because you can use it to search for veg-friendly restaurants and stores in any city in the world! I use it every time I travel and it is an excellent resource.
Secondly, our friend Chloe Jo at the GGA has complied an impressive “best of” list for your consideration.
If you want an easy, funny, no-nonsense read on the basics of vegan 101, pick up a copy of my friend Rory’s “Skinny Bitch“. It’s brash and foul-mouthed, but hilarious and it’s the reason Ellen and Portia went vegan. If you want something more scholarly and philosophical, Peter Singer’s “Animal Liberation” is considered the Animal Rights Bible. Classic.
As for cookbooks, just try experimenting with easy recipes. The internet has every recipe on earth. For every food you like, there is a vegan version of it.Finally – if you need ethical motivation to stick to your new convictions, watch the Joaquin Phoenix documentary called Earthlings (you can see it online) . You will never ever want to participate in any sort of animal exploitation again.