Veganism is a lot more than what we eat; it's a lifestyle choice and it emcompasses everything. From fashion to beauty to household products, the moment we choose to live cruelty free is the moment we start behaving and consuming differently.
Unless you are lucky enough to have been born vegan (kudos to your parents), it's likely that at some point in your pre-vegan life, you'll have purchased a few items containing or made of animal by products, most commonly leather, wool or silk. Leather and wool are unfortunately used in many things: from shoes and fashion accessories to furniture, furnishings, car interiors and bike seats to name a few. It's not easy to get away from them!
So once we've become vegan, what should we do with our non cruelty free purchases?
Throwing them in the bin is not the ethical choice. These objects will simply go and rot in a landfill, creating more pollution and taking away even more space from our non human animal friends. Giving them to charity is a good option but some feel that what they are simply doing is getting rid of their former non vegan objects for somebody else to 'flaunt them'. Another way is to sell them and give the money to charity. This is possibly one of the most ethical options, but of course another matter arises: affordability. Not everybody has the spare cash to replace their shoes, belts or bags all at once. So what should we do?
I spoke to many vegans about this matter and the split was very much 50/50: those who think you should get rid of everything at once and those who think one should carry on wearing these items until they fall apart, in the meantime saving money to replace everything with brands that don't use animal products.
This is certainly a controversial topic and some vegans I met didn't feel comfortable admitting they'd carry on wearing their animal by product items until they could replace them. Others stood by their choice, saying that they actually felt that if replacing these items was not an option, then wearing them until they can no longer be used and new vegan items can be purchased, is the way to go.
Ethica Magazine have asked two vegans with different opinions on the matter about their experience.
Sarah, a researcher from London
I became vegan just over 10 years ago, fresh out of university. At the time I was riddled with debts and had no money at all. I got an entry level job as a PA and had to wear smart clothes. Whilst I did not want to carry on wearing leather or wool, I simply didn't have the funds to replace my clothing with the vegan variety. My parents, on a low income, couldn't afford to help.
I sold some of my non essential leather items on Ebay and donated the money to an animal charity, but the rest I continued to wear until I could afford to replace them. Of course these days, I don't own a single item that's leather, wool or silk, but I don't think that other vegans should attack 'new vegans' for still wearing these things until they can afford to replace them. Most vegans I encountered when I was still wearing my old clothes were very understanding, but I did meet a few who verbally attacked me simply because I didn't have the money to buy new ones. I do believe that as soon as one can, one should replace their animal textiles with plant or synthetic ones, but I also think that vegans should be understanding and supportive of each other and not lambaste those who are still making the transition.
Ben, blogger at
I became vegan in 1997 after being vegetarian 8 years before that. When I first became vegan I did own leather shoes which I stopped wearing after a few months. After that I became very strict against leather as you have to be all in when going vegan. I don't think people can be vegan and still wear leather because it's still a dead animal that should be alive. The best way to get rid of leather or anything else made out of animals is to take them to the nearest charity shop. Yes somebody else will still purchase your unwanted leather but at least someone is getting some use out of them rather than go to landfill.
What did you do with your old non cruelty free items once you became vegan? Let us know in the comments box below!