Are clothing and textiles marketed as "vegan" really sustainable?
September 10, 2021 2:29 PM   Subscribe

"I often hear well-meaning people conflate “vegan” with terms like “ethical,” “sustainable,” or “eco-friendly,” as if they can all be used interchangeably. The unnecessary death of animals is of course a bad thing, but as we can see in the case of the silkworm, an animal’s death sometimes produces social and even environmental benefits. Those benefits are often extensive enough that they could be classified as ethical. And given the way clothing is made in today’s intertwined world, where available resources decrease every year and pollution increases—saving one animal often means killing or harming others."
posted by Lycaste (48 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
i'm trying to find the frankie boyle quote along the lines of "being vegan is not the most ethical decision you can make, ye daft c**ts.......... being a cannibal is"
posted by lalochezia at 2:54 PM on September 10 [14 favorites]

This sounds remarkably like the paper vs plastic grocery bag conundrum, where first it was "save a tree, don't use plastic bags", neglecting how trees are sustainably farmed and paper bags easily biodegrade, but plastic bags decompose into particles that last hundreds of years and contaminate water and ground resources. Now it's moved to a completely different direction, where people are urged to reuse sturdy bags, but can buy a sturdy paper bag.

The root cause is the overproduction of goods. We buy a lot of cheap clothes and throw them away, sometimes shipping them across the world for "charity".
posted by meowzilla at 3:02 PM on September 10 [11 favorites]

As someone who eats a mostly vegan diet, I liked a lot about what this article said. The point about plastics and poor quality fast fashion being marketed as "vegan" (vs just "shitty") was something I've noticed a LOT. But I do have a couple nits to pick.

First is using PETA, a notoriously extreme organization, as the mouthpiece for vegans and their motives and interests. Surely the author could have found a broader range of voices for a movement that includes a lot of different folks with different values and motives. For example, some vegans I know are happy to wear wool. Some eat honey and others don't. It's a spectrum, and there's variation even on the extreme end.

Second is this sentence: "Third, in many cases eating meat is a more efficient way to consume calories than depending only on plants; in fact, one study found that a vegan diet actually requires more land use than a vegetarian and some omnivorous diets." Ok the ONE study that the author found was comparing a vegan diet to "a vegetarian and SOME(??) omnivorous diets" does not mean "eating meat is a more efficient way to consume calories" or that it's more ethical. Every statistic I have seen about the carbon impact of diets has shown that a vegan diet drastically reduces one's carbon footprint. Carbon =/= land use =/= "efficient" =/= ethical but that's kind of my point - the author is being wishy washy in language and conflating things in a way that is misleading, in my opinion, at least in this particular paragraph.

And to be clear, even though I eat a mostly vegan diet I still sometimes buy leather shoes or don't worry if a well-meaning family member got me a box of crackers that has whey in it. So I'm not someone who thinks people have to be 100% pure and I actually think the author's thesis - that there are multiple ethical axes along which one's consumer choices can be measured - is a good one and worth discussing.
posted by misskaz at 3:12 PM on September 10 [43 favorites]

If they think a rayon shirt is made from a vast number of trees, then I dread to think how they'd describe the number of silkworm cocoons used for a silk shirt.
posted by ambrosen at 3:19 PM on September 10 [2 favorites]

Yes that whole land use thing was so weak. We already produce more food than we can consume so reducing the amount of land used to produce our food isn't really the pressing issue with respect to vegan or omnivorous diets.

I'm pretty sure that 99% of the people choosing rayon over silk are doing it because it is cheaper and doesn't need to be dry cleaned or hand washed and not because rayon is vegan.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 3:51 PM on September 10 [5 favorites]

Do they mark them vegan for people who have to make good on their promise to eat their hats?
posted by Catblack at 3:54 PM on September 10 [6 favorites]

Vegan did turn into a "marketing buzzword" in recent years.

"Vegan leather" is basically plastic simulating leather grain bonded to a fabric backing, aka pleather, but there are so many variants with different histories that sometimes the terminologies got co-mingled.

