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People who practice a vegan lifestyle are averse not only to consuming animals or animal products, but they do not support the killing of animals in order to produce clothing either. By the broadest strokes of what vegan means, vegan shirts are made of materials that do not come from animals. This includes the fabric, the threads, the buttons, or any ornamental decorations. Some vegans feel clothing should be made only of organic materials, while others feel synthetic materials, such as polyester, meet the standards of veganism.
The strictest definition of a vegan is someone who does not condone the killing of animals or the use of animal products. Many practicing vegans, however, look at veganism as a philosophy rather than a simple principle. This philosophy centers around nonexploitative actions toward both animals and humans and causing the least amount of detrimental impact on the environment. Trying to define vegan shirts becomes even more complex when considering these factors.
Although a polyester shirt with cotton stitching and plastic buttons meets the encyclopedic definition of vegan, some practicing vegans try to avoid the use of these materials. Polyester is derived from petroleum, and the environmental impact of obtaining petroleum and processing it into polyester goes against their philosophy. The cotton used for the stitching may not be acceptable to some vegans because, although cotton is a plant product, pesticides were used on the cotton plants. The plastic buttons are offensive to some vegans because, like polyester fabric, they are produced from petroleum products.
The perfect vegan shirts would be those produced from organic materials with a minimum of mechanical processing, made using fair-trade practices and without exploiting cheap labor from vulnerable populations. A hand-woven shirt made from organically-grown hemp with buttons hand-carved from fallen wood meets almost every vegan’s definition of a vegan shirt. Vegans themselves debate on where to draw the line on what is acceptable when it comes to clothing. There is a wide variance between what is reasonable and what is acceptable, although all vegans agree that a polyester shirt, even with its inherent negatives, is still preferable to a leather shirt.
Truly vegan shirts are not widely available; most large chain stores do not carry any vegan clothing. This leads many vegans to settle for clothing that, while not strictly adhering to vegan philosophy, at least do not contain animal products. Shirts made of organic materials are becoming more popular, although even these are sometimes made in foreign countries using child labor.
@Ivan83 - I can understand your frustration, but vegan shirts are really not as silly as they sound. The simple fact is that most shirts are vegan. Basically as long as you are not wearing a leather shirt you are good. I'm not even really sure why there is a special word for it.
But like I say, I can sympathize. I know a few people that refuse to wear clothes that are not made from organic materials. This means no t-shirts that are not made from organic cotton, no jeans not made from organic denim. This can get tricky pretty fast and it does seem kind of hopelessly self indulgent. Is cotton grown with chemical fertilizers really the world's biggest problem?
Wow, vegan shirts, I never would have thought of something like that. You know, I can respect vegans and the principled stance that they take, but sometimes it seems to border on self obsessions. If you spend all your time scouring your life for any tiny instance where your actions betray your values you will get lost in the clouds.
There are bigger and more important things to think about. No one lives a perfect life and there are contradictions and hypocrisies at the center of a lot our lives. But if you worry to much about yourself you will forget to worry about other. Who cares if your shirt is vegan? Go help people in Haiti.
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