The Vogue for Vegan
What do Jennifer Lopez, the Williams sisters and Bill Clinton have in common? Give up? It’s their diet. They’re all vegans - and they’re powerful-looking, clear-skinned and glowing. Whatever they aren’t eating, it shows.
They aren’t alone. This January, 60,000 people signed up to Veganuary and gave up meat and dairy products for the whole month; Paul McCartney leads a Meat Free Monday project throughout the year; and for Lent, thousands have given up meat to venture into veganism.
There are now around half a million vegans in Britain who insist on meat-free products in their diet – and also throughout their daily life. From shoes and clothes to cleaning products and cosmetics, the meat-free mantra applies to it all.
Designer Stella McCartney is a particularly strict vegan. She refuses to use any of those 50 million animals a year which are killed in the name of fashion. Her designs are resolutely pelt, feather and fur free.
She makes a powerful point in defending her stance. It does seem worse, doesn’t it, to kill an animal in order to wear it, rather than killing it to eat it. After all, we need to eat to live; we don’t need leather to walk. For despite its ubiquity in shoe shops, leather is easily replaced with any number of alternatives – and these don’t have to cost us the earth either.
Cork, recycled rubber, waxed cotton, recycled milk jugs - vegan shoe material can be just as exotic as snakeskin, crocodile hide and lamb’s fur. And it’s harder wearing too. Castor beans are used to produce durable, hygenic insoles, and water-based glue is chosen above animal-based and synthetic adhesives.
Even better, this new generation of materials – all beans, recycled bottles and bio-material - is sustainable and eco-friendly, as opposed to the heavily polluting petroleum-based and PVCs of old. So by buying them, not only are we wearing cruelty free - we are also being kind the planet.
That’s why, increasingly, it’s not only vegans who are buying sustainable shoes. As we learn more about the precarious state of our planet, more of us are insisting on alternatives to the leather uppers which cause nasties like hydrogen sulfide and chromium to contaminate soil and water.
It’s quite a turnaround for the lentil eaters. What was once used as a term of abuse, is now a sign of compassionate consumerism and sensible sustainability. Although a 21st-century vegan’s motivation might not be entirely selfless. There is good evidence that vegans have lower cholesterol levels, lower blood pressure, lower BMI, lower risk of death from heart disease and lower overall cancer rates. In fact, a vegan diet could add four years to your life.
It’s this modern mix of compassion with a health-conscious vibe that is helping veganism take off. Plus the fact that there are ready alternatives to meat, to dairy and to leather. It’s easy to be a plant eater these days, just as it was in the late cretaceous period. Back then, the herbivores outlived the vicious carnivores. The same goes for the vegans - and their shoes - today.
Sally Chatterton is a freelance journalist who has written for the Telegraph, Independent and Evening Standard
For more info on all things vegan and some great vegan restaurants across the UK see below.