Vegan really is a first-world problem because we have "choices" and thus can afford to pay extra to feel better about ourselves. IMHO It's a minor but definite sign of conspicuous consumption, such as EVs and hybrid cars.
posted by kschang at 4:14 PM on September 10 [4 favorites]

Vegan really is a first-world problem because we have "choices" and thus can afford to pay extra to feel better about ourselves. IMHO It's a minor but definite sign of conspicuous consumption, such as EVs and hybrid cars.

I'm not vegan. but. dafuq you on about?

rice and beans (and other legumes) are cheap staples for billions who ain't first world, and they are these foods are absolutely the cheapest option.

think again.
posted by lalochezia at 4:42 PM on September 10 [29 favorites]

The root cause is the overproduction of goods people. </fixed that for you tag>
posted by sammyo at 4:44 PM on September 10 [1 favorite]

ambrosen: If they think a rayon shirt is made from a vast number of trees, then I dread to think how they'd describe the number of silkworm cocoons used for a silk shirt.

Listen to the voice of Buddha
Saying stop your sericulture

posted by SansPoint at 4:54 PM on September 10 [1 favorite]

Vegan ... [is] a minor but definite sign of conspicuous consumption

Wait, what? Being vegan means that I have far fewer options for consumption in comparison to those available to non-vegans; I can purchase/consume only a small subset of the things non-vegans can.

Likewise, by choosing to drive an electric vehicle, my purchase was limited to a small subset of all available automobiles.

At the risk of giving you words with which to denigrate my choices--are you maybe trying to describe virtue signaling rather than conspicuous consumption?
posted by jesourie at 5:01 PM on September 10 [11 favorites]

Eating rice and beans because that's what is cheap and available is not veganism. Some of those billion might have a religious objection to eating animal products, but some certainly would not - because they are not choosing to avoid animal products from an ethical point of view. Suggesting otherwise is pretty disingenuous.

Arguments that reason from "there are too many people" also need to really tread lightly. Somehow it's always someone else who needs to sacrifice when people in a position to moralize about population apportion blame. It's kind of the "calories in, calories out" of philosophies - manages to appear simple and obvious by ignoring the infinity of confounding factors that got us where we already are. Not having your own children is as far as I think you can ethically get before you're squarely in for-your-own-good authoritarianism on that front.

Asceticism is a powerful mechanism to enforce conformity by internalizing fear of judgement and discovery. That sounds more like a no-true-Scotsman religious tenet than an environmentally conscious choice where others' choices are also allowed room to exist.

And since it's a kind of conspicuous asceticism, it makes for great marketing.
posted by abulafa at 5:24 PM on September 10 [16 favorites]

This seems like one of those irreconcilable divides. Like I'm sympathetic to the idea that leather is okay because those cows were going to die for whatever mctravesty people are eating, but at the same time I think most people who think the capacity to suffer is as important ethically as some arbitrary level of sentience are going to view that argument as akin to the lampshades made from human skin are okay because we were already sending that person to the ovens. Especially since ag subsidies for corn are driving an unhealthy amount of meat consumption.

I am more keen on the idea that we should be talking about how to analyze how much environmental suffering we're dishing out to various species. It's a complicated topic though, because sometimes it's a direct cause and effect and sometimes it's just surfacing poor environmental controls or regulations.

I do like wool though, and maybe we should be talking more about vegetarian (non-leather) vs vegan textiles.
posted by BrotherCaine at 6:11 PM on September 10 [2 favorites]

I hope mycelium leather from companies like bolt threads works out to be much cheaper than I expect.
posted by BrotherCaine at 6:12 PM on September 10 [3 favorites]

Eating rice and beans because that's what is cheap and available is not veganism.
No, of course not. Veganism is when you avoid consuming animal products (as much as is possible and practicable) because you don't want to participate in exploiting animals. The point about rice and beans is that it's demonstrably untrue that only privileged people can be vegan. It's a thing that some non-vegans like to say because veganism makes them defensive, and by claiming that veganism is privileged, they can feel like they regain the moral high ground. But it's not true, and it's boring, and I wish you'd just be secure in your choices and not have to resort to checking off cliches on the anti-vegan bingo card. It's also not true that veganism is a "first-world problem." It's absolutely true that desperately poor people can't be choosy about what they eat, but not everyone in non-"first-world" countries is desperately poor. There's a growing vegan movement in Brazil, for instance.

