I decided years ago that my days of having to wear a suit, tie and smart clothing were over. As much as possible I am in shorts and a t-shirt, at least when the weather allows, but of course we all have that occasion where we must look smart, or in my case a bit less of a hippie!
And so it was I went to the cupboard and dragged out a pair of smart trousers, a shirt and tie and from the very back of the, cupboard a pair of well-made expensive shoes that had not been worn for a good few years. And then it struck me, hold on these are leather, I’m vegan now.
My initial thought was I must throw them out, after all knowing what suffering is endured by these animals and that buying leather directly contributes to factory farms and slaughterhouses with leather being the most important co-product of the meat industry, I shouldn’t have leather.
Vegan a lifestyle change
Since becoming vegan I’ve managed to completely change my lifestyle, phasing out wherever possible anything that contains animal products thus ensuring that my food is vegan any cosmetics are vegan, my clothes are vegan, or so I thought, I even try and buy vegan gifts whenever possible.
With the amazing amount of vegan footwear options now available from basic vegan shoes, through to vegan sports shoes, vegan hiking boots, vegan dress shoes and just about anything in between, there really is no need to support this industry.
With my thoughts wandering about how unnecessary this whole industry is with the plethora of alternatives we now have available I came back to the subject in hand, my shoes, what to do? I could of course donate them and they would then become what is known as post-consumer shoes of which in the UK alone almost 200,000 tonnes are collected each year for direct reuse either in the UK or in most cases for exportation to developing countries.
Waste waste and more waste
Ok so at least they are being used but even then they will have a lifespan and with over 85% eventually ending in landfill, isn’t there another option? Plus of course what if the person ending up with my shoes loved them so much and was so impressed by their quality that they decided they would only ever buy leather, in a way wouldn’t I be encouraging the process? After all one of my main goals in life now is to promote a vegan lifestyle not the opposite.
These ponderings about my shoes were interesting as coincidentally, only a few weeks ago I had read an article about consumer consumption and shoes were one of the products being discussed. The research showed that annual worldwide footwear consumption has increased drastically, from approximately 2.5 billion pairs in 1950 to more than 20 billion pairs in 2015.
Despite the population explosion this means that the consumption of footwear per person has also increased, from approximately 1 pair person per year in 1950 to 2.6 pairs in 2015. Imagine that over 20 billion shoes per year of which on average 85% will end in landfill.
Ok so this was becoming interesting, I had digressed from my thoughts of immediately throwing out my leather shoes to asking myself what we should be doing to reduce this waste of both animal and man-made products and why we are consuming so much. This wasn’t a question that I was going to be able to answer easily and am not going to try here but my immediate thoughts were it must be a mix of fashion, affordability and availability.
Do vegans wear leather shoes?
Ok, so I’m still looking at my shoes and after all these thoughts am undecided as what to do, these were quality shoes and looked after would last me many years, particularly with the limited use. How many millions of other leather products are currently in use that looked after will last years or even decades, surely it is better that we use these products to minimise waste rather than just adding to the problem.
Yes, I have chosen to remove animal products from my life but this is not an instant process, is it therefore hypocritical of me to be vegan and advocate this lifestyle and still have my leather shoes? After all the with the question do vegans wear leather shoes? I am being somewhat facetious, because we all know the answer is no. But if I choose to throw them away am I not contributing to the already extensive waste and wouldn’t this action render the animals life even more worthless?
I have never wanted to be a vegan that preaches to others about what they must and mustn’t do. My aim is to encourage, educate and nurture as much as I am able and as such I am happy when anyone attempts to change their lifestyle and adopt one that promotes healthy happy living that avoids the use of animal products. The fact is that I have a vegan diet and have replaced all my toiletries with cruelty-free brands and I am eliminating leather goods from my life but it doesn’t happen overnight. It is a transition that takes time, and longer for some than others and for me that’s fine
So do vegans wear leather shoes? Well this one did a few weeks ago, will he do again probably not, but for now I think I’m going to keep my shoes, look after them and use them as an educational tool both to discus and teach why animals are not ours to wear when there are so many other ethical options available to us but also to show that we shouldn’t just discard items to landfill and contribute without thought to the cycle of waste.
What would you do with my shoes?