There are lots of good reasons for people to choose to either become vegan or to buy vegan products. And most of these apply as much to our clothes as our food or beauty products.
Animal welfare is an issue everyone should care about. And pretty obviously the cows and pigs that died to make leather or suede, the ducks and geese killed for their down and feathers and even the silkworms boiled for their silk are just as dead as the meat on someone’s plate. Plus it isn’t true that these materials are just by-products of making meat. They’re a big part of the value of the animal and so vital enablers of the factory farming industry that produces these animals.
But it isn’t just the animals killed for their feathers or flesh who suffer. Sheep, goats and alpaca raised for their wool almost all come from mass, industrialised farming and many are subjected to inhumane practices like mulesing where part of the skin is cut off, without anaesthetic, to prevent infections that only occur because they’re forced to live out of their native environment. Albeit only briefly because they’re killed as soon as their productivity drops. And much of the world’s down supply comes from live plucked birds who suffer unnecessarily so we can stay warm.
Because these animal products mostly come from, and are integral to, factory farming they’re also terrible for the environment. The deforestation needed to grow enough soy to feed 70 billion animals, the methane the animals burp and fart out, the impact of transporting them to slaughter houses and on to textile factories, and the chemicals needed to transform flesh into leather and suede all help to make leather, silk, wool and alpaca wool four of the five least sustainable fabrics (the other is conventional cotton which we also don’t use).
So if you like animals or care about the environment the answer’s simple right? Just avoid animal products and you’ll ensure your clothes are more ethical and sustainable. Well unfortunately almost all of the alternatives involve plastics and these come with plenty of their own problems.