Finally, veganism is being talked about in the mainstream. But it’s more than just a diet. When is vegan fashion going to get the attention it deserves?
There’s a list. Mike Tyson. Ex-presidents and ex-vice presidents. Talk show hosts. A-list movie stars and musicians. And the latest to take the vegan diet plunge? Beyoncé and Jay Z. Well, almost. The couple is on a three-week vegan diet bender. It’s good for business. They get even more publicity (because they need it, right?) and likely drop a few pounds. Vegans get the glory of adding more super-celeb names to the roster, even if it only lasts a few weeks. Vegan restaurants can boast visits from the couple. Sort of. Because with only three weeks to kale it up, Beyoncé failed in week one: She walked into a vegan restaurant wearing fur.
Mrs. Shawn Carter, now there are 99 problems—and well. Huh. Maybe it’s not your fault. It is that missing link about “veganism” that we don’t talk about nearly enough these days. The one Bill Clinton probably overlooks, too. The one Mike Tyson might miss if he’s not looking carefully. It’s the animals that are now your shoes, your belt, your sweater, those hideous UGG boots. And, yes, Beyoncé, in that unspeakable dead animal wrapped around your collar like you’re Nanook.
Perhaps the reason we don’t talk all that much (yet) about the importance of vegan fashion is that we’re so thrilled that the vegan diet is getting so much recognition. Without a doubt, it’s the biggest battle—more animals are killed for food than in any other industry. And chances are—or it used to be, anyway—once you realize the horrors animals raised for food endure, the blurry reality of the other ways animals are (ab)used begin to come into focus too. But with so much attention being placed on the physical benefits of dropping meat, eggs and dairy from our diet, we’re no longer talking as much about the benefits to the animals. Suffering has taken a backseat to slimmer waistlines, reduced LDL levels and a decrease in methane gas production. We promote the benefits of plants more comfortably than we talk about the tragic fact that pigs are smarter than dogs, but we lock them in cages so small they can’t even turn around. And then we kill and eat them.
Choosing to not eat animals is actually pretty easy. Fruits and vegetables are abundant. Most major cities now boast at least one vegan restaurant and countless vegan items on restaurant menus. But try to buy a well-made pair of boots or a handbag that aren’t leather. Or a sweater that isn’t wool. There certainly are options out there, and the vegan fashion industry is taking off (NYC’s Fashion Week saw the first vegan fashion show last year), but as an industry, it still has big steps towards seeing the success vegan food has.
But fur? Really? Do we really still need to discuss how totally awful fur is? How are you going to explain it to your daughter? Even meat-eaters are known to find it offensive. I get it, Beyoncé. You’re BEYONCÉ. And it’s winter (almost, technically). But this isn’t the 1940s. And you were in Los Angeles, not Iceland. Are you really a woman who needs to feel beautiful wrapped in the dead body of another animal? You’re the best-selling, most beautiful woman in music today. You rocked the Super Bowl halftime show. You’re married to a mogul. Can’t you give the animals a break?
Most of the fur sold in the U.S. comes from China where there are no penalties for animal abuse. More than a billion rabbits, two million cats and hundreds of thousands of dogs are tortured for their fur in China every year. Fur farms are some of the most crammed and filthy conditions that animals such as fox, mink and chinchilla endure before they’re painfully electrocuted to death so as to not bloody up their precious pelts. Then there’s the seal slaughter in Canada where babies are brutally bludgeoned for their coats.
Fur may look clean and pristine. It’s easy to see only the softness and beauty we love in the animals who wear it naturally. But like wool, suede and leather, fur is the product of industries that fail to see the suffering of animals as anything more than just the cost of doing business.
Fashion is, more often than not, excessive and indulgent. Like food can be. But over the last few decades, we’ve begun to shift our diets. Savoring the flavor of simple ingredients. We’ve turned our focus locally to the freshest foods. It’s easier to eat a vegan diet when your plate is full of seasonal plant-based ingredients. Applying that same approach to fashion isn’t just easy. It’s just as necessary.
Keep in touch with Jill on Twitter @jillettinger
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