why vegan? cut cruelty, land waste, pollution, CO2

MyVegantown.org.uk lists animal-free products like vegan shoes & vegan shops; here are some vegan recipe sites:


Why not meat? Why vegan?

the animal industry wastes land - meat is a by-product of leatherit's not naturalshoe leather tanning pollutes - CO2 & methaneanimal welfare laws a low priorityexcessive calving - lameness - mastitiscattle trucksslaughterdisease costs moneynonleather shoes boots and belts: set the trendfur fashions - fur facts - this is a rambling page interrupted by links to animal groups who put it better


The animal industry wastes land worldwide

In the UK and Ireland, more than half of fields are bright green, rainy and grassy. At the moment they suit grazing of grass rather than ploughing to grow food that humans can digest. This is unlikely to change for a generation or two, at a guess, just as it's unlikely that everyone in the UK will become vegan for a generation or two, so it's possible to get into rather theoretical "what if...?" arguments.
There's a similar argument about steep hills and poor land which are hard to use for anything but sheep farming. 

Some fields can be used next year to grow plants for humans to eat, or to grow plants for animal feed. This choice is common in other countries. In Brazil, deforestation is caused by worldwide fashions and demand for beefburgers. These require beef, and animal feed like soya. Vegans and Vegetarians worldwide set a fashion for veggieburgers which solve the problem: McDonalds and KFC now sell veggieburgers! 

Some countries combine malnourished humans and cattle-feed production next to each other, in the same jurisdiction, because malnutrition is a low priority for the governments there. Ethiopia has a cattle industry, promoted by the European Union with 0% tariffs despite a history of famine.

To summarize, vegans save the planet by setting a trend towards veggieburgers worldwide, but some of these vegans are in countries with wet grassy fields, where it's more complicated.

Oh, animal rights organisations put this better with more up-to-date facts

  • AnimalAid.org.uk has sections for each campaign, resources for different school teaching levels, and a general "Why Vegan" introduction with a video and pages for animals, health, environment and human rights. Booklets and leaflets are on several pages including resources for schools.
  • Caft.org.uk (Coalition to Abolish the Fur Trade) has campaign pages for several chains of shops, and sections for parts of the industry like cat and dog fur, trapping, and mink. Leaflets are on the "Resources" link.
  • Peta.org.uk is a large site with campaign pages for several issues and organisations, ideas for how to be an activist, and sections on animals' use for experiments, food, clothing, and entertainment. Leaflets are among "activist resources" on their site map.
  • VeganSociety.com adds nutrition and research guides to the mix, as well as some pdf leaflets; their site map shows the leaflets directory. This page is transcribed from one of theirs a few years ago.
  • Viva.org.uk (was Vegetarian International Voice for Animals) has campaign pages from Foi Grass to Reindeer and a large number of neat .pdf printouts from B12 to Vegan 101
  • For the differences between good farms and bad farms, Compassion in World Farming and possibly the Vegetarian Society will have much better and more recent information than the notes below.
  • PDF leaflet printing can be done at home. Epson eco-tanks work with inks by the litre from Premium-inks.com. Premium's site links to software to over-ride Epson's "scrap me" error message after however-many-thousand prints. Most eco-tanks print double-sided in a basic way: they print the even page numbers of a batch, then a pictogram on Epson's print driver shows you how to turn the paper over in the out-tray, put it in the in-tray, press "resume" and print the backs of all the pages. Wifi doesn't work on most models which sell for under £200 second-hand. A4 paper reams of 500 sheets cost under £3.00 as a supermarket basics offer in a big branch.
     
  • If you want a change from outrage, most animal rights sites have sections on recipes and clothes as well, often in magazines, and print-out starter packs about going vegan. The Vegetarian Society has similar pages, rather like Women's Weekly. There are even web sites selling vegan shoes online, which is why you're here. Where were we?

The rest of this page is much-adapted over the years, starting with a leaflet from the Vegan Society about 1998.

 

Meat is a by-product of leather just as shoe leather is a by-product of meat

If you slaughter crocodiles for a living, apparently you make all your money on the skin and are lucky to break-even on the rest. Ostrich likewise. This is what I have read. If we meat face-to-face, I don't mean to have a fight about it.

