What is vegan anyway?

I have been working on making a list of stuff people usually wear and listing what is vegan, what is vegetarian and what isn’t. It’s pretty hard to do that, cause sometimes people have different definitions of what is actually vegan and what isn’t, mainly because their motivations are also different. That is to say, there are many reasons to be vegetarian and to be vegan. (I’m not going to talk a lot about strictly food related things, although it is very important, and it makes a huge impact being vegan in this regard, but reasons for eating vegan is easy to find online anyways, and often it stops there, and the talk doesn’t go all the way to forms of consumption and just things we use in our lives.)

Some people choose it for their health and other reasons related to individual needs and wishes. That is usually only slightly related to the things they wear, rather than what they eat; but, not only! Wearing for example polyester, chemically treated fabrics etc. can also be a no-go for some, many people try to wear organically produced materials, biocotton and hemp etc. Well, those few who can afford it, the rest of us can maybe afford to work with it as wage labour in some place too dark for sewing (unless we work at Made in made by and similar social projects that does anti-sweatshop production with organic cotton and other materials). It’s also cheaper to be vegan, and it’s a lot more fun. Ever since the first time in my life I went vegetarian I realised how much I have missed out on because I was raised in a meat eater environment. I got to know vegetables I never knew they existed, and not because they didn’t grow anywhere nearby! So life as a vegan, especially in terms of food, is much more fun, and more diverse and rich in experience, and cheaper as well, a lot cheaper! Also, being vegan, instead of vegetarian, there is less opportunities to eat out really, that’s sort of sad and then again also nice, because of cooking more at home (if one has the time and so on) and eating with other likeminded people is cheaper and more fun and then you really know what is in your food – without having to go higher class fairtrade bio restaurant places or something.

And, many people are motivated by ethical reasons: this has to do with many things, with the resources needed to produce vegan and nonvegan products, and for example the cruelty how animals are treated in the industrial production of meat/milk/egg/leather/wool/silk/honey etc. The industrial production constantly tries everything to give as little space, as cheaply produced food as possible to the animals, their little workers, and it tries to exploit them to the fullest possible, to make as fast and as massive production on the lowest costs possible. And when the animals are not enough productive anymore – meaning there don’t produce a certain amount of profit, not that they don’t produce milk/eggs/silk/wool etc. anymore, they are killed and sold as nonvegetarian products like meat and leather (or just killed, if they have neither). And then there is the non-industrial forms of production, often organic as well, where the animals have more space, a bit more freedom, a bit less antibiotics etc, but they are still domesticated, they are still born and kept to produce profit, and with calling something free range or fairly produced or traditional, organic etc. the prices can be set higher – again, a privilege to consume for some, and maybe working opportunities for others.

On the other hand, the ethically motivated veganism stands very often also for the rights of all beings and against violence against all beings. And where people draw that line, what exactly counts as all beings can often be slightly different. Many people say they are vegan, but they eat honey for example. “Neither the Vegan Society nor the American Vegan Society considers the use of honey, silk, or other insect products to be suitable for vegans, while Vegan Action and Vegan Outreach regard that as a matter of personal choice.” (from Wikipedia) This is usually related to the belief that insects are inferior whereas mammals and vertebrate animals (those with a complex organ system etc., those with a spine, or those who usually have big sad eyes we can look into…).

For myself I am freegan, I have been vegetarian for a long time, and then slowly got closer and closer to calling myself vegan, for all sorts of reasons really. But as I live a very chaotic and cheap DIY lifestyle, I end up collecting and finding and using all sorts of stuff. I wouldn’t wear a fur coat if I would find one, because I don’t like them anyways, and I wouldn’t eat meat if I dumpster somewhere because my body couldn’t take it. But if I find food with dairy products or eggs being thrown out – usually from supermarkets – I have no problem eating it, and when I find clothes, shoes etc. thrown out or at Freeshops, I don’t mind using them. It’s not going to bring anyone back by throwing it out, producing however a huge amount of landfill, wasteland or burning trash etc., does have really bad environmental effects, and so on animals as well; just like producing huge amounts of non-recycled plastic products like polyester for example. So by buying vegan shoes or polyester jackets and jumpers instead of using leather or silk or wool that has been thrown out anyways, that wouldn’t help the animal world, neither my (vegan, upcycled) wallet.

The products of Bikesexual are however, strictly vegan. I did a lot of reading on rubber production and especially bicycle inner tubes and tires, to make sure it really is vegan, and it is. [Maybe I will post a summary on that sometime soon too.] Of course it’s industrial production, so it’s vegan, but that doesn’t make it all great and happy and nice and everything, people who work with it have shit working conditions as well etc. Then it breaks, wears out, and you cannot ride on it anymore, sadly. Then here I come, take really what is broken, and not just what doesn’t look so shiny anymore, or out of fashion or something, and make new stuff out of them, instead of seeing it go to waste and trash the environment. There rest of the materials I use are vegan as well. You can see on some photos there are feathers as well. I thought it feels and looks so much like plastic, it cannot be real. Well, I was wrong, and I’m not doing that again. I still have a few feathers left, so I’m not going to throw it out, but neither am I going to sell something like that and call it vegan. I will make sure I find some place for it where it is appreciated. Then also, on some of my old pictures you can see I used felt. All those were found, it’s rest materials someone wanted to throw away, and I decided to use it. In such cases I make it crystall clear what materials I have used and where I got them from.

I use a lot of fabrics that are leftovers from here and there, found in freeshops, from broken clothes, from friends etc. Many of them have no label, and I don’t really know for sure what is it made of. I can’t know 100% surely it doesn’t contain any silk, and I did a lot of research on all types of fabrics and mixtures that exist. (I will post a long list of that as well shortly.) The biggest question for me about fabrics and veganism is silk, because some of the materials I use for sewing projects might contain some, and the biggest question for fabrics and environmental friendly products, is plastic of course(and actually metal as well, but that’s a whole new chapter again). If I buy materials I always try to find out what is it made of, where and how it is produced, and I anyway don’t really buy much for anything. For the rest of the materials if I use anything I found, that otherwise would be thrown away and I end up using it to make a Bikesexual product, I always make it clear, so if you buy something, you always know how vegan or how freegan it is. And anyway it is surely going to be vegetarian (leather-free).


So much for today, soon I will edit this crazy long list of fabrics that exist in the world and what is what, and marking what is vegetarian, what has what kind of nonvegan stuff, on one hand to learn from it and have a place where I can always look it up, on the other hand to try to put together the knowledge that exist so far only sporadically, about fabrics and veganism.

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