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Fashion with Compassion May 06, 2008 6:46 AM

Discussions about veganism are usually ~ and understandably ~ about food. But in a lifestyle that strives to eliminate cruelty, it's not just about food, of course -- it's also about other products of exploitation, suffering and slaughter, including fibers and fashion.

While the horrendous issue of fur gets a lot of mainstream attention, animal skin (aka leather) is often, for some mystifying reason, as overlooked as it is ubiquitous and cruel (and cruel to human animals too, since so many leather products are made in sweatshops and often use child labor). Wool is generally given the same dismissive consideration (if it's considered at all) as dairy and eggs so often are ("but it doesn't hurt the sheep"). And the sources and production of down and silk are almost completely ignored.

So here is some information about these often overlooked "animal products" and some compassionate alternatives to them (you can visit our Online Vegan Shopping thread for sources if you need some!), because knowledge is power and the best fashion is compassion!

The Truth About Down, Wool, Leather, Silk and other fibers

The Most Powerful Fashion Statement of All: A Field Guide to Veganwear

Peaceful Choices: The Sheep

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 May 06, 2008 10:01 AM

It's all about the hierarchy...

The fur industry is certainly indefensible according to any moral standard... but using sexist imagery or assaults on women to make that point is extremely problematic not only because it is violent but because men wearing their expensive wool suits need not worry about animal rights advocates harassing them.
    Pg 74 Rain Without Thunder, Gary L. Francione

Interesting, huh?

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 May 06, 2008 10:49 AM

Great links, Laurie. It's a shame the Farm Sanctuary one pushes man-made alternatives so much though. It doesn't even mention things like kapok as an alternative to down, and cotton chenille or bamboo as an alternative to wool.  [ send green star]  [ accepted]
Vegan knitting May 06, 2008 10:55 AM

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 May 06, 2008 11:47 AM

"...cotton chenille or bamboo as an alternative to wool."

Yeah, Linda, or even Marzipan! (I don't even know how many times I've seen those amazing cupcakes, but they never cease to astound me... or make me !)

I have several pair of hemp/organic cotton blend socks that are as thick, cushy, sturdy and warm as any wool socks I ever owned. I didn't realize bamboo makes a good wool alternative! I have a 100% bamboo t-shirt, and it's so soft and drapey it has a texture I compare to silk. I love to make people feel it and try to guess what it's made of. They always guess wrong... or call the police.

Interesting quote indeed, Rift!

This post was modified from its original form on 06 May, 11:49  [ send green star]  [ accepted]
 May 06, 2008 12:01 PM

Bamboo makes excellent socks - the fact that it's naturally anti-bacterial & 'anti-smelly' makes it even better.
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 May 06, 2008 12:21 PM

Well, the next time I am in need of socks I shall have to try a pair of bamboo ones! (Though even more people are likely to call the cops if I take off my tennies and insist they feel my socks, odor-free though they may be! )

Happiness is... wearing cruelty-free, smelly-free socks!
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 May 07, 2008 3:54 PM

Great idea for a thread! Thanks for all the information. I will look for bamboo clothes next time I go shopping. While I buy cruelty-free (the most important thing!) I usually buy synthetics and I am trying to be more "green." 

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 May 09, 2008 6:22 AM

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Leather: Not an Innocent By-Product May 28, 2008 6:54 AM

Another informative podcast from Compassionate Cooks...

Leather: Not an Innocent By-Product

When confronted by the ethical considerations of leather, many people exclaim that it is a mere by-product of the meat industry and is thus absolved of culpability. The truth is quite different. Far from the altruistic industry this perception implies, the leather industry is inherently linked with the meat industry, providing the latter with much-needed profits and incentive to survive. In addition to the abuse that takes place in the slaughter industry, the leather industry is also responsible for the suffering and death of animals targeted specifically for their skins. Add to that the huge amount of energy and toxins necessary to turn once-living skins into preserved hides, and you've got an industry that doesn't come out looking good after all.

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 May 28, 2008 7:34 AM

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 May 28, 2008 10:27 AM

thank u for this very informative thread
Before I became vegan, as a vegetarian I never stopped to think where the leather shoes come from etc. I just saw it as an innocent byproducts (the animal is dead anyway so I might as well wear its skin *puke*.) I think most people don't realise that animal byproducts (wool, fur, leather) are very cruel, and most people focus only on the fur like it's the only evil...and it's not.