Having said that, I remain really unconvinced that it's a better decision for animals to buy synthetic knits rather than wool. I understand that the PETAs of the world are always going to object to using animal products on principle, but I'm not an absolutist on this stuff, and it seems really clear to me that synthetic textiles ultimately result in a ton more suffering to animals than wool does.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:55 PM on September 10 [22 favorites]

@lalochezia -- being unable to afford anything else except rice and beans is not being vegan.

As per Vegan Society: ... "In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals."

It means people who have a choice of animal-based vs non-animal-based diet chose to eat non-animal-based diet instead. Which was what I said: it's a lifestyle choice, and people in the first-world have such freedom of choice.
posted by kschang at 6:55 PM on September 10 [1 favorite]

Eating rice and beans because that's what is cheap and available is not veganism.

Wait, doesn't this mean that someone can be a vegan if they eat meat only because it's the cheaper option where they are?
posted by FJT at 7:07 PM on September 10

There's a growing vegan movement in Brazil, for instance.

I had some spectacularly bland vegan food in Brazil, which surprised me given how good all of the other food there was. (Obviously there is fantastic vegan food there; it just wasn't served at that restaurant.)

Veganism as a choice (as compared to the situation of eating a mostly plant-based diet by economic necessity) definitely requires a certain amount of privilege, but by no means is reserved only for the rich. But the article is specifically about vegan "eco-fashion," not vegan eating.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:28 PM on September 10

Back to topic...

So the question really is... Are you REALLY saving the environment by avoiding "genuine leather" and opting for PU leather (which is made of polyurethane and fabric)?

But how many factors do we count?

Leather requires tanning, which is a topic all its own. There's natural tan and there's "chemical" tan (which are often touted as "toxic")

While PU leather is made of plastic, which comes from oil, and requires a lot of energy to process and fabricate...

Or do "vegan leather" consumers simply choose "vegan leather" because they don't want genuine leather, but desire something similar, all the secondary effects on environment inconsequential?
posted by kschang at 8:41 PM on September 10

Which was what I said: it's a lifestyle choice, and people in the first-world have such freedom of choice.

Being able to make an ethical choice rather than being forced into a situation is not a "lifestyle".
posted by Pyrogenesis at 9:33 PM on September 10 [9 favorites]

kschang: ...REALLY saving the environment...

Also - how durable are chemically-derived leather substitutes versus animal-derived leather?

Not to mention disposable/ fast fashion applications for chemically-derived leather look-alikes.

Albert Einstein: “Long hair minimizes the need for barbers; socks can be done without; one leather jacket solves the coat problem for many years; suspenders are superfluous.

My first leather jacket (pigskin, with a removable rabbit fur liner) lasted me from age 13 to age 21 as a primary garment.

I have, and still sometimes wear after retiring it as primary garment, a (cow) leather jacket I bought 21 years ago (the liner definitely needed replacing after 5 or so, but I still haven't gotten around to it).

Bought a quality leather jacket 3 or 4 years ago as a daily seasonal wear and I suspect it'll be part of my wardrobe for at least another couple of decades if not more.

I'm not even going to mention (decent quality) real-leather shoes versus (even high quality) fake-leather shoes.
posted by porpoise at 11:23 PM on September 10 [7 favorites]

This is a complicated question. Leather produces methane and carbon dioxide from the cow. Dangerous chromium is likely released into local rivers when it is tanned.

PVC production also releases pollutants and uses energy. It has the added benefit of not directly supporting an animal being killed, for people who care about animals.

My opinion: neither one is sustainable in the sense that we can produce unlimited amounts of it with no environmental costs. Buying less and buying used could help reduce carbon footprints.

