As vegans, we know that no matter how hard we try to minimise our impact on the planet, animals and our health, we can never satisfy everyone. There will always be someone ready and waiting to scrutinise our efforts; to point out our apparent hypocrisy or shame us for some inconsistency or other. We will never be vegan enough for some folk, and while it’s most often meat eaters waiting to defensively tear us down, our fellow vegans can be just as enthusiastic in their criticisms.
I’ve written before about how being vegan is not about being perfect. Giving a vegan lifestyle a go is a truly amazing thing to do, and the extent to which you can commit to it is down to your own personal circumstances and experiences. Unfortunately, the vegan community can often be a confusing and divisive place; while we’re all united in wanting to cause as little harm to animals as possible, we sure as hell get caught up and split up in controversies. The topic of wearing faux fur – of whether or not doing so promotes cruelty to animals – is one such controversy.
Recently, vegan tattoo artist and cosmetics creator Kat Von D caused a stir by wearing a bright red faux fur gilet during a promotional appearance for her collaboration with cruelty-free makeup brand Too Faced. Many of her followers were quick to weigh in, slamming her sartorial choice and calling her out for essentially promoting the fur industry and the suffering it causes for animals.
Before I get into where I stand in the faux fur debate, let’s look at the reasons why some people think that wearing faux fur is wrong. Firstly, they might see it as too reminiscent of the real product – faux fur can look very authentic, and for some this can be a reminder of the violence and horror of the industry. They might personally find it distasteful to wear something that so closely resembles an animal, much like a lot of vegans move away from meat substitutes because they just taste so damn realistic. Secondly, some might believe that non-vegans will see a faux fur product promoted by a celebrity they admire, not understand that it isn’t real fur, and go on the hunt for a real product, inflicting harm on animals along the way. Generally, many vegans see the promotion of faux fur as indistinguishable from the glamorisation of real fur, and will choose not to wear it at all.
Personally, I sit at the opposite end of the argument. I think it is important and positive to show the world that there is a vegan alternative to, well, everything: from marshmallows and whipped cream to leather and wool, vegan friendly replacements are aplenty, and how can this be a bad thing? Not only does buying into faux fur (or any cruelty-free alternative) show and increase demand for animal-friendly wares, it also shows the world that you’ll miss out on nothing if you adopt a vegan lifestyle.
I also think there is a lot of room for moral discrepancies when taking a stance against faux fur. Quite frankly, if you are a vegan who condemns others for wearing faux fur, I would expect that you don’t avail any substitutes for animal-derived goods. If you’re going to drag someone for wearing faux fur, I’d presume you don’t eat any fake meats, cheeses or eggs, dairy-free chocolate, or anything that simulates a product traditionally reliant on animal ingredients. I’m not about an all or nothing approach to veganism, but if you’re going to put someone on blast for a choice they are making, you’d better be perfect yourself.
What if we stopped focusing so hard on people wearing faux fur and instead shared knowledge on how they can buy more ethically produced clothes in general?
Another point that I feel is important to make is that, honestly, I think being so conflicted about whether or not faux fur is acceptable in a vegan lifestyle kind of distracts us from other important ethical conversations we should be having instead. Wouldn’t our time be better spent educating each other on, for example, ways to reduce our palm oil intake, or lead less wasteful lives? What if we stopped focusing so hard on people wearing faux fur and instead shared knowledge on how they can buy more ethically produced clothes in general?
Ultimately, it is up to you whether or not you feel comfortable wearing faux fur. I am fairly indifferent towards it as a fashion item – it’s not quite my style, though I live and die for good quality fake leather. Just bear in mind that a vegan who chooses to wear faux fur most likely holds the very same views you do in terms of wanting to end animal suffering; we’re all in this together, and the more united we are, the taller we’ll stand.
What are your thoughts on this? Let me know in the comments below!