If you work with cattle, skin is just one source of income at slaughter, along with meat and any milk sold during a cow's life that made it viable during its life. Leather traders tell their customers, such as shoemakers, that leather is a "by-product" in the sense that prices can fluctuate because of supply and demand for meat, but the same goes the other way. If people buy less leather, just as when people buy less meat, fewer animals will be farmed next year than if demand were higher. If enough millions of people round the world stopped wearing leather but carried-on eating meat, then there might be a waste-disposal problem for cow skins, but that's unlikely to happen.

Not all skin has value. Small skins, awkward quantities, or contraband are all more likely to be incinerated or worse, but large cow skins capable of being sliced into layers have a value.
 

It's not natural; shoes don't compost

If you read the ethical claims of large shoe brands, you'd think that Chinese and Vietnamese production didn't matter and that a few environmental claims like recyclable laces were going to save the planet. To state the obvious, shoes don't go on the compost bin; that's not what they're for.

Some firms are developing shoes which are slightly bio-degradable, in countries like Portugal where the shoe industry is less run-down than in the UK.

One web site that's had UK government support in the past makes a false comparison between leather, which it assumes is biodegradable, and microfibre. If the site had government help, then a lot of ministers and civil servants are likely to believe this even if the site is now discredited.

"Vegan leather options: On the other hand many brands choose not to use animal leather at all opting instead for animal-friendly faux "leather". However, while these may be a better vegan option, many of these leather alternatives are not environmentally responsible at all. Today, most faux "leathers" are made from plastic materials such as PVC, which requires hazardous chemicals in its production. Harmful additives used to treat PVC "leather" have been known to release toxic chemicals when incinerated. And it's simply not biodegradable."

This is a telling-off to vegans. It takes a bit of un-ravelling, because it depends what "environmentally responsible" means if anything. If it means the greenhouse gas emissions of the animal industry, then a UN report called Livestock's Long Shadow rates them higher than the aviation industry. It it means damage to fields and rivers in poor parts of the world, there's no comparison. If it means land waste compared to a vegetarian use of land, there is no comparison. As far as I can tell from the quote, "environmentally responsible" begs three questions.

  1. Should I put shoes in the compost bin?". No. Your shoes will not turn into compost whether they are leather or microfibre, nor will a handbag. I don't know why fashionistas are so interested in this point. Some un-vulcanized rubber might rot in the compost bin, and that is used for shoe soles as "crepe", but it is soft for the purpose; if you have a product that rots, it doesn't last well as a pair of shoes.
  2. "Do I need a special furnace to burn shoes?". Yes. A council furnace will do, or more likely they will use landfill, as for tonnes of stuff we throw away every week. Low-temperature burning of PVC produces toxic smoke: do not attempt to smoke the PVC soles of your shoes whether they are leather or microfibre.
  3. "Would Marie Antoinette have liked it?". No. Leather is better at looking natural even though it is tanned to make it last. In that sense, leather is more of a natural product.

Apart from the big issues, PVC is mentioned. Stuff that's made in the UK tends to use firms and moulds and techniques that survived a great culling of UK manufacturing in the 1980s-2000s, when government hiked-up exchange rates, closing a fifth of manufacturing in five years and putting a quarter of the workforce onto government employment schemes or the dole. Footwear was often exported before the 80s, so the industry was effected more. Supplies available tend to be pre-1980s styles and processes. If a production line were to be set-up now, it might use less PVC, but the production lines were set-up before 1979 when PVC was a trendy fast-setting plastic. The reason for using it for shoe soles is simply to back production in a democratic welfare state; it's part of the bundle.
 

Shoe leather tanning pollutes 

The amount of waste and pollution generated by the leather manufacturing industry is phenomenal. The stench from 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.

A kilogram of leather takes a lot of energy to make, like other industial products such as paper, cement, refined oil or steel.

Leather tanning uses water, as does the dairy industry that provides the cows, often in countries where this is a problem. Cows averaging 35 litres of milk a day can require up to 100 litres of drinking water a day.

CO2 Nitrous Oxide and Methane: Greenhouse gases.

Meatpromotion.wales write that there are three main greenhouse gases, CO2 or Carbon Dioxide, N2O or Nitrous Oxide, and CH4 or Methane.  While livestock farming is responsible for the production of some carbon dioxide it is nitrous oxide and methane which make up the majority of emissions.

