Social psychologist Melanie Joy defines carnism as “the invisible belief system, or ideology, that conditions people to eat certain animals,” as in adopting dogs and cats but slaughtering and ingesting pigs and cows. Veganism is the choice to respect and love all creatures: to draw the line at surviving at the expense of another life, as with meat; or creating great suffering, as with milk or eggs (and meat). Beyond changing what’s on your plate, the term also encompasses consuming only material goods that cause no harm to animals.
If you’re up for making some of the suggested changes below at this time, great! Commit to those. Better to be an imperfect ally than to not show up at all (and on this topic I think we all have to concede to being quite imperfect). The following swaps can radically help fight climate change, honor the value of all beings, and in most cases, save you those soon-to-be Tubmans.
Obviously let’s not go buy a leather sofa, even if perfect for an 80s-style bachelor pad or art direction in an Italian film. If you already have a beloved couch or chairs made with cow’s hide or sheep’s wool, either keep them and decide their inevitable substitutions will be made of cloth; or donate them and go on a hunt for something in a sturdy canvas or synthetic blend. Watch out for fabric that has any type of wool or silk sneakily woven into it!
The main culprit here is any filling that lines comforters, blankets, or pillows. While some claim that you can purchase ethical down, better to dodge harming geese by going for the perfectly soft, fluffy, warm, and light polyester filling available for all items in which to burrito yourself at night. When my down comforter and pillows gave out, I paid about 60% less at IKEA for cruelty-free replacements.
Like bedding, they sure do love to stuff winter coats with remnants of plucked birds. There are several brands now on the market that are certified vegan — Save the Duck, Noize — but often you can read labels and find something animal-free, like I did at J.Crew this year. Don’t forget to sort out your hat and scarf situation while you’re at it, leaving out any kind of wool! I think you’re forgiven if like Bernie Sanders, your mittens are cut from repurposed sweaters.
Unfortunately, all cars are made using animal products in one way or another (check me if there’s a new game in town). You can, however, choose to purchase or lease a vehicle that has fabric rather than leather seats. Especially if you plan on accidentally spilling a mocha or two on the upholstery, or prefer to not burn your legs getting back in after a hike on a hot day, this is a solid plan.
We can eschew wool sweaters and trousers, leather belts and jeans with leather patches, fur trimmings, and feather jewelry (unless sourced through casual ground collection). Almost every garment category has cotton or recycled synthetic options; it’s cut and fit that makes fashion, not factory farming.
This can be the hardest category. There’s that plastic smell, many faux leathers don’t last, the issue of warmth, and of course, style. Go to any discount shoe store for inexpensive finds, but if you want a particular look or acclimation to weather, crank up the Google. Lean on sneakers, which are the easiest kind of cruelty-free footwear to source. Meanwhile, a supple substitute leather is currently being developed out of pineapple skin, and pineapple never disappoints.
Look for the little bunny symbol on your jars and tubes to ensure no animal testing went into the making of your glow-up. Not a bad idea either to research the ingredients to make sure you’re not inadvertently the animal being tested on; companies are allowed to put all kinds of toxic sludge into your powders and potions.
Same advice as for makeup, with the added note that perfume is often derived from animal glands. If you don’t want to stroll in the park wearing eau de deer pee, check out products scented with essential oils instead.
8) Anything plastic
Another way we harm animals is through dumping plastics which pollute their habitat and get into their digestive tracts. So while you might surround yourself with nothing that came from a fuzzy baby, do your best with the volume of single-use plastic that comes into and then out of your life. Beyond toting a metal drinking straw, how about reusable utensils? A carry cup? A takeaway box? A canvas bag? Unbagged produce? Bulk bins? Toothpaste tablets? Etcetera.
9) Anything that isn’t good for you
Because you’re a sweet animal worthy of a safe, full, healthy life, too.