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The animal industry wastes land and causes global warming
It pumps gas into the atmosphere & slurry into rivers

This is the environmental reason for boycotting the anim al industry, and for making this boycott more fashionable and more likely to be copied around the world. More vegetarians fit on the planet than meat eaters or leather-wearers, and as concern grows about how we are all going to fit, with greenhouse gasses and growing deserts caused by over-farming, environmental reasons for going vegan become more common. When this web site was first written, famine was in the news and there was a link to the Vegfam leaflet that makes the case. Now that global warming is in the news most weeks, One of Animal Aid's Fact files covers it and the Vegan Society has a 16 page colour download called "Eating the Earth" Even the UK Government Central Office of Information suggests buying less animal products.

The animal industry is cruel:

The rest of this page is much-adapted from an old information sheet by the Vegan Society - their current pdf download is here . It gives examples of cruelty and answers some of the common points people make about why they wear leather. Reasons for boycotting each specific animal product are listed by (, while the Vegetarian Society has a similar page about clothing.

by-product? - biodegradable? exotic leathers - pollution - excessive calving - animal suffering - lameness - mastitis - transport - slaughter - disease & money - synthetics available - fur fashions - fur facts

Leather & the 'By-Product' Myth
Vegetarians boycott the animal industry and vote with their wallets to have less cruelty and waste in the world. Leather might make half a slaughterhouse's profit and it's good to try and boycott some of that half as well as the meat half. We do not have clear figures for the amount of money that companies make from meat, hydes and by-products because they do not need to tell their shareholders. Money-in is money-in, whether it is from selling a hide to a tanner or some flesh to a butcher. One estimate from a leather trade association is that up to 10% of the value of an animal can be in the hyde, and so to a tanner or to a leather factory this is a by-product in a way: more demand for leather alone will not entice more farmers to rear cattle, so the price of leather produced in one small country can fluctuate. Typically, hydes are bought from smaller Indian or Chinese tanneries by local factories that make shoe uppers - even if the shoe itself is made in the UK. If the upper is produced in the UK, a UK leather merchant is likely to import hydes. To summerise: leather is a significant small proportion of an animal's value; boycotting it will reduce the profit in the animal industry. See the Animal Welfare myth, below, for imported hydes.

Exploding the 'Bio-Degradable' Myth
Most of us are more emotionally attached to our leather shoes, wallets, jackets, trousers & underpants than we are to the plastic items like squeezy bottles and drink bottles that we buy every day. This attachment makes us more careful in our purchases. Words like "craft" and "natural" might go through our heads without much thought, or perhaps with the thought that a bio-degradable object is a nicer thing to buy occasionally and own for a long time. But if our leather gear rotted as fast as normal meat we would all be very smelly by the end of the week.

The leather we buy in the shops has been chrome-tanned. a highly polluting process designed to make leather last longer. Archeologists in Northern Germany have found 12,000 old or leather artifacts. Your nearest museum may have leather objects from the Neolithic or Bronze ages

The animal welfare myth
Animal welfare laws exist to some extent in the UK, but the shoes you buy are no longer made here DMs moved their leather cutting and sewing operations to Thailand in the 80s, with moulding and sole-sewing going to China in 2005. DB shoes and Loake were forced to move their upper manufacture to Madras. Clarks trainers are made in Romania, with their last UK factory closing in 2007. Many trainer designs are specifically designed to promote a fashion for shoes with lot of fiddley sewing and assembly, so that European manufacturers cannot compete. None of the countries - Vietnam, Thailand, India - where shoe uppers are now made can afford to make animal welfare a priority, even if their traditions, such as Buddhism, do.

Even the laws that exist in the third world - for example to protect endangered species - are easy to break. There is a trade in hydes from zebras, bison, water buffaloes, boars, deer, kangaroos, alligators, elephants, eels, sharks, dolphins, seals, walruses, frogs, crocodiles, lizards & snakes. Thousands of endangered olive Ridley sea turtles are captured and killed illegally in Mexico, solely for their skins. It is estimated that 25-30% of US imported crocodile shoe leather and other wildlife items are made from endangered illegally poached animals. This trade is a measure of how little people can enforce animal protection laws of any kind in the countries where leather is made.

Leather pollutes (see the Eating the Earth pdf booklet)
The amount of waste and pollution generated by the leather manufacturing industry is phenomenal. The stench from a tanneries used to be so overwhelming that the earliest planning zones forced tanners out of town to places like London's Southwark; the planning-zone category of "alkaline works" still exists in the UK. Not only do they pollute the air, however, they also pollute the rest of the environment with the use of a multitude of harsh toxic chemicals. One estimate puts the potential cost of an effluent treatment plant in a tannery at 30% of the total outlay.

Substances used in the manufacture of leather include: lime, sodium sulphate solution, emulsifiers, non-solvent de-greasing agents, salt, formic acid, sulphuric acid, chromium sulphate salts, lead, zinc, formaldehyde, fats, alcohol, sodium bicarbonate, dyes, resin binders, waxes, coal tar derivatives and cyanide-based finishes. Tannery effluent also contains large amounts of other pollutants such as proteins, hair and salt.

