Tuesday, November 1, 2011

World Vegan Day

Today is World Vegan Day. It begins World Vegan Month, where people of all ethical persuasions, cultural backgrounds and food preferences are encouraged to adopt a vegan diet for one month. The aim is to experience how easy it actually is to follow a vegan or vegetarian diet and feel the benefits first hand.
I have been a vegetarian for a number of years. I have during this time, had periods where I also cut out the small amount of dairy and free range eggs that I ordinarily eat.  I intend to do this again for World Vegan Month.
Now, I have been asked a lot about my ethics regarding the animal materials I use in my jewellery. I have been called a hypocrite for using bone and horn products while arguing against the use of animals for food. These issues have also been in the media a lot lately too. The BBC program ‘Kill It, Cut It, Use It” which is currently showing on ABC (Wednesdays 9:30pm) follows the process from farmyard to object for many of our household products. Last week the episode featured tennis racket strings, horn buttons and fine bone china.  
I thought that World Vegan Day would be a good time to clear a few things up about why I am comfortable using bone and horn to make jewellery and why I believe that doesn’t make me a bad vegetarian/sometimes-vegan.  Here are a few points.  
1)      Animals are not killed for their bones or horns. They are generally killed for their meat. The buffalo products I mostly use are from well-cared-for farming animals in South East Asia that die naturally and whose bones and horn are salvaged from the animals after they die. I would gladly give up making jewellery if I thought for a second that I was actually contributing to an economic demand through my work. I have already removed the economic demand that I have responsibility for by not buying meat for myself or my family.
2)      Even though I would also give up making jewellery from bone and horn if the world gave up eating meat, I wouldn’t need to. Everything still dies and those materials would still be around. I am also realistic enough to accept that the rest of the world is not going to give up eating meat any time soon.  
3)      These organic products would otherwise go into landfill. Instead I am creating something beautiful from a waste product.
4)      The alternative to using natural products to produce my designs would be petro-chemical based plastics. I believe the new production of these materials is more harmful to the world than recycling an existing organic material. I am actually sacrificing profit by not mass-producing my designs in resin or plastic, as a matter of principle.    
5)      Yes, I would be more than comfortable using human bones if it were legal.
6)      Products that have been produced from animal material decades ago (eg. Vintage bone buttons, ivory piano keys etc) should be treasured and not discarded. I believe refusing to wear or use vintage pieces does a further disservice to the animal.
7)      I’ll also note that I do not advocate the use of or buy fur products.
I know these issues spark up a lot of debate, probably because eating is such a personal daily ritual and so steeped in cultural and historical implications. I am not trying to offend anyone or start an argument (so be nice please!), but I would love to hear your point of view. Feel free to contact me on twitter @eelsjewellery, facebook or comment below.