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« Cut the Crap | Main | Taking Steps Toward A Compassionate World »

March 12, 2009


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Jasmin-until reading this, I had a wait and see attitude toward Michelle Obama. I was really happy to read this-thank you for bringing this to attention. Now-I am not only optimistic about our new president but also about our new first lady.Maybe in time being vegan and proudly using the word will be graciously accepted by our society. When I do contribute food for charitable causes, I always give vegan. I have done this for a collection sent to the soldiers and to families in my own school community where I teach. Roni

Roni -- That's very cool that you are building bridges and contributing vegan food to soldiers, and to your own community. Thanks for spreading the word of compassion! Makes a big difference, and feels good, too! --jasmin

Ok, this might seem a little off-topic, but as a transitional vegan, I'm having some trouble figuring out how to differentiate between leather and vegan leather. My cat just LOVES to dig his claws through upholstered furniture, so I'm leaning towards a fake leather chair. I'm just confused because I know that some "fake" leather materials still contain animal parts...What's the difference between man-made materials, faux leather, leather composite, etc...How do I know it's vegan? Thanks for some guidance!

Hi Adrianne,

That’s a really good question and it speaks to a concern that a lot of vegans might have.

It is true that due to the massive volume of animal byproducts made cheaply available by factory farming that animal ingredients are used in a myriad of products, including some adhesives, film, pharmaceuticals, hygiene products, auto parts, and yes, even some types of artificial leather. There are a number of chemicals and compounds which can be derived from either plant or animal sources, but since factory farming has made animal byproducts so cheap, animal derived compounds end up in a variety of unexpected places.

Alas, the perfect vegan world does not yet exist. But don’t fret. In the long-term, friends of animals hope that, as demand for meat, dairy, eggs and leather and wool decreases, other industrial uses of animal byproducts will be reduced in favor of inexpensive, readily available, cruelty-free ingredients. Until then, many vegans choose to avoid the more obvious animal products and don’t worry too much about the more obscure ingredients.

But to answer your question, there is considerable diversity in the manufacture of artificial leather products. In general, vegan leather products are labeled as leatherette, patent leather, pleather (or plastic leather), vinyl or PVC, micro-suede, microfiber, faux leather or vegan leather. There is even cork leather (made from renewable cork oak trees), ocean leather (made from kelp) and much, much more.

However, some artificial leather products do contain scraps and cuttings of leather mixed with other materials. Since different artificial leather materials come from different companies around the world and are manufactured using a variety of techniques and ingredients, the best way to make sure the product you are purchasing is vegan is to ask the salesperson or the manufacturer about how it is made.

When shopping for a new faux leather chair, be sure to ask the salesperson if it is made from “all man made materials” or if it is “genuine leather” or “suede.” If it is made from genuine leather or suede then it is the actual skin from and animal is not vegan. If it is made from “all man made materials” then go ahead and purchase it with a clear conscience.

I hope this helps.

Matt Rice
Education Manager for Farm Sanctuary

P.S. When talking to sales-people or manufacturers, be sure to tell them why you're looking for animal-free products so that they know there's a demand for cruelty-free products.

I donate food to the local food bank on a constant basis - at least once a week.
And I think that's very good practice.

Matilda Duhliu

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Farm Sanctuary is the nation's leading farm animal protection organization. Since incorporating in 1986, Farm Sanctuary has worked to expose and stop cruel practices of the "food animal" industry ... read more.

Making Hay with Gene Baur features personal blogs from Farm Sanctuary President & Co-founder Gene Baur, as well as other entries focused on Farm Sanctuary’s advocacy efforts and the multiple ways that you can get involved and make a difference for farm animals.

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Gene Baur, President and Co-founder of Farm Sanctuary

Gene grew up in Hollywood, California and worked in commercials for McDonald's and other fast food restaurants. He adopted a vegan lifestyle in 1985, and today, he campaigns to raise awareness about the negative consequences of industrialized factory farming and our cheap food system. He lives in Washington, DC and is the co-founder and president of Farm Sanctuary. Read more.

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