How do you incorporate your vegan lifestyle into other areas of your life besides food?

How do you incorporate your vegan lifestyle into other areas of your life besides food?

Ask Annika! 

How do you incorporate your vegan lifestyle into other areas of your life besides food  i.e. Clothes, vacations (do you do zoos and sea world), makeup?

What a great question! Many people don’t realize that being vegan is not just about diet and I always get excited to share how veganism has affected other areas of my life beyond food.

First, there are people who, for health or religious reasons, may follow a plant based diet and even identify as vegans but not be concerned with aspects of veganism, beyond diet, discussed here.  But for ethical vegans, the decision spans a range of other areas such as the ones mentioned in your question. I’d also like to mention that I consider myself pretty militant about most of my choices, but I never claim to be a “perfect vegan.” More importantly, it is helpful to emphasize that veganism is not about perfection.

A phrase I have heard in conjunction with the mechanics of living a vegan lifestyle is to do “what is practical and possible.”  For some, just the thought of going vegan sounds like a major inconvenience. But when you realize that yes, it’s practical and possible to change your habits and to, for example, buy shampoo that wasn’t tested on animals or quit buying and wearing leather then one realizes that though it might involve change it really is practical and possible to change your life to stop supporting so many explicitly cruel practices.

My views naturally do not represent all vegans but what I am writing here is where I stand now and representative of things I have learned for myself along the way.

Household Products

Earlier this week I wrote a brief post about household products that you can read here. As with so many consumer practices, I think learning about plant based alternatives to the products we may have grown up accustomed to using for cleaning is just about researching and changing habits. I always intend to only buy household cleaning products that are not tested on animals and not environmentally disruptive. This is an area of the market that is really growing and, as I mention in the post, I am excited to dig in to learning more about this area as well as get into experimenting with DIY home cleaning remedies.

Clothes

I was never into leather pants or jackets, but I definitely had some leather shoes and purses as well as wool items in my wardrobe to deal with when I went vegan.  I’ll be honest, I really grappled with the decision. I wasn’t sure if I should just donate the items, toss them in the trash or what.  I recall wearing down one pair of sandals but finally just deciding to donate the rest.

I have read about some small businesses who are, for example, producing wool without the pain that is typically caused to sheep within the wool industry.  If I had the opportunity I would absolutely visit these producers to talk about their philosophy of production, how they manage to create their product without causing harm and their perspectives on the rest of the industry.  But right now I simply don’t buy or wear any items made from animals. Disregard for animals is unfortunately pervasive in the fashion industry and I’d simply rather support companies whose ethical production choices include not using animals.

Like all the other areas mentioned here, this is one that really requires a great deal of your own consumer research leading into other issues of sustainability as well as human labor issues in fashion. I have been really excited to explore more vegan fashion brands in the past couple of years and I look forward to sharing more at this site. Do a google search for “vegan online shopping” or “vegan online retailers,” for example, to find providers who curate and carry everything from shoes and clothes to bags and accessories from various vegan friendly brands. A lot of the brands I have come across and really like for their vegan ethos and production philosophies can be pricey and it really pays to get on the mailing list to be notified about pre-sales or other big sale events.

Other lifestyle products

I remember once posting a photo to one of my social media accounts of my son when he was younger, with a football in his hands and held up to his mouth.  One of the first comments was “Does it really taste like pigskin?” I was like what?!  I didn’t take offense and I knew the person meant it in a joking tone but up until that moment I had absolutely no idea that footballs were made with animal products. Some people might say wow, what a dodo. How could you not know that? My husband in fact thought I should take this entire section out as he felt  that me admitting this was instant credibility loss.  Well, I rarely think about football and I never thought about the actual balls themselves.  I quickly learned that they used to be made with animal bladders and many are now often made with cowhide. This definitely set off a little project for me of researching non-animal based sports balls. Vegan sports gear does indeed exist, you just need to poke around for it.

All that said to point out how so many elements of our lives include objects that (whether we know it or not) are made with animal parts. I am not going to prohibit my son from joining any sports team because their sports balls are made from animal skins but you can be sure that I will be doing my research and any sports balls I buy for my son will be not be animal based (and if he is on sports teams I might just be that crazy vegan mummy telling the coaches about her consumer finds!).  Part of this is also just showing support for companies providing animal free alternatives- many of these companies are in their nascence and it would be great to see that part of the market grow.

Drinks

This post isn’t about food and drink but I do have to bring up alcohol here just because it was a very strange moment when I had the thought “Is wine vegan?”  I also remember thinking, “Wow, what a silly question.” But I’m glad I didn’t dismiss it. I think for some vegans, this issue is pretty fringe as the amount of animal based material in many non-vegan alcohols is usually extremely trace (barring, of course, certain obviously non-vegan drinks like milk stouts or some cocktails).

However, for me the issue is less about “How much or little animal based material is in my glass of wine?” and more about simply wanting to support companies with a policy (sometimes intentional and sometimes not) of not using animal based ingredients. Barnivore is a fantastic resource for looking up if your favorite wines and beers are vegan.