I bought gloves last winter made of baboo, soy and organic cotton. They feel really great. I try to by as green as possible, but the most important for me it's that the products is local, animal-free, and sweat-shop free...which can make it a challenge, let me tell you
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Meeting all the requirements of our conscience July 28, 2008 6:35 PM

I agree, it's difficult to find products that meet all the standards we aspire to. The Hi and Lois cartoon had me thinking, "How would it even be possible to create a product that meets all the demands that the imaginary product line 'PC products' claims?" Reading down the thread showed me that failure to meet any of these is simply a failure of imagination.

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 August 29, 2008 8:32 AM

Field Guide to Telling Animal Fur from Fake Fur
With raccoon dogs being skinned alive and sold as faux fur on jackets, consumers and retailers need to check fur-trimmed products to ensure the material is really fake. Here are three tests that you can do to help identify questionable fur as real or fake. If you are ever in doubt, don’t buy it. Other testing methods and indicators not on this list—including the push pin test, the blow test, the finger roll test, the color of the fur, the length of the fur, and the relative softness of the fur— should not be relied upon. This guide is not intended as a substitute for professional testing by experts in order to comply with applicable laws or for other reasons. Learn more at


1. Check the base of the fur for skin or fabric. Push apart the fur and look at the material at the base of the hairs. If the base material is not visible or unclear, and you own the garment, break the stitching and look at the non-hair side of the fur base, being sure to peel away all the layers of lining.


2. Check the tips of the hairs for tapering. Both animal fur and fake fur come in many different colors and lengths. However, if animal fur has not been sheared or cut to a uniform length or had the guard hairs plucked out, you may be able to examine the tips of the longest hairs and see that they taper into a fine point—like a cat's whisker or sewing needle. Good lighting and a magnifying glass are helpful, as is holding the hairs up against a white surface.
3. The Burn Test (only if you own the coat). Animal hair smells like human hair when burned; fake fur made from acrylic or polyester—the two most commonly used synthetics—does not. Carefully remove just a few hairs and then, holding them with tweezers above a dish or other non-flammable surface, ignite them with a cigarette lighter. Make sure to burn them away from the original garment and anything else flammable. Never conduct the burn test on hairs still attached to the jacket. The burn test should only be conducted by adults.
FAKE FUR: The surest sign of fake fur is seeing the threadwork backing from which the “hairs” emerge.
ANIMAL FUR: The surest sign of animal fur is leather/skin (usually white or tan, but possibly the color of the fur if it has been dyed).
ANIMAL FUR: Animal hairs—especially the thicker guard hairs (seen here)—can often be seen tapering to a point. NOTE: This test can give a false negative for animal fur if the hairs have been sheared or plucked.
FAKE FUR: This image shows the straight across cut of a fake fur “hair.” NOTE: Tapering has not been seen on any fake fur samples to date, but such a process may exist, or come into existence.  [ send green star]  [ accepted]
Silly Care2 let me post! December 15, 2008 9:49 AM

Ok.... this is the third time I've tried to post this.

I wanted to post this link. I found a shoe store that donates a pair of shoes when you buy from them. I was browsing through them not too hopeful for finding a vegan pair, but they have vegan shoes and they are clearly labeled!!!

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 March 13, 2009 6:30 PM
Here's a directory for cruelty free clothes.
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 August 16, 2009 1:28 PM
More shoes! Type "vegan" into the search engine to find the veg friendly shoes.

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 July 15, 2010 11:10 AM

Just been reading this on why bamboo may isn't the best choice for making fabrics out of. All that toxic solvent being dumped into the environment doesn't sound too green or animal-friendly, does it?

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anonymous  July 21, 2010 2:56 AM

This is so discouraging! Here we are, with bamboo socks, bamboo Ts, etc., and planning on bamboo robes cuz they're so soft, and then to find that it's not an easy solution to helping animals and environment. Of course there's no easy solution. I also have a lot of things in organic cotton, which I'm sure has its faults too. We could always move to a warmer climate, of course, 'dress' in the altogether and skip the nicety of clothing completely.

Apologies for rant. It's nearly six a.m. and time for me to get up and start on the final round of busy stuff to get ready for the movers at half past eight - and the suckers packed our kettle yesterday. Yup. Moving day, folks

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