“V” is for Vegan, which means when you see this badge you won’t find any animal products (leather, fur, wool, and the like) in the majority of the company’s products. Even if you’re not vegan, there are lot of reasons to buy vegan products. Entire books and films have been dedicated to behind-the-scenes looks at the harmful process of making leather, fur, wool, and other animal product-based clothing, but if you’re short on time we’ll try to sum up the top items you should avoid and why. If you want to dig deeper, just follow the links!
Found in: jackets, boots, belts, gloves, satchels, bags, wallets, patches on the back of jeans, and more.
Leather production is tied to the livestock industry, which is the largest system of animal abuse on the planet. Popular documentaries like Food, Inc.
have recently enlightened the general public about the living conditions for cows who are locked up in tiny pens every day, pumped full of hormones and antibiotics, rarely see the sun, are covered in feces, and after years of living in these conditions are finally killed in often painful ways.
It destroys the earth
Tanning — the process necessary to preserve hides as leather — is an environmentally costly process. Each metric ton of animal hides, on average, requires about 50 cubic meters of water
and 660 pounds of chemicals in order to turn them into leather. That means that the annual 6.4 million tons of raw hides produced across the globe requires about 320 million cubic meters of water and nearly 4,224,000,000 pounds of chemicals
Its impact is far-reaching
Because of its close connection with the livestock industry, leather production is one step in a long chain that ultimately contributes to global warming, land degradation, air and water pollution, and loss of biodiversity. We recommend books like Fast Food Nation
and The Omnivore’s Dilemma
for a closer look at meat production and its negative impact on people, animals, and the environment.
There are better options
Many people (including some of BetterThread’s founders) have testified to the superior durability of leather alternatives. For example, leather wallets which disintegrate over time have been trumped by vegan alternatives. Finding the best alternatives can sometimes be difficult, but with the help of product reviews from across the web (and some of our own) we hope to help you find the very best animal-free leather.
Found in: coats, gloves, scarves, boots, more
of the fur industry’s skins come from factory farms where mink, foxes, and other animals are kept in tiny cages their entire lives, only to be brutally killed so that people can wear their skins. Most of these farms are located in the world’s largest fur exporter: China
, which supplies over half of the United States’ finished garments. Like its poor reputation for human rights regulations, China also has no penalties for people who abuse animals on fur farms. If you’ve got the stomach for it, the documentary Skin Trade
is worth a watch to see what goes on behind the scenes of fur production.
Even in the case of clothing labeled "faux fur" there’s a good chance your clothing was made with the real fur
of rabbits, cats, or dogs. Annually, fur farmers
kill over one billion rabbits, 2 million cats, and hundreds of thousands of dogs, via electrocution, bludgeoning, hanging, bleeding them to death, or skinning them alive.
It harms the environment
Like leather, fur contributes to air pollution by increasing the demand for more animal products that are heavily produced in overcrowded factory farms, where feces builds up in large amounts rather than being sparsely distributed by uncaged animals in the wild. A million pounds of feces
are produced by mink farms in the US each year, which can lead to the pollution of nearby rivers and streams from the resulting phosphorus.
At fur farms, the most common method of killing animals is anal or genital electrocution
, which painfully burns the animals to death from the inside, allowing the fur to remain unblemished. One third of the fur sold in the US is also claimed from animals caught in steel jaw traps
. These snap the creatures’ limbs, leaving them painfully wounded until hunters return to capture and kill them.
Found in: sweaters, coats, jackets, socks, gloves, more
Bred to Overproduce
There is a wide misconception that sheep naturally need to be shorn, but of course lived in the wild for years before humans began shearing them. Sheep produce only the amount of wool their home climate requires, unless they’ve been specifically bred or genetically engineered
(as chickens, cows, and pigs) to produce more of the product humans want.
Merino sheep are bred to have wrinkled skin
, which results in a greater amount of wool on their bodies. The breeding also results in flies laying eggs in the folds of the sheep's skin, which then hatch into maggots that devour their flesh. To solve this problem, Australia, where 25%
of the world’s Merino wool comes from, uses mulesing
— a practice in which a sheep’s wrinkled flesh is painfully cut from the area around their hindquarters, generally without the use of anesthesia.
Animals are abused
Like farmed cows, sheep are frequently subjected to painful processes
due to being treated as units in a production line: tails are chopped off, ears are hole-punched for tracking purposes, and male lambs are typically castrated when they are between two and eight weeks old to disable them from breeding.
New Zealand’s 30 million sheep
are responsible for nearly a third
of the nation’s total greenhouse gas emissions due to methane caused by enteric fermentation
. The C2ES organization notes
that these emissions could be reduced if consumers lower their consumption of animals and animal products.
Fret not, there's hope
Whew! If that was an exceptionally depressing read for you, don’t fear! The good news is that we’ve found plenty of awesome alternatives we’d like to share with you. Here are a few of our favorite companies who sell loads of vegan products to get you started: