Just as I could not enjoy a scene if I knew that My pet was authentically suffering at My hand, I can’t enjoy a scene knowing that someone else suffered or was enslaved to create the gear I am using. I support companies who offer vegan and fair trade options for kinksters. Their values make a lot of sense when coupled with the BDSM community. Consent is something essential in sex, and even more so with a healthy BDSM relationship, and every party involved should give consent when becoming directly involved. This means that each product should be made as ethically as possible; there should be zero use of animal products and everything should be fair trade whenever possible. The reality is we are surrounded by products that are unconscionable and it is impossible to be completely ethical in your consumption. Life is filled with uncomfortable and upsetting compromises, but the point is to make the effort to reduce your impact and retain your values as much as possible.
I have purchased several items made from vegan alternatives, such as boots, and find that there are many benefits to this choice of material even beyond the ethical. I have read experiences of vegan leather being less durable, but I have actually found the opposite. For Me it rarely cracks, it retains a gorgeous shine even through heavy use, and it still has a satisfying leather feel and sound as well. Recycled plastic and latex still can have a nice feel and shine to it that still appeal to most who look for these things in leather.
I have noticed a few Dom(me)s other than myself who follow a vegan lifestyle. Though some people find it difficult to imagine BDSM without animal products such as leather, and some even seem to be a victim of feigned powerlessness regarding the situation, it actually is quite easy to switch over to vegan gear. The difficulty currently lies in finding others who have vegan gear, as it still hasn’t become the most popular option in the community as of yet, though I hope to see more people making vegan choices. I love when I get a sub that is already vegan and I enjoy incorporating veganism into My submissive training, tasks and videos for those who are not. I am currently working on a set of “Forced Vegan” videos that command submissives to start to make small changes in their everyday lives to transition to a vegan household.
Arguments I have seen against vegan alternatives include the idea that vegan leather can not be broken down as easily and is created using chemicals that damage the environment and that vegan alternatives still hurt animals, humans and the environment. In general when it comes to discussing veganism, there always seems to be that person that wants to try and tell you that a vegan lifestyle doesn’t change anything, since small animals and insects are still killed when food is processed, bees are still used to pollinate plants, land is needed to grow crops, etc. I feel like this false dichotomy forgets that faux leather is only one of many vegan alternatives and is ignoring what a vegan lifestyle is about. Most vegans I know are also environmentalists in some form. Taking care of the planet is important for the animals that live on it, and it’s the trash that humans leave behind that causes a lot of problems for wildlife. Most vegans put the effort into recycling or reusing materials rather than adding to the landfills plaguing the planet. There are also plenty of options available that are not made of the faux leather in question: I have found plenty of restraints, collars and more made out of recycled rubber and plastic. When it comes down to it though, even if both methods for creating the materials may not be good for the environment, I am inclined to choose the one that does not involve animal abuse and slavery.
I rarely have the energy to counter numerous non sequiturs that are often tossed at vegans such as “but bugs and mice or still killed during processing” or “you still use plastic/cell phones/transportation”. The list of things that cause suffering that are unrelated to veganism is endless, and often used as a red herring in an attempt to discredit the vegan by searching for their imagined hypocrisy. If one cannot see how ridiculous it is to attack someone doing something good because they don’t abandon everything in life that has a negative impact -- including those things necessary to thrive in the current society -- then there is no way to explain it to them since you won’t be able to penetrate their shield of willful ignorance and cognitive dissonance. They are clearly defensive and most likely harbour some level of shame and awareness that they could do more, that they do not act upon or are, in fact, victim to their own confirmation bias and half-truths.
I’ve noticed some people create an image of the Starbucks drinking, sweatshop clothes wearing hypocrite vegan when they become defensive. In reality, a lot of vegans do what they can to reduce any impact they have on the environment, and many take the time to seek out fair trade products. Like any group of people, there are those who label themselves as part of that group but don’t quite understand or follow its true values, but even with someone being hypocritical in this way, it wouldn’t negate the good that they are actually attempting to achieve. If someone volunteers at a food bank every weekend, would it make sense to argue their efforts are wasted because they can’t feed everyone? Or if they are wasteful with their food at home, does that mean their efforts are for not? Although ideally they should correct such behaviour in order to have the most impact, it doesn’t mean that what they are actually doing isn’t worthwhile, and it definitely does not mean there is any argument for them to cease their efforts. Again, it seems like more of an argument from someone who feels some guilt for their lack of effort.
Another concerning rebuttal I have heard is that, apparently. animals exist for us to use. The 'Dominion Over the Earth' argument. It’s this kind of narcissistic mindset that has caused most avoidable suffering throughout history. No living thing exists to suffer and die for your sake. My submissives exist for Me to use them, but I don’t flay them and wear their skin and their suffering at My hand comes with consent, concern for their well being, and aftercare. Again, consent is the key issue here, and even if we were able to collect consent from animals I highly doubt that many, if any, would agree to their torture and murder for our pleasure.
It is also usually mentioned that there is unethical employment such as slave labour involved in production, which is a valid concern but also unrelated to the issue: