Q: Why did you start The Discerning Brute?
A: Please see the ABOUT page.
Q: Why should I care about fashion?
A: Fashion is often perceived (and portrayed) as trivial and frivolous - something that is counter-intellectual and simply about surface. While there is an aspect of fashion culture that affirms this suspicion, the fashion industrial complex (how clothes are made) and fashion industrial media complex (how clothes are marketed and sold) has vast global impacts on billions of animals, billions of people, and ecosystems everywhere.
Fashion is also about identity. In the brilliant words of Vanessa Friedman, Fashion Director and Chief Fashion Critic at The New York Times, "..If a politician gets up there and says, "Will you stop asking me about my clothes?" I think the answer should be "No." The questions are not really about their clothing choices, they're about how they're trying to manipulate people's ideas and assumptions about them through how they look. That's a very important question."
Q: What is your position on the incorporation of recycled/repurposed 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 about identity and it's 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 wearing animals. I doubt someone would 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 shoppers and designers to both change some habits.
Q: What's wrong with wool? Isn't it just a haircut?
A: I wish! Many mammals evolved to have 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) has on the environment, from the United Nations Food & Agricultural Organization: http://www.fao.org/newsroom/en/news/2006/1000448/index.html
• 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 and processing needs, and wool becomes a lot less sustainable that we'd like to think. The constant breeding of sheep and the perpetuation of this industry is ecologically devastating. http://www.mfe.govt.nz/publications/climate/greenhouse-gas-inventory-2010-snapshot/index.html
• Cruel Australian Live Export of Sheep: BAN LIVE EXPORTS
• Ultra-Fine Wool production: animalsaustralia.org
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.
Q: If fur is so terrible, why is there always so much of it on the runways?
A: Various Fur Industry cooperatives, much like lobbying groups, represent breeders, farmers and auction houses around the world and 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. More and more brands are ditching fur. For a list, see this article: Is Fur at the Tipping Point?
Q: How can I find out more about animals in fashion?
A: Read my book FASHION ANIMALS.
Q: My doctor told me I should eat meat. What should I say?
A: Ask them if they're qualified to make scientifically-sound dietetic and nutritional recommendations! The average medical doctor has mere 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 physician who specializes in nutrition, or with an actual dietician. The largest and most well respected group of dietitians 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.
And there are doctors who have studied this stuff extensively. One of the most high-profile cardiologists in the country, Dr. Kim Williams, president of the American College of Cardiology and chief of cardiology at Rush University, advocates a plant-based diet for heart disease prevention.
Some of the best resources for the science of plant-based nutrition are:
NutritionFacts.org : We believe that a significant part of the problem is that individuals who want to make the correct dietary choices for themselves and their families are faced with a deluge of confusing and conflicting nutritional advice. The goal of this website is to present you and your doctor with the results of the latest in peer-reviewed nutrition and health research, presented in a way that is easy to understand.
Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM): The Physicians Committee is leading a revolution in medicine—putting a new focus on health and compassion. The Physicians Committee combines the clout and expertise of more than 12,000 physicians with the dedicated actions of more than 175,000 members across the United States and around the world.
Dr. Michelle McMacken: Board-certified internal medicine physician. Passionate about preventing & reversing chronic disease through evidence-based nutrition.
Harriet N. Davis, MD: Board Certified Family Medicine & Sports Medicine Physician; IFBB Professional Bikini Athlete and 100% Vegan Athlete.
Milton R. Mills, MD: Associate director of preventive medicine for the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), a North American group of doctors and laypersons dedicated to promoting improved health care, better and more appropriate nutrition, and higher standards in medical research.
Mauricio González, MD: Physician and Internal Medicine resident at Metropolitan Hospital and NYMC. Plant-based diets can prevent diabetes, obesity, and some cardiovascular diseases, so why are these health conditions still among the leading causes of death? The answer isn’t that the public is ignorant. Instead, it’s that the medical industry hasn’t figured out how to communicate clearly with the public.
Robert Ostfeld, MD, MSc: Cardiologist and the founder and director of the Cardiac Wellness Program at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City, where he encourages patients to embrace a whole-foods, plant-based diet. He earned his MD at Yale and his MSc in epidemiology at Harvard, and he is an associate professor of clinical medicine at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.
Danielle Belardo, MD: Cardiology Fellow. Plant-based. American Board of Internal Medicine - Board Certified.
Benjamin Matthews, MD: Vegan, plant-based physician (OBGYN) & home chef.
Q: Don't men need protein from meat?
A: No. Protein is simply amino acids. There is nothing magical about protein coming from animal-flesh that makes it better than the place the animal you'd be eating got their protein (plants). Literally everything you eat has protein in it. For example, 1 cup of uncooked lentils has18 grams of protein. Even fruits have amino acids in them. Many elite athletes, from Olympians, strongmen and football players to CrossFitters, bodybuilders and fighters, thrive on a vegan diet. We profile many of them here at thediscerningbrute.com.
What I am interested in is the underlying question, which is, "why do we associate manliness with meat-eating?" for more on this, read my article "EAT LIKE A MAN".
Q: I've been thinking about exploring veganism. Is there any book or reading material that you think would be a perfect primer for someone who's new to all of this?
A: Not only is it getting easier and easier to find vegan food in most restaurants, but it's getting increasingly indulgent and fun to explore a vegan lifestyle. Whether you're a professional bodybuilder or a french pastry chef, there are some great resources out there! First you should know about HappyCow.net (they have an app too) - because you can use it to search for veg-friendly restaurants and businesses in any city in the world! I use it every time I travel and it is an excellent resource.
- Start with some films: Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret (2014), The Game Changers (2018), Forks Over Knives (2011), The Ghosts in Our Machine (2013), What the Health (2017), and From The Ground Up (2017)
- If you're just starting out, I'd consider doing something like the 21-Day Vegan Kickstart. or the Vegan Starter Kit.
- Order a make-at-home vegan meal service like Purple Carrot.
- If you want full meals delivered to you, there are plenty of places like Veestro, Food Nerd, FoodFlo, The Vegan Garden, and 22 Days Nutrition that'll send you food.
- Check out our DISCERNING BRANDS section for companies and brands we stand behind.
- If you want something more scholarly and philosophical, Peter Singer's Animal Liberation is considered a cornerstone of the modern animal rights movement.
- As for cookbooks, just try experimenting with easy recipes. The internet has a vegan version of practically every recipe on earth. There are stacks and stacks of gorgeous, brilliant vegan cookbooks and instagram accounts for vegan chefs and vegan food, you simply need to plug it in to the search engine.
- Finally - if you need ethical motivation, watch the Joaquin Phoenix documentary called Earthlings (you can see it online). *Warning* it is not easy to watch.