Nitrous oxide and methane are the results of different processes. Nitrous oxide is largely released from soils and the use of fertilisers, whilst Methane is produced from ruminant digestion and the storage of manure. Where carbon dioxide is produced it is generally as a consequence of soil disturbance, fuel use and manufacturing processes

Put differently, methane emissions can be reduced by eating less cow and sheep meat or milk and wearing less cow and sheep leather.  Nearly half of the European Union's methane comes from ruminant digestion and manure.

Animal welfare laws are a low priority 

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 after 1983, after they took over the brand from a group of UK factories, with moulding and sole-sewing going to China in 2005. DB shoes and Loake were forced to buy uppers from places like Madras in India. Clarks trainers are made in Romania, with their last UK factory closing in 2007. Many trainer designs are specifically designed to promote fiddly sewing and assembly, so that European manufacturers cannot compete. None of the countries - China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, India - where shoe uppers are now made can afford to make animal welfare a priority, even if Hindu and Buddhist traditions do.

Even the laws that exist in the third world - to protect endangered species for example - are easy to break. There is a trade in hides 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.

 

Animal farming is difficult.
Compassion in World Farming has more up-to-date information in several languages.

Excessive calving

Like the dairy 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.

 

Lameness

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

Mastitis is a 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 septicemia. 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. sub-clinical mastitis is almost impossible to detect but with up to 12% of ewes affected at some stage in lactation.

 

Cattle trucks

If you've ever commuted on over-crowded trains, you wouldn't wish it on animals that have no idea what's happening. You can guess the problems - fear and pain associated with handling and mixing animals; thermal and motion stress; hunger, thirst and exhaustion, risks of infection. These are problems for the industry, which tries to address them.

Leather uppers are quite likely made in the far east or from far-eastern leather, even if the shoes are made in the UK, so cattle transport happens in far-eastern conditions.

Even in the EU, it is hard to transport animals - here is a source

https://www.ciwf.org.uk/research/live-transport/

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 find documents that show how common this practice is, and how far those lorries which you see on motorways are going.

 

Slaughter

Ciwf.org.uk/research/slaughter/ is an up-to-date source about UK slaughter for food; slaughter for leather is probably done in the far-east, but the same problems apply.

Sheep are very vulnerable to stress during drawing out (selecting) for slaughter, loading and transporting to the slaughterhouse. Most of the stress on the day of slaughter is often associated with handling, transport and time in the knacker's yard. These problems become more intense for animals that are un-adapted 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 during transport and holding time. 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 has been concerned at the inadequacy of stunning. After stunning animals have their throats slit (stuck) and are bled to death while hung upside down.

Kosher sheep have their throats slit while they are 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 costs money

  • The Wuhan Wet Market & Bat Flu or Covid-19 have been mentioned on other sites.
  • Mad Cow Disease in the UK in the 1990s was a much smaller example but still closed parts of the UK's farming and tourism industries for a while, with plenty of firms closing forever. Another long-term cost was the new Food Standards Agency, costing nearly £20 million in 2002-3 to the UK's 60 million population.
  • Antibiotic resistance in animals world-wide, particularly in low-cost factory farms in other countries, can spread to humans world-wide. The National Farmers' Union's Countrysideonline.co.uk web site is very positive about the better use of antibiotics on UK animals but doesn't mention the future risk of antibiotic resistance spreading in humans worldwide.
    https://www.ciwf.org.uk/our-campaigns/antibiotics-health-crisis/
     ... .
  • Antibiotic resistance in humans is a problem where the drugs are expensive, so people don't finish the course, or use them without medical advice as an over-the-counter drug. 
    https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/agovntibiotic-resistance
    This is a problem if people buy shoes made in the cheapest country. The government of that country will have trouble introducing a national health service for fear of raising costs and losing export orders. It's Catch-22 until governments write smarter tariffs to tax goods from countries without a health service. Strangely, this argument seems unknown to pundits on world trade or development.


Non-leather shoes boots and belts: 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 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-your-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 from Veganline.com and mention them in interviews.

 

Fur fashions

Fur has gone out of fashion because of rational argument and people setting trends. Top Shop once had to put a "no fur" sign in every shop window, an article on Peta.org.uk reported, 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. 

 

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 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 using steel-jawed leg hold traps which are now illegal in Britain.