No, you do not have to immediately buy all new shoes and sweaters. That said, take an inventory of all the items you own, and acknowledge the “materials” they are made from. Be conscious of them when you wear them, but do not guilt yourself: when the time comes to replace them, do so with cruelty-free items. Cruelty-free means not only that no animals were harmed, but no humans either. Be a conscious consumer and consider where goods come from as well as what they are made from. For instance, there are many cheap synthetic shoe options - synthetic not because the manufacturer cares about animals, but because it costs them less, and cheap because they are made in sweatshops. We recommend not opting for these shoes because when it comes down to it, you’d be substituting a product of one type of exploitation with that of another. Instead, we recommend investing in higher-quality items by companies that care not only about the materials they use but also about the people they employ.
Here is a short list of a few vegan and sweatshop-free apparel and accessory marketplaces. By the time you read this, there may be tens more! We do realize all-vegan, sweatshop-free apparel can be expensive, so we recommend thrift shops as well! Just be sure to look for clothing without the use of nonhuman animals and that you know have labor ethics. It may be difficult to find both sometimes but if you have a choice between a wool sweater and a non-wool one, ditch the one with nonhuman violence. Now here is the dark truth in the form of a list of what common “materials” really are: Leather is animal skin. The process of “producing” it is extremely violent and polluting. Often times the animals are still alive when they are being de-skinned. Against popular belief, leather is not a mere “by-product” but an intentional yield of the animal agriculture industry, as economically viable as “meat”, and as such, it can be made from the skin of a variety of animals - cows, goats, pigs, alligators, etc., including dogs and cats, and even the skin of baby or unborn (forcefully aborted) animals. Leather has become so commonplace that there are no regulations on its "sourcing" (i.e. what species of animal it is stripped from) and almost no regulations on its production, which happens to also require an enormous amount of water and polluting heavy metals and toxic substances. It's a dirty industry that causes serious health damage to most of its human workers as well. Fur is animal skin with the hair/fur still attached. The process is essentially the same as “producing” leather, even if the chemicals used are different. These days the fur industry is so large, that animals are bred in farms and live in similar conditions to farmed animals bred for food. Typically these are mink, foxes and chinchillas, though dogs and cats are used in certain parts of the world as well. Unlike the leather-agriculture connection, here the remaining skinless carcasses do become an industry "by-product" since most of these animals aren't typically viewed as "edible". And since the industry already bases its profits on death, it's not surprising that the bodies of the animals end up in a variety of other "applications", from cosmetics to tires to - yes - "pet"food. Wool is made from sheep or alpaca coat. Similarly, cashmere is made from the coat of a goat and Shahtoosh is made from the coat of the endangered chiru, or Tibetan antelope. This process involves shearing the animals and then spinning the fibers into yarn. At industrial levels, however, shearing essentially means shaving, for the purposes of higher yield, and often cutting the animals’ skins. Angora is rabbit fur that is "processed" in methods more similar to that of wool. Rabbits are bred so that their hair can be sheared, shaved or downright ripped from their bodies, all methods causing extreme amounts of pain. Silk is a fiber spun by particular species of moths. They spin it into a cocoon as they ready themselves to transition from larvae. Silk “farmers” take the completed cocoons and boil the creatures alive in order to "rid"of the larvae and unravel the fibers, which then get woven into textiles. Down is feathers from various birds, such as ducks and geese. The process consists of manually plucking feathers from individual birds, which is incredibly painful - the equivalent of having your nails or teeth pulled out all at once, over and over. Continue on WHAT TO BUY page.