Also, many cows are bred and killed for meat due to government subsidies and people's current lifestyles. Leather is cheap and plentiful. In the future, when less cows are eaten, leather may become a larger proportion of the value of a cow (currently 3 percent of a cow's value) and therefore have a proportionally larger environmental impact.
posted by starfishprime at 11:56 PM on September 10 [4 favorites]

From the FPP: "In many ways, it seems as though PETA cares only about animal agriculture..."

Yes. That's their reason for existing, to prevent cruelty to animals.

Also, the argument that sheep must be shorn or have their skin cut because otherwise it would be cruel is so lazy. They're that way because we created them and they're alive because we bred them. We could stop breeding them. It's like people who say milk is ethical because cows have to be milked or they'll be in pain. No, they'll be in pain because they are repeatedly impregnated and their babies instantly killed. That's why they make milk, same reason as human mothers. So it's not like someone randomly came across a sheep that had too much wool and needed to be humanely shorn for its own good. Humans are creating these situations on purpose and for profit.
posted by starfishprime at 12:19 AM on September 11 [11 favorites]

Just as a general thing, fake meat seems to be about as expensive as meat. I have no idea how this relates to the inputs for fake meat.
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 12:25 AM on September 11

This article isn't just filled with inaccuracies and deliberate misinformation, it's filled with really old. laughably bad inaccuracies and misinformation.

Here's a nice example:

"in fact, one study found that a vegan diet actually requires more land use than a vegetarian and some omnivorous diets"

Ah, yes, one study. Not the overwhelming, accepted scientific consensus.

Much of this article is on the same intellectual level as climate change denial or anti-vax.
posted by BinaryApe at 12:34 AM on September 11 [10 favorites]

The root cause is the overproduction of people.

This attitude can fuck right off into the sun and should've been deleted immediately.
posted by ambrosen at 12:58 AM on September 11 [12 favorites]

The root cause is the overproduction of people.

Eww, that's gross. I just had a word with Kant and he is not pleased.
posted by DeepSeaHaggis at 1:43 AM on September 11 [3 favorites]

Mod note: I actually did delete that comment, but then undeleted, because abulafa did a very good job of explaining why this is so shitty, here, and I felt it would be odd seemingly coming from nowhere (in terms of the thread). One of those cases that are a bit difficult to negotiate ... agree that this can fuck right off into the sun, but don't want to make it seem as though abulafa was anticipating trouble where there was none.
posted by taz (staff) at 1:55 AM on September 11 [4 favorites]

I hear you, Taz. I got to the referred comment and felt compelled to respond. Thank you, though, for keeping that larger discussion up as "showing the work" with regards to why some perspectives are unsavory is important (imo).
posted by DeepSeaHaggis at 2:34 AM on September 11

The point about rice and beans is that it's demonstrably untrue that only privileged people can be vegan. It's a thing that some non-vegans like to say because veganism makes them defensive, and by claiming that veganism is privileged, they can feel like they regain the moral high ground. But it's not true, and it's boring, and I wish you'd just be secure in your choices and not have to resort to checking off cliches on the anti-vegan bingo card.

This a thousand times. I'm vegan, and no one owes me an explanation for not being vegan, but seeing again and again statements that a vegan diet is elitist and expensive makes me a bit crazy. Yes, fake meat is expensive, but you can be a vegan your whole life without eating it. For me, it's an occasional treat. Saying you can't be vegan because of the price of fake meat is like saying you can't be an omnivore because of the price of lobster and filet mignon (not even getting into things like Wagyu beef at up to $200 per pound).

