Since we are currently living in London, there are many positive things to see and attend for a fledgling environmental activist. The vegan scene is bigger and way more varied than even a fraction of what you might find in the biggest city in Norway. Accessibility to a range of vegan alternatives in grocery shops and restaurants being only a couple of the perks.
This weekend, we ventured a trip to the London Vegfest, a much anticipated event that we had chosen to support by buying tickets weeks if not months in advance. If you know me at all though, you’ll know that I mostly go for the noms.
Sadly, I forgot my camera, but I can assure you there were noms. We gorged ourselves on wraps, hemp burgers, several different kinds of ice cream and lemonade, and that was not even the half of it! We could easily have spent the entire day eating, had the queues to the best stuff not been so long, and had we not become full so fast.
Still, we made sure to stock up on some cake before we went home, for leaner times, of course.
I love food.
I will admit so easily. I always have, and cooking have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I love to cook, and I love to eat. So when I go just about anywhere, you can be assured that food will be on my mind.
But I also like souvenirs. Preferably useful ones, and herein lies some of the crux. It took me a pretty long time to find anything that didn’t either scream of snarkasm, or a condescending attitude to those who are not yet vegan. I am not a fan of condescending attitudes anywhere, and clothing/apparel, even to make someone think or raise a question, is no exception.
This leads me to think about my own faulty attempts at veganism. After all, it was only this year that I was able to afford a new pair of vegan autumn boots, to replace my much beloved old non-vegan pair from before I went vegan. They are microfiber though, which is a cause of some concern for me, environmental studies and concerns and all that.
I also still wear wool. Most of this, as well, from before I went vegan. But there are also a lot of things from thrift shops and friends. I am sorry, but when a friend offers me several skeins of yarn from her own flock of a dozen well-loved sheep, I am not going to feel too bad about turning it into a snuggly sweater. Those sheep had a good life, and I am not going to throw good, useful things on the landfill in favour of “vegan” alternatives like polyester and fleece made from petroleum and contaminating the planet.
For me, the planet comes first. This creates some other issues as well. In the Arctic winter, most people rely on wool to keep warm. Some people with allergies use super underwear made of polyester instead, but I prefer natural fibres. If you have ever gotten sweaty or wet in below freezing, you will know that cotton just doesn’t cut it. If cotton gets wet, it steals body heat, wool does not.
What I am trying to say, albeit in a roundabout and difficult way, is that there needs to be more intersectionalism in veganism for it to be palpable to me. I am fully aware that I am not a proper vegan by the strict definition because I wear wool, but the definition given by The Vegan Society goes as follows:
A philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude—as far as is possible and practicable—all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals and the environment. In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.
I try to reduce my footprint, as much as I can. I bike, take public transit, and I shop second hand, organic when I can, and I repair my clothes. I seek to reduce suffering of all creatures by making sure I do not own a lot of useless junk, and I try to keep things off the landfill. Is this un-vegan?
Another issue that I see often online and in places like these is the argument against horse-riding. I have never been much of a horse girl myself, but there is one thing I think makes it sound very ableist to a lot of people. If a horse should be free and not work, what about the thousands of guide dogs, therapy dogs and other dogs and animals providing an essential service to less able people? Should they not work either? Or are dogs and horses different? Does veganism not promote the idea that all lives have value, simply by being alive? I would not dream of walking up to anyone with a working service dog and try to argue that their dog should be nothing but a companion and a pet. In most cases I have seen, the animal is unmistakeably both, and an exceptionally valuable companion to boot.
But if dogs can work, why not horses? Is it because horses do heavier labour? Do we feel more sorry for them?
Yet I would much rather live in a world where animals worked and were greatly appreciated, than the one we live in now, where they are slaughtered.
I must admit, I do not know. I believe wild animals should have value in and of themselves. Not for whatever service, aesthetics or feel-good the provide humans. But at the same time, I am unable to feel that it is inherently unethical to keep pets, or even working pets, when I see the amazing effect they can have on mental health and quality of life.
I am not even sure if I feel that it is inherently wrong to keep a couple of sheep or goats for their wool, if their right to life was valued as anyone else’s. I have been a member of viking reenactment groups for years, and their knowledge, skill, humour, enthusiasm and warmth is not something I easily let go of. Vegan or no, I believe their excitement and enthusiasm for culture, traditional crafts and living softly on the earth would be a great loss if it vanished. I’ll still avoid the fur though, and the leather. But they don’t mind, because that’s just how awesome they are.
All in all, I do not know.
Some times I wish that I could see the world as black and white. It seems so much easier that way.
I’ll probably be dead before I have a properly clear-cut answer to just about anything.
Edit: After thinking about it for some time, and seeing some other responses to the issue, I think that my stance on wool is not what I want it to be. I don’t believe we have a right to take something from another species like that, warm and snuggly though it might be.
I will continue to explore alternatives to wool in brushed, organic cotton and hemp, hoping that it will provide what it promises. Slowly but surely, my wardrobe will continue to change until even those weather worn, countless times mended woollen socks will be exchanged.
I don’t know when though. I do not like throwing away items I can still use, or buying things I don’t really need…
What to do about viking re-enactment and all their woollen garments, I still do not know.