I've been mulling over this leather belt situation..
I bought it before I became vegan and found it in the bottom of my drawer the other day.
My initial thought was, I have to throw it out. After all, one cow, or more, was skinned horrifically to produce that item – something I conveniently glossed over when I bought it many years ago.
I'm vegan now. I shouldn't own animal products, and I certainly shouldn't be wearing them.
Amidst my thoughts about the diabolical leather industry and how entirely unnecessary the pain and suffering is when we have so many alternatives, I began thinking whether or not it would be disrespectful to the animal(s) that suffered in my belt's making to just toss it in the garbage.
If all our old leather goods — mixed with plastics and toxic chemicals — end up in landfill sites, in the ocean somewhere, or in a second or third world dumping ground for western trash, would that really be a better solution?
Wouldn't this action render the animals' lives even more worthless?
And so I got to thinking that perhaps I should take care of the belt for as long as possible: to keep it, respect it and honour it as a symbol of my going vegan and of that animal's precious life.
But then I think no: because when I see people wearing fur coats, it makes me sick to my stomach. It's the same thing.
It stands to reason that any vegan or animal rights activist wearing animal-based clothing would be called out as hypocritical by both vegans and non-vegans.
So, my next though was to considere giving the belt away. I could give it to a charity shop, or someone I know who needs a belt.
But that's problematic too.
If I give someone a leather belt, does it not imply that it's okay to wear leather products?
That person might be so impressed with the belt's quality that they go out and buy more leather products!
In a way, I'd be encouraging the leather industry, wouldn't I?
So it begs the question, what should vegans do with their old leather products?
And what about silk scarves or wool jumpers, and how about creams and makeup that were probably tested on animals?
- Should it all be thrown in the bin?
- Should it be given to charity?
- Should it be given to friends in need?
- Should it be used until worn out?
Is it the case that existing leather products should still be put to good use, while at the same time campaigning against the leather industry and for production to stop?
Leather is a part of our history, and even though we want it to become a part of everyone else's' history too, millions of leather goods will last decades beyond this post I'm writing now.
Does it further insult the animals by tossing their skin into the bin?
Should we honour their memory by using the products until they are no longer usable?
Should we let these products be a reminder of why we need to stop this antiquated, horrific trade?
I am eliminating leather goods from my life, and indeed silk, wool products too. I am also replacing all my toiletries with cruelty-free brands. But it doesn't happen overnight. It is a transition that takes time, and longer for some than others.
One thing is for sure: If we do decide to give a leather product away, we need to make damn sure we educate the person we are giving it to on the horrors of the leather industry.
Otherwise it acts as an indirect endorsement; “I don't want this, but hey, you can have it!”
It shouldn't be a happy, “present-like” interaction.
The giving should be accompanied by showing the person videos of the horrific suffering the leather industry causes, and we should explain exactly why we have stopped buying leather and why they should too.
Perhaps old leather goods don't need to be wasted lives. Perhaps they can serve as educational tools and stark daily reminders of why animals are not for us to wear or exploit in any way.
What do you think?