It is unfortunate that reporters always run straight to PETA when there are so many other vegan organizations doing great work without objectifying women, performing insane stunts, and making crazy statements, though I guess it shows that their strategy of grabbing attention however they can works in one respect (but there's lots of criticism of PETA in the vegan community). I suggest checking out the Afro-Vegan Society. They describe themselves as "a national nonprofit organization with a mission to provide resources and support to help people in marginalized communities transition to vegan living." And if you think this is new, I would also recommend this article by vegan activist Tracye McQuirter, who became vegetarian, then vegan, over 30 years ago after her Black Student Union brought the civil rights/vegetarian activist Dick Gregory to campus. I think it was McQuirter who I heard say that the percentage of Black people who are vegans is higher than the percentage of White people who are (it was on a podcast, so I'm not sure).
posted by FencingGal at 6:07 AM on September 11 [18 favorites]

^ THIS ^

Metafilter does not do veganism well, and when you use PETA as your primary example, I shut down.

I've been vegan for over a decade, and the attitudes on the Blue towards it are appalling. Non-vegans are always desperate to find a gotcha.
posted by Kitteh at 6:41 AM on September 11 [16 favorites]

PETA?! Really? What the heck. Such an outdated primary source. I was surprised the article was as recent as 2017.
posted by tiny frying pan at 6:51 AM on September 11 [2 favorites]

Oh, and the word "delusion" is right in the article title, so this definitely indicates to me that the author is here to call vegans idiots.
posted by Kitteh at 7:09 AM on September 11 [5 favorites]

I still sometimes buy leather shoes

brings to mind a scene from over thirty years ago. A knockdown drag out shouting match between opposing bands of Punks -- the vigilantly vegan crowd on one side, the merely play loud music and declare society no fucking use crowd on the other. I was mostly just a bystander, forced to bear witness. Another guy in a similar situation said to me under his breath:

"I have it on authority. My cousin's in the biz. You can make perfectly good leather from a cow that died peacefully of old age."
posted by philip-random at 7:12 AM on September 11 [7 favorites]

Related to the subject of textiles at hand: I really want to invest in a good pair of boots because boots are my preferred footwear. Right now I tend to buy used pairs from thrift stores to wear out until I can't repair them anymore (and they're probably not vegan but they are being re-used until they are not usable so my conscience is clear), but I want to have something durable. I have got my eye on vegan Doc Martens but I hear conflicting reports about durability, so I wonder if I shouldn't just invest in a regular pair despite the leather. I have bought many pairs of vegan boots from vegan shoe sites between the years of 2012-2016 and I'm sorry, their durability was for shit and since they're weren't cheap, I am very reluctant to give my hard-earned dollars to a product that will just go to poop within a year, possibly two if I'm lucky.
posted by Kitteh at 7:21 AM on September 11 [3 favorites]

Ok, but I've recently gone plant-based (which is to say basically vegan, but I'm not sure that I should call myself vegan, because I think I'm philosophically coming from a slightly different place than vegans do), and I'm genuinely grappling with some stuff about textiles. Essentially, it seems to me that many synthetic textiles are really terrible for the environment, in ways that directly harm and kill animals. I wear a lot of wool in the winter, because it's warm and insulating, and I spend a lot of time outside in truly frigid temperatures. I could buy synthetic alternatives, but that stuff sheds microfibers every time you wash it, and microfibers end up in waterways and kill aquatic animals. As far as I know, there aren't really a lot of affordable options that aren't bad for the environment and are warm enough to allow me to walk to work when it's -5° F outside.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 7:31 AM on September 11 [2 favorites]

From the article: But as I dug deeper, I realized that most vegan fashion doesn’t actually minimize harm to animals. It only shifts harm away from photogenic, furry, domesticated animals—which if you consider their sheer numbers, are thriving—and spreads a wider, more insidious harm out to wild animals, many of which are endangered.

Because nothing's as photogenic and furry as a silkworm.

This article hit a number of the anti-vegan bingo card points (thank you AribraryandCapricious for that image) and sometimes made me laugh. Like the "Italian artisans [employed for] 90 hours just to complete the intarsia embroidery" of the $41,000 mink coat couldn't be embroidering fabric instead? Believe me, people who want to spend what for many is a year's salary on a coat will find ways to employ lots of people even if they decide to switch over to vegan fabrics.

