Vegan, Vegetarian… Cheatatarian?

Posted in Fashion by Shannon South on November 12, 2010

Last night, I went to an event by vegan shoe company Olsen Haus. Elizabeth Olsen held a shoe design contest for Pratt students to design a convertible vegan shoe that could be worn in warm and cold weather. They’re going to produce the winning shoe and generously give the student 10% royalties, as well as 10% to the Farm Sanctuary. There were some really great designs and I’m sure it must have been a tough decision.

The event itself was really nice. Famous vegans, Russell Simmons and Moby were there. Catering was by Regal Vegan and it was fantastic. (we couldn’t stop eating the Faux Gras)

As the night went on, we chatted with different people and I started to realize how dedicated and political vegans typically are. I met a vegan burlesque performer (sounds like an oxymoron, but this is NYC after all) and it was fascinating to hear about the trouble she has finding non-animal materials for her costumes.

I got to thinking about where my own ethics lie. There are so many levels and trajectories of ethical behavior and I’ve always considered my choices to be very personal. I don’t go around advertising that I don’t eat meat or making others feel guilty if they do. Even with my business, I am fine with using used leather because I know that I am diverting it from landfill, yet I don’t feel comfortable using brand new leather. I learned that most vegans would not even use used leather because it is still promoting the use of animal skin, yet I wonder how aware many of them are aware of the environmental effects of the chemicals that go into certain pleather accessories (not all companies are as environmentally sensitive as Olsen Haus) …not to mention the fact that leather goods usually outlast their synthetic imposters.

Educating ourselves about the issues pertaining to our health and the treatment of animals is very important. After that, we ought to work out our own boundaries and do what feels ethically right for us. Most importantly, I believe we need to respect our fellow human and try to be open minded. (I have no plans of breaking up with my fiancé for being a cheatatarian.)

Read more about the event on Treehugger.

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3 Responses

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  1. jesse.anne.o said, on November 29, 2010 at 4:39 pm

    I was at the same event – and I am vegan. (I just found your blog through an interview with Odette/Camp Comfort.)

    I have a general strategy screen when I buy, taking into account some of the things you mentioned. I do have a mental block over used leather though – I know some vegans who wear it but I don’t. Because I can’t get my head around it.

    Some pleather is worse than others – but leather has always had a footprint as well. Aside from the issue of it being a lucrative animal-based industry, it also carries a toxic footprint.

    I did an overview post called “Dressing Vegan” here:

    I agree that there is no perfect answer, unfortunately! I try to subscribe to “buy less new, buy used, reduce harm” overall.

  2. lauren said, on December 1, 2010 at 10:08 am

    Thank you for this post, I really appreciate your thoughts – I haven’t eaten meat for quite some time and recently started eating vegan entirely, although I don’t call myself vegan for reasons such as using used leather (and I use wool yarn for knitting) – I agree with you on that one, although probably care too much about what other people think about me using used leather. Used leather also means you’re not giving money to the leather industry. I appreciate your post in particular because I think it’s important to take a stance without compromising your beliefs, while at the same time not forcing others to adopt your beliefs too – recently I’ve been reading blogs by other vegetarians who seem afraid to do stand with confidence in their stance. Thank you!

  3. jesse.anne.o said, on December 1, 2010 at 8:00 pm

    Thanks for your kind comments! I agree that used leather is very different than new leather!

    Selfishly I was bummed when I realized your stuff was leather – I remember being at the FNO Sustainability event and gravitating to your table but ended up not “being able” to buy anything. 🙂

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