The leather industry also uses a tremendous amount of energy. In fact on the basis of quantity of energy consumed per unit produced, the leather-manufacturing industry would be categorised alongside the paper, steel, cement and petroleum manufacturing industries as a gross consumer of energy.

Going back to the beginning of the chain of events that ends up with a leather product, we find environmental problems already very evident. Farms that breed animals are themselves an environmental problem. Cattle belch and fart methane, which is produced during fermentation in their guts. A typical animal emits 48 kg of methane a year, with more bubbling out of its manure. Nearly half of the European Union's methane comes from ruminant digestion and manure.

Commercial dairy farming is not synonymous with environmentally acceptable practice. Dairy farms are often specialist units with high inputs of nitrogen and phosphorus - both as fertilisers and purchased feeds. Stocking rates are high, there is often no arable land on which to use slurry and dirty water, and many units also grow maize which can cause high losses of nitrogen and phosphorus through leaching, run-off and erosion.

Cows averaging 35 litres of milk a day can require up to 100 litres of drinking water a day. This requirement will increase in hot conditions.

Beef farming makes other indirect contributions to the greenhouse effect. For instance, fossil fuels are burnt to generate the energy to produce fertiliser that feed the fodder crops on which many animals feed. Rearing beef is also land-intensive with some 340,000 hectares of British farmland devoted to growing feed for beef cattle, and beef cattle pastures take up more than a million hectares. If some of this land was planted with trees instead, these would soak up CO2 from the atmosphere as they grow.

Excessive calving
Like the diary industry, the tanning industry relies on shortening the life cycle of animals. Just as a cow produces most milk when it has plenty of young calves, so the value of the leather is often higher when it is from a slaughtered young animal. There is a logical link between avoiding veal (which many meat eaters do out of sympathy for the young calves) and avoiding the smooth, fine, unblemished animal skin that a calf produces. The leather from older animals that you see living quietly in fields is more likely to be scratched, parasite-marked for example by ringworm, or contaminated by dung. Particularly if it comes from mature males, it is likely to be harder and less stretchy.

Leather = Animal Suffering
The animal farming industries produce the leather that manufacturing industries use. Animals begin by being bred in intensive, semi-intensive or extensive systems. In other words they may be factory farmed as in the case of veal calves (veal crates are banned in this country but calves are still raised for veal indoors in groups) or animals such as sheep may be farmed extensively in hilly upland areas where they are more or less left to their own devices suffering extremes of weather, disease and a lack of adequate food. Even the gentle dairy cows that are often admired casually grazing the British countryside during the summer, are housed for 6 months throughout the winter. Some dairy cows are housed all year round

Both cattle and sheep suffer from a variety of health problems and undergo a variety of painful procedures depending on their species and sex - castration, ear-tagging, tail-docking, artificial insemination, and laparoscopy. However one thing they do have in common is the pain of lameness and mastitis.

Surveys of cases of lameness in dairy cows treated by veterinary surgeons indicate an average annual incidence of about 4-6%. When cases treated by the farmer are included the annual incidence appears to be about 25%. Lameness is a major health and welfare problem in all sheep producing countries. It is generally regarded as the greatest cause of pain and discomfort in sheep. Farmers Weekly writes in February 1997 that lame sheep were found in 92% of flocks covered by a Royal Veterinary College survey relating to 758,252 ewes and 427,277 lambs.

Mastitis is a very painful bacterial infection of the udder of the cow which causes inflammation and swelling. The udder becomes hard and hot with an abnormal discharge. In the recently calved cow the milk is thick, creamy and smells foul. The cow is often lame in one or both hind legs with swollen joints. Body temperature can be high and in some cases pregnant cows will abort or produce a stunted calf. Around 4 out of ten cows are affected each year in Britain.

Sheep suffer too. In really acute cases the ewe will have a raised temperature and the udder may start to turn a very dark colour as gangrene sets in. If this occurs, the whole or part of the udder can eventually slough off. In extreme cases, the ewe will rapidly die of septicaemia. Mild mastitis in sheep will result in permanent damage to the udder, usually in the form of abscesses, and ewes are often culled as a result. Treating mastitis in ewes is rarely successful and a three-year survey of over 30,000 lowland ewes found about 5% were affected. Subclinical mastitis is almost impossible to detect but with up to 12% of ewes affected at some stage in lactation.

Problems associated with transport include fear and pain associated with handling and mixing animals; thermal and motion stress; hunger, thirst and exhaustion; and risks of infection. In September 1996, 240 sheep were killed in a crash travelling from Britain to Spain via France. The remaining 520 were killed in French slaughterhouses.Two days later a further 300 sheep died in another crash. Throughout the 90s, smaller slaughterhouses have tended to close in the UK and animals have been taken on ever longer journeys to the larger operators which supermarkets prefer to buy from. Farmers are in a weak negotiating position when they sell to supermarkets and have to transport their livestock wherever they are asked. The best-known example is Tesco supermarket which uses the St Meryn slaughterhouse in Cornwall A quick web search will come-up with documents that show how common this practice is, and how far those lorries which you see on motorways are going.

Sheep are very vulnerable to stress during drawing out (selecting) for slaughter, loading and transporting to the slaughterhouse. In fact most of the stress on the day of slaughter is often associated with handling, transport and time in the knacker's yard, or lairage. These problems become more intense for animals that are unadapted to handling. Sheep are usually slaughtered by electrical stunning followed by throat cutting. Stunning, however, may not be very effective and sheep might regain consciousness when they have their throats slit or while blood is being drained from their body.

The same with cattle; much distress suffered on the day of slaughter is caused by transportation and lairage (holding animals just before slaughter). Smaller animals like calves are usually herded into open pens in groups and stunned electrically. Cows and large animals are stunned with a blow to the head from a piston in a compressed-air gun, known as a captive bolt. This penetrates the skull and destroys part of the brain The government's advisory body the Farm Animal Welfare Council have been concerned at the inadequacy of stunning. After stunning animals have their throats slit (stuck) and are bled to death while hung upside down.

Many sheep and cattle are also ritually slaughtered ie. they have their throats slit whilst fully conscious. If the meat can't be sold as kosher, for example because the carcass is damaged, it is sold on the open market without kosher labelling.

Disease & money
The Food Standards Agency combined foot hygiene parts of council trading standards agencies after the foot-and-mouth outbreak of the 1990s. Meat hygiene alone will cost the 60 million UK population £17,903,000 in 2002-3 and a separate tax on all food shops was considered to pay for it, rather than a fairer tax on animal products. The outbreak of mad cow disease which brought the agency into existence also cleared the labour market out of vets. The animal farming industry, which is both hard to manage and extremely competatitive, has to grapple with the safety of issues of practices like putting bits of animal carcass into animal feed or lifelong bulk antibiotic injections to herds of cows. Anyone who watched the TV news during the mad cow crisis or the salmonella eggs incident knows what a strain the meat industry puts on public finances and public health.

Buy Synthetic: set the trend
The public buy millions of tonnes of plastic products each year with very little thought .

More and more westerners are reducing their meat intake for vague health and environmental reasons that aren't hard-edged.

Nobody buys shoes without a thought. There is a story of an MP going through the lobby to vote on a bill. One of his colleagues marched-over: "You're wearing suede shoes", he said, as though he'd voted with the wrong party or left his flies undone.
It's the same in offices and school playgrounds, as well as in our own heads. We don't necessarily want to tell others about ourselves, but we want to clarify our own identity to ourselves, which hopefully others can take or leave. Westerners want to look Eastern; easterners want to look Western; we want to look different from our parents or true to our roots; upmarket or cheeky, quietly sensible or in-yer-face. Even an un-seen brand can make a difference. The very rich can buy specially made shoes, which look like ordinary shoes but make them feel better and may even be comfortable. The poor can buy over-priced trainers, to show that they are not poor. There is not much room for all this in the pages of a vegan shoe catalogue, showing shoes designed for other markets or made in short production-runs. People scoff. There's a website that describes vegan shoes as "the lesbian orthopaedic look", but shoes set fashion more firmly than other consumer choices and fashion sets the patterns of consumption that cause over-farming, global warming and cruelty.

If you are a trend-setter, then one of the simplest ways you can help the planet is by setting a trend to go vegan, and shoes are a good way to do it. If you are a celebrity with millions of teenage fans around the world who follow your every word, buy some nice vegan shoes and mention them in interviews.

Fur fashions
Fur has gone out of fashion because of rational argument and people setting trends. Top Shop has just put a "no fur" sign in every shop window after stocking some dead dogs that had possibly been skinned alive by mistake (the stocking - not the skinning). Nowadays, the fur fashion statement is "I am superficial at best". That is what fur says about the wearer. Unfortunately, just that kind of person is often drawn to the fashion industry as a way of making a living; deadbeat designers are always looking for another exclusive niche market or another taboo to break. Fortunately, real fashion that people wear every day is set by the people around us and our own rational choices, and most people have some idea about the facts of fur production. The Coalition to Abolish the Fur Trade has fact sheets about how to help retailers avoid Topshop's mistake, while Respectforanimals has a competition for young art students to design new T-shirts each year.

Fur Facts
Around 30 million animals, mainly mink and fox - but also chinchilla, sable and even lynx - are held captive in rows of metal wire cages, where they are unable to pursue their natural instincts and so resort to stereotyped behaviour, self-mutilation and cannibalism. Death comes by gassing, electrocution, lethal injection or neck breaking. There are around 12 such factory farms in Britain at the time of writing (all mink), imprisoning 50,000 to 100,000 animals. Trapping accounts for an estimated 5 million animals worldwide, normally by means of steel-jawed leg hold traps which are now illegal in Britain.

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