Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Dear Anonymous-Of-The-Vegan-Fiber Question

Dear Anonymous,

You asked (very politely, I thank you) about the perhaps discrepancy between my vegan values and my use of animal fibers. Here's the short-ish version:

While I dislike animal cruelty, and don't personally (or in general, really) see a need to continue eating meat or consuming other animal products, I'm a big fan of renewable resources (acrylic & other fibers made from petroleum products clearly are not), that don't introduce crazy amounts of pollution into the environment (like cotton, though I do use cotton, and I have tossed and turned on this one too), and that keep my toesies warm in the winter (bamboo, rayon, modal, etc, all have great drape and shine but don't have the insulating properties that animal fibers have). (My, what big sentences I have!)

My stupid self used to be the kind of vegan who judged and thought less of people who didn't recognize vegetarianism/veganism for the amazing panacea that it obviously (note mild sarcasm) was. Now, I don't really care what you eat/wear/knit with, but I will talk about the factory farms and the massive evil that is our food supply if it's appropriate to the conversation. Veganism is, to me, about educating oneself and others (gently! not obnoxiously!) about what it is we consume. It's also about doing what you can to make the world a little more healthy and a little less cruel. My personal feeling on that at the moment falls under the thinking that a happy & healthy world is a world that uses its renewable resources responsibly.

Plus I like the way wool feels.

It's not a perfect philosophy, I guess, but it works for me and I'm open to learning more about all aspects of it.

And I appreciate you asking in a totally positive and non-judgmental way. Thank you!

Are there any other vegan knitters out there who use animal fibers (I'm probably the only one, with my weak moral fiber [ha!] and all), or vegans who use synthetics only? Or non-vegans who want to weigh in (nicely)? I'd love to hear more opinions on this topic.


alliesw said...

I'm not a vegan, but I am a lacto-ovo vegetarian (so well, actually, I am a long way from vegan, admittedly--but I have been one for 28 years). I think you summed up my vegetarian "position" beautifully--"doing what you can to make the world a little more healthy and a little less cruel"...thank you for that. What you said about wool also makes sense with what I do about milk and eggs--I buy organic and cage free and do the best I can. The world needs more gentleness.

SheCrochets said...

Interesting question and answer. I have always pictured the sheep my wool comes from as happy and well-cared for, but I suppose that can't always be the case. Maybe buying more from small, local producers would ensure more humane conditions? So at least your guilt would be offset by knowing that the sheep were well-treated, even if it sorta goes against veganism (is that a word?)?

Anna said...

I say do what feels right to you and makes you happy. I keep trying to justify how I can have wool in my life. I'm struggling with all of the following: the animal welfare issues, water pollution from fecal contamination and pesticide treatments put on the sheep's wool, land damage and soil erosin caused by raising them, and of course the increased greenhouse gasses from methane from manure. If I thought of everything "wrong" in my life/lifestyle I'd never leave my house and function. I want to get over my hangups with animal fibers so I can have options without so much damned guilt.

V. said...

I think that part of it comes down to whether the potential problem you see is the use of the wool at all (the actual taking and using of the aminal's fur) or the way the sheep are raised, the production process, etc. If it's the former, it can be tricky, I imagine. If it's the latter, it may be easier, as "she crochets" said, to look to smaller farms where you might be able to know more about the process as a whole.

Either way, though, I think it comes down to deciding where the line is for you to "make the world a little more healthy and a little less cruel," which is, I guess, essentially what you are saying too. It my be that the benefits to knitting--making your own clothing (thereby not supporting some clothing companies that employ sweat shops, bad fibers, etc), making sure those clothes are warm (wool, alpaca), and being part of a time-honored form of women's work that has so many personal and social benefits as a whole, etc--outweigh the other forms of cruelty that may be (somewhat) inherent in the system ("come see the violence inherent in the system!"). After all, acrylic yarn is terrible for many reasons (as you pointed out), as can be natural fibers.

Crap, my posts are WAY too long.

peninah [aka penny] said...

I think you (and alliesw) summed up my thoughts quite well. I try for as much organic, non-sweatshop, free-range, I walk as much as I can. At my in-laws, if they serve me meat, I try to get away without eating it (I've been mostly vege for most of my life), but since it's cooked and it would be thrown out otherwise and I can't find a homeless person to give it to, I'll choke it down (thankfully my MIL is mostly vegetarian as well so it hasn't been a large problem (don't know why) but for some reason there is a rule, the children (husband and I) must eat have meat (it's never been red, only poultry). Likewise I would recycle a fur coat but would never commission a new one.