Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Vegan Kickstart: Days 8 & 9

For days 8 and 9 of the Vegan Kickstart, I want to talk about a pretty hefty topic that I am hoping will spark an interesting (and respectful) discussion.

I have spent the past month or so wrestling with the concept of an all-encompassing vegan lifestyle, which was mostly sparked by the very pretty bag you see pictured to the left. It was a Chanukah gift from my Mom. You see, I wanted this bag oh-so-very-very-badly. I lusted after it for months. I was considering buying it myself, which would have made it by far the most expensive single accessory or clothes item I ever purchased for myself, so I sent it to my Mom for a second opinion. I decided to wait to see if it went on sale and lo and behold it she got it for me for Chanukah. I was SO excited to get it. But then I watched Earthlings, which showed the horrific ins and outs of the leather industry. Now when I open my closet and see this bag, I see cows' faces. Every. single. time. Terrible, no? I've been agonizing over this bag so much, which is obviously symbolic of a larger issue for me, that I bought myself a (seriously on sale) vegan and beautiful Matt & Nat bag. So far I haven't used either bag as I have to use a big tote to carry school and personal stuff right now. I still love the leather bag and right now I plan on still using it. In fact, I plan on using it day after day until it wears out.....and then not buying another leather bag ever again.

Additionally, 95% of my shoes are leather. My favorite granola contains honey. I haven't eaten any during this kickstart, but I have been thinking a lot about how I feel about honey. Until I recently purchased some Crazy Rumors lip balm, I was a Burt's Bees girl all the way, which is made with beeswax.

I know people who eat vegan and wear leather or eat honey. Some still call themselves a vegan and some simply say they "eat a plant-based diet". I'm finding that, just like in the community of people who keep kosher, there is something of a "who can out vegan who" in the veg community. For some, vegetarians just aren't making enough effort. For others, even eating one vegetarian or vegan meal a day is applauded as a step in the right direction. Figuring out where I fit into this spectrum, both now and in the future, feels very important to me. Right now I am focusing on the food aspect but these other parts also come into play since people have been asking me a lot of questions about them.

So I'm curious....if you are already vegan, how long did it take you to jump into the vegan lifestyle (i.e. more than just not eating animals or their secretions)? Has anyone else struggled with the leather or honey issues (or other similar ones)? Can someone who eats a vegan diet but wears leather still call themselves a vegan?


City Girl said...

I feel kind of weird responding to this seeing as i am not actually vegan, but you said something that really resonated, namely the "who can outdo" mentality. The other thing that resonated is that I really wish I had a shorthand way to explain my eating. On a purely factual level, I do eat near-vegan (no dairy, no honey, very limited fish and meat, none factory or farmed produced), but vegan to me means more than diet - it's a lifestyle, so I dont like to say near-vegan for that reason. When people ask, I just say I avoid dairy and eggs and honey and factory meats/farmed fish and eat heavily plant-based meals.

I think at the end of the day, it's what makes sense to you. Like, for leather products, it makes complete sense to not buy new ones, but getting rid existing ones also seems not green.

Wool is another one I find interesting - yes, it is taking from an animal, but, if done humanely, is it in the same league as chickens and their eggs?

So, it's a personal choice. And probably a gradual one. And also dependent on what resonates with you most.

Carolyn said...

As you know, I struggle with this one, too. I'm not ready to give up my leather shoes and handbags, but I also haven't bought any leather since I began eating a vegan diet. We will definitely have to see... Am curious to see how others respond!

akarmaproject said...

I've been REALLY struggling with this as well. I tell people that I eat a vegan diet or I eat a plant based diet. I'm even careful (or at least I try to be) on my blog - I say vegan diet - not just vegan.

I would like to be a vegan. No leather. No silk. No wool. But, to be 100 percent honest, I don't see that happening for me. I think that I will make better choices and not just buy something simply because I want it - but I can't see myself putting restrictions on what family and friends purchase for me.

I dunno. It's really, really tough.