When I decided to take the next step from vegetarian to vegan four years ago, cutting out the food was a cinch. I set a date to make the transition (it was August 1 which is great because I have a date to celebrate my veganniversary on each year) and I used up or passed on to my housemate all of my nonvegan items by then.
The non-food items weren’t as easy. I found myself feeling confused and stressed about what to do with my clothing or manchester. Suddenly animal products seemed to be everywhere and I felt overwhelmed with the change ahead of me. I had quickly gone from feeling empowered and free to caught up in the minutiae of whether or not my bed pillow made me a hypocrite. Should I get rid of everything? Donate it? How will I afford to replace everything?
I decided not to get rid of everything immediately. The idea was wasteful and I couldn’t afford to replace everything right away — not with sturdy and long-lasting alternatives that weren’t just going to contribute to the waste of the world when I would have to chuck them out in a couple of months.
I also decided that transitioning to veganism was meant to be a beautiful shift in my life; not a stressful one. I felt better when I came across a vegan blogger who used the term ‘Pregan’ to refer to a pair of Doc Martins she has worn for decades, even after going vegan.
But after pulling out my sentimental vintage leather wallet in the presence of an omnivore and having them use it as some sort of proof that my lifestyle was a load of bollocks, I became confused again. I found myself afraid to get out my wallet in my favourite vegan places, in case I looked like a phoney. When I realised my thought-pattern I stopped it in its tracks. I am a passionate animal rights advocate who volunteers time and money to the movement and who has helped many others to see the truth and live more compassionately — and that doesn’t get thrown out the window because I haven’t yet replaced my wallet.
It is our right as individuals to draw our own lines when it comes to the presence of animal products in our lives. By going vegan you are already leading a more conscious and compassionate lifestyle. You are already making a difference. I think as a community, vegans need to support each other. We need to spread loving kindness amongst ourselves rather than tear each other down because we don’t adhere to a certain set of vegan rules that we each keep in our metaphorical top pocket.
My mum crocheted me a blanket in purple and white wool. It was made with love and the intention to keep me warm through the cold Melbourne winters. There is a little label that says “love Mum” hand stitched into the corner. Mum made it for me when I first switched to veganism and before we had spent time together talking about the various things I would no longer be consuming as part of my cruelty free lifestyle. Will I be getting rid of it? No. To me, it’s classified Pregan. And it stays.
I have vintage leather boots that have carried my legs through the cobbled streets of Edinburgh, spun mock pirouettes on a Cape Town dance floor and shielded my toes from the icey streets of London. I have resoled them twice. I love them for the stories they stir in me every time I slip them on. They are classified Pregan. And they stay.
And there are other items too. Not many; but a few. Since going vegan I have not purchased leather, wool or silk. I have discovered some amazing cruelty-free brands that make top-notch, long-lasting and ethical products with environmentally-friendly materials and their wares have become some of my prized possessions (like my Matt & Nat handbag). But I have some Pregan items too. Their presence doesn’t make me a hypocrite, just sentimental and human. And that’s okay. You don’t have to be perfect; you’re lifestyle doesn’t have to be bulletproof. You just have to approach veganism in your own authenticity and let your heart lead the way.
Emma Bailie is a freelance journalist, vegan blogger and travel-memoir writer. She is passionate about animal rights, social justice and the inner peace that can be found when dining on the tragically misrepresented potato. She has to read magazines back to front but she doesn’t quite know why. She prefers her hot chips cold but that’s just between you and her, okay?