Zoos, Aquariums, Marine Parks

I grew up in San Diego and went to Sea World possibly a dozen times in my youth. If only my younger self knew that in a few decades, her older self would be elated at the landmark decision that Sea World made to end their captive breeding of orcas. I recently went to NYC and met with fellow vegan mothers and their children to do photo portraits for my vegan parents interview series.  As a couple of the mothers and their children and me and my son, crossed the street and were about to enter Central Park, one of the horse carriage drivers asked us if we wanted a ride.  “Oh, you got the wrong group buddy.” one of the fellow mothers said as we continued walking.

I am wholeheartedly against the capturing, captivity and breeding of animals for human consumption and use including entertainment. There are so many, now obvious, examples of things I will not support now that I have taken part in in the past, such as orca shows, animal circuses and horse drawn carriages.

Animals don’t belong in cages. I know this is true so I’ll point out my own hypocrisy in going to zoos and aquariums occasionally. I am always quizzing staff members about the origin and individual history of the animals.  This year my family and I went to two aquariums (thankfully neither of them had animal “shows”) and as I talked with various staff, I learned that many of the animals were there after being rescued. However I know that many animals are at these establishments not in the name of rehabilitation and live in meager conditions, existing solely to be an “exhibit” for human observation.

I will readily admit that this is an area I am very unresolved about.

We are members at a local children’s museum that also houses many animals (including quite a number of reptiles) in a “Wildlife Sanctuary”. Usually when we go to this museum I am 100% focused on my  son who races from play room to play room and generally is not looking into the rooms with animals. One day we did though and I recall thinking that the enclosures were a terrible way for these animals to live. I asked one of the staff workers about it and generally the mission of their animal care and he shared that the animals in their facility come from rescues and many from people who had purchased or adopted the animals, oten as ‘exotic pets,’ and for whatever reason failed to care for them properly. Many of the animals had developed chronic illnesses and debilitating diseases from former maltreatment or negligence in human homes and would not survive in the ‘wild.’ While I still took issue with the size of the cages this did put their mission in perspective for me.

I will in no way ever defend all zoos, aquariums or even all sanctuaries without knowing and understanding what they do.

As I wrote this, I realized that, as a vegan as well as a vegan journalist, I really have no other choice than to begin doing the research for a piece on personal ethics regarding animal welfare and captivity and attendance to places like zoos and aquariums. I will definitely share my process at this site.  In the meantime, if one is interested, I thought these sites provided some valuable and interesting perspective on these issues:

Do Vegans Support Zoos?

Arguments for and against Zoos

Ecological Ethics in Captivity: Balancing Values and Responsibilities in Zoo and Aquarium Research under Rapid Global Change

How ethical is a visit to the Zoo?

Ethics Guide: Animals for Entertainment

Makeup & Body Products

I have to confess, although I don’t wear much makeup (lip gloss regularly, blush and lipstick sometimes), I’m a bit of a cosmetics junkie. I have to resist buying nail polishes because while I am attracted to all sorts of hues, the reality is I only stick with wearing clear or a nude.  I love exploring those fabulous pharmacies that carry not only medicine and toiletries but also fantastic US and EU made cosmetics lines and the toiletries and make up section of some grocery or other stores is just so enticing to me.

Vegan Cuts beauty box and Petit Vour’s beauty box were two subscriptions I joined to get a kickstart on getting acquainted with a lot of vegan brands.  I love their services and always recommend it as a treat for yourself, to request as a gift or to gift to someone else.

In early 2015 I had a Vegan Cosmetics Photoshoot at our home at the time on Oahu, with 8 participating brands and several local female volunteer models.  I absolutely loved and valued every aspect of that experience from the Q & A’s I did with the companies prior to the shoot (read the Q & A’s and explore the photos here), to getting to know their product and history and finally to photographing the product itself as well as applied to the ladies. All of the participants were already very savvy about animal testing and cosmetics as well as various vegan brands but in the future I’d really like to organize (or take part in organizing with others) more events like these with women as a form of consumer education and advocacy as well.

I genuinely believe that if many people buying make up knew the animal testings and abuses that occurred for that product to be on the shelves they wouldn’t purchase them. For personal research check out resources including organizations like Cruelty Free International as well as many fantastic vegan cosmetics bloggers who stay on top of what companies may have been bought by parent companies with an animal testing policy and emergence of new vegan brands.

In 2013 the EU effectively put in place a ban on the sale of animal tested cosmetics and ingredients.  Third party testing is still a concern even with some brands that claim to be cruelty free but may source certain ingredients from a company or other body that tests on animals, so the ban against ingredients as well is critical. I hope that we will reach this stage in the USA as well.

I will probably not change my regimen of lip gloss and sometimes blush anytime soon but I will keep perusing the cosmetics aisles and blogs to check out what’s new, especially on the non-animal testing front .I plan on expanding more of my photography and exploration of vegan cosmetics brands and will always share those posts under my “Beauty and Body” section here.

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My son and husband greeting a deer on our visit to Leilani Farm Sanctuary in 2015

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My son and I at Leilani Farm Sanctuary on Maui in 2015

Ask Annika is a space on this blog  devoted to fielding questions about vegan ethics, transitioning to vegan lifestyle, plant based diets and related issues. Send in your questions here

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