That said, I agree that the sustainability issue with "vegan" clothing deserves further work and exploration. And absolutely quality is an issue - but fast fashion is a problem by no means limited to vegan clothing. I've had leather sandals fall apart in no time flat too. I know my fleece jacket wasn't vegan, but I got twenty years out of it (thank you old version of Lands' End), and I would expect that it's possible to make things that aren't from animals last longer. I did buy hemp sheets once, and they ripped to the point of being unusable very quickly. What I'm hoping is that vegan clothing options, like vegan food, will improve as there is more consumer demand. But the fast fashion issue is definitely going to make that harder, and I don't know what to do with that - aside from not pretending it is in any way a problem related to veganism in itself and recognizing that, since there are so few vegans, it is going to be mostly driven by omnivores (a great documentary on fast fashion and clothing in general is The True Cost, which is depressing as hell).

I just really wish more people writing about this weren't arguing from either the vegan or anti-vegan viewpoint. People in both camps want to believe their choices are Right and True, and the journalism reflects that. And for God's sake, talk to vegan organizations besides PETA. Farm Sanctuary, Mercy for Animals, Vegan Outreach, the Afro-Vegan Society - there are lots of them.
posted by FencingGal at 10:28 AM on September 11 [6 favorites]

To me the biggest thing is biodegradability, acrylic and synthetics are mostly never going to truly go away, just break down into smaller pieces. Natural fibers/tanned products might take some time but they eventually will break down.
posted by Ferreous at 10:55 AM on September 11

I also concur that the label of vegan on clothing and such is mostly just there as an added buzzword, and those objects owe almost nothing of their creation to appealing to a vegan market. It's ethics laundering to make sweatshop produced forever trash appear virtuous.
posted by Ferreous at 11:11 AM on September 11 [1 favorite]

I found this article interesting. But I take the points made by other commenters here that veganism and the issues surrounding it are a little more complex, and should be treated with a little more nuance.

By the same token: I think the issues surrounding population are also complex, and require nuanced consideration, not attempts to shut down discussion.

I've seen a bit of a weird kind of groupthink settle in on the left in the last few years, where any discussion at all of the concept of overpopulation is instantly greeted with cries of "ECOFASCISM!" I've never seen calls to actually censor discussion of the subject before today, in this thread. I guess it shouldn't surprise me, given the strong leftward lean of MeFi, and the sometimes heavy-handed tendencies of the moderation here.

I am left-leaning myself, and someone who for many years has been suspicious of blaming environmental problems on overpopulation. And I understand how population concerns have, in recent decades, sometimes been used as a pretext for xenophobic, racist fearmongering about rapidly growing nonwhite populations.

And yet: I've also increasingly become aware of how our various overlapping environmental crises continue to accelerate as the global population increases... and how, as that happens, it becomes harder to fix our environmental mistakes, even as those mistakes have bigger consequences, and in less time.

I understand that we could theoretically achieve a perfectly just redistribution of the Earth's resources and sustain an even larger population. But does anyone think we're actually going to?

My concern about population growth is that the more of us there are, the less margin for error we have -- because when we invent something like plastic bags, or electronic devices that require rare earth minerals, or anything that's made using chemicals and processes that we eventually find out are toxic or disrupt endocrine function or kill wildlife, or whatever, those things proliferate at much greater speed, and the industries that produce them scale up tremendously, in a very short time, before scientists, environmentalists, regulators, etc. can even begin to assess the consequences.

And the rapid capital flows that result from these suddenly booming industries, the political clout they may quickly accrue, and the kind of smoke they inevitably try to blow to create confusion and delay when they're called on the damage they're doing, make the process of building the political will to shut down or reform these new environmental threats simultaneously more urgent and more difficult.

I am heartened that demographers think that the human population is likely to level off and start to decline by the end of the century. I hope we're able to get to that point without having damaged the planet irreparably.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 4:09 PM on September 11 [4 favorites]

Why is it impossible to redistribute earth's resources, but it's realistically possible to somehow rapidly and ethically reduce earth's population?

Both solutions require a lot of people cooperating and making sacrifices.
posted by FJT at 6:57 PM on September 11 [1 favorite]

Why is it impossible to redistribute earth's resources, but it's realistically possible to somehow rapidly and ethically reduce earth's population?

I don't know about rapidly, but it seems pretty ethical. Years of education for women are inversely proportional to reproduction rates. Increasing women's rights and/or empowering women is pretty much all you have to do to level out or decrease population.
posted by BrotherCaine at 7:38 PM on September 11 [5 favorites]

Increasing women's rights and/or empowering women is pretty much all you have to do to level out or decrease population.

I'm all for increasing women's rights and empowering women, but if the end goal is to reduce environmental impact, then isn't doing that without doing anything about redistributing earth's resources going to result in more environmental impact? Because increasing women's rights leads to women doing things like joining the work force, living on their own, and buying things? Things that if they should be able to have the right to do, will probably require at least the more wealthy parts of us to, y'know, moderate our own use of resources. Or in other words...
posted by FJT at 9:37 PM on September 11

Kitteh, if you're in the UK I highly recommend Solovair for vegetarian boots. I've avoided DM forever just because their Covent Garden shop used to showcase black boots with white laces and that sketched me out way too much whether they meant it or not, but Solovair had the contract to build their boots back in the day and they used that experience to improve the design and make a more durable shoe. I've been wearing the Dealer Boot for ages, and they re-sole the things for free (something DM can't do as easily because of their structural yellow stitching).

It's a long-standing quandary that alternatives to leather are largely petrochemical-based. There is a tendency among people who are not part of any sort of ascetic tradition (such as religious fasting) to take anyone else's ethical framework as a challenge:
"This person believes X is wrong. I do X, therefore they must think I'm a bad person! How dare they!"
They then seek to "debunk" the ethical framework by finding ethical dilemmas. All ethical frameworks suffer from dilemmas, so once they've found one that's not simply resolved, they then roll their eyes and decide your ethics are either "impractical" or "hypocritical". This lets them feel good, like they're off the hook from even questioning the ethics of doing X. Possibly it strengthens their resolve to gratuitously do X as a show of force against the real sin of hypocrisy they believe they've unearthed.

So yes, maybe steaming squillions of silkworms alive each year is trivially more sustainable than spinning nylon, if done in this traditional way? At best, that's food for thought and deeper investigation. But what does the author actually propose? Would we risk mulberry trees to become the crop of a new palm oil crisis or HFCS maize disaster? Or is this just another anxious meat-eater flinging tu quoque attacks out to soothe a troubled conscience?
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 9:13 AM on September 12 [5 favorites]

I only just noticed the subheading "ARE INDIGENOUS PEOPLE POLITICALLY INCORRECT?"

In case anyone thought the citation of PETA as the source of all vegan ethics was intended to be incendiary nonsense, the use of "politically incorrect" ought to convince them.

This entire article is disingenuous bait.
posted by rum-soaked space hobo at 11:03 AM on September 12 [3 favorites]

Aw, I see that Solovair doesn't ship to Canada! I'll search around for Canadian stockist because those are nice boots!
posted by Kitteh at 1:47 PM on September 12 [1 favorite]

Why is it impossible to redistribute earth's resources, but it's realistically possible to somehow rapidly and ethically reduce earth's population?

I don't think either is impossible. Nor do I think either is a complete solution in itself. I think both are probably a good idea, and both will almost certainly be important.

And as BrotherCaine pointed out, we know how to accomplish population reduction ethically.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 4:40 PM on September 12 [2 favorites]

I've been a vegetarian for 30 years and have been edging towards veganism this year. I'm open to discussing how my consumption might harm animals more than help them, but the writer gave the game away by invoking PETA so often (I hit the back button about 1/3 of the way through so I can only imagine how many more times). Using "Vegans called me Hitler ;_;" as a featured quote really told me what I was in for: "Vegans think they're sooo perfect! Well they're not!"
posted by Recliner of Rage at 5:36 AM on September 17 [1 favorite]

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