VeganShoeLady says knockoffs aren’t vegan:
…no matter how fake the leather/fur/wool/silk might be…. In recent years, most knockoff goods have been made in shady conditions (read: sweatshops), often by child workers. In Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster, Dana Thomas describes an account of Thai children whose legs were broken to keep them from going outside to play while they were supposed to be making fake handbags…. Being vegan is about reducing suffering. When you buy fakes, you are giving your money to people who are actively making the world worse.
I think this raises an interesting question about how we decide to boycott particular goods. Veganism is a boycott of all animal products. Yet anti-sweatshop activists often discourage blanket boycotts of sweated goods, urging consumers to allow factory workers themselves to call boycotts and strategize pressure campaigns. Otherwise, jobs that the workers may desparately need may be at risk. And one response if there’s major publicity about labor abuses without a good strategy to protect the workers is that the companies “cut and run,” shutting down operations and shifting them to another sweatshop elsewhere.
The vegan boycott rarely impacts a company’s bottom line; in some cases it may even increase profits when they can offer a niche vegan product alongside a whole line of nonvegan ones. This makes me consider to what extent the vegan boycott is effective (for protecting animals) and how it might be rethought to take into account factory workers making animal products.
Good point, Indo. Certainly many of us vegans overconsume and feel a compulsion to replace leather products with faux ones (often made by exploited children), and we should definitely correct that.
Yet, it can be difficult to judge what the consequences of an organized boycott. It seems the most effective to empower the workers to facilitate the creation of better conditions, rather than simply shaming the corporation. It would be unfortunate if the good intentions of consumers actually dispossessed people of a means to an income. As vegans we boycott animal products because they are intrinsically exploitative and the animals cannot be empowered to organize a resistance. With sweatshop laborers, there is that opportunity to make conditions fairer through their wisdom. In some way, it’s the difference between Americans protesting against Japanese/Icelandic whaling and Americans collaborating with Japanese/Icelandic citizens who are opposed to commercial whaling.
I think it’s important to do your homework when purchasing ANYTHING these days.
Thankfully, I go to a reputable site for my vegan needs that I always like ot tell people about:
People are animals, too. If we know that a product was made under oppressive conditions, the vegan thing to do is to boycott it. The hard part is knowing which products are made under oppressive conditions. Without counterfeit luxury goods, the answer is easy, since they are illegal anyway.
this is a vicious cycle. i’m not a label chaser, but i also can’t afford paying a month’s rent for a purse. but i’ve always figured that everyone used the same sweatshops. i need to check out that book.
Veganism is not a boycott, it’s a lifestyle. A boycott is where you choose a particular item or company and stop purchasing temporarily. Veganism isn’t about pulling economic power in order to get people to stop harming animals; it’s about living a life that reduces one’s impact on all sentient beings.
Example, we might boycott grapes (or tomatoes) in order to leverage our power against all farmers to get them to raise wages or stop busting unions or something. once they meet our demands, we start buying the grapes again. That’s a boycott.
But being vegan isn’t a boycott. We don’t boycott animal products. We avoid animal products – avoidance and boycott are different. It wouldn’t matter to me if the animal products were free or if the money went to fantastic social programs for humans, being vegan is about avoiding animal products period. It’s not a boycott.
That said, generally, fakes are a bad buy. There’s no real good reason to buy them. Besides the terrible things described above, they increase the demand for the real thing. They don’t do anything good.
But that’s “fakes” referring to logos/brands, etc. Other kinds of fakes might be OK. Fake meats might be OK from a vegan standpoint. Fake leathers, when used for things where the texture is important, not just the look, like ballet slippers or work gloves, make sense. Depending on the production, some fakes are OK while others are not. It’s all contextual.
re: elaine’s comments…
i think elaine makes some good points here. still, i think it’s vitally important to register the economic and political aspects of veganism, rather than reducing it to a “lifestyle” about “avoidance.” reconsidering my initial thoughts, it’s clear that veganism is more than just a boycott–i have always stressed to my friends that my veganism was more about consciousness-raising than about the direct economic impact. veganism is performative.
however, seeing it as solely a lifestyle makes it all about the humans involved and not about the animals (and thus makes it devoid of any really transformative politics). actually, i think it makes a false distinction between the personal (lifestyle) and the political. when elaine says “it’s about living a life that reduces one’s impact on all sentient beings,” i think there is an implicit recognition that vegans would seek real-world economic effects, though perhaps in a somewhat abstract/long term sense.
i think that when vegans take “avoidance” as scripture, they’re perhaps not registering the extent to which animal products and the destruction of animal habitats are woven into all sorts of capitalist activities and products. there is no human on earth whose existence is not directly dependent on the death of many nonhuman animals.
in her book “when species meet,” donna haraway describes the vegan logic of avoidance as subtly supporting extermination. if vegans denounce all possible “uses” of animals, should the animals simply not exist? if there were no uses of animal products, would cows, sheep, chickens go extinct? i think haraway’s argument goes too far, and that vegans are generally more nuanced and supportive of human-animal relationships. i think some vegans would support smaller farming operations that used animals for very limited, noninvasive purposes. but i do think that vegans often idealize avoiding all animal products in a religious manner, and that this could harm its efficacy in actually helping animals and creating alliances with other types of activists. that’s why i think it’s important for vegans to think more about the direct economic/political goals of veganism and animal activism, along some of the same lines that advocates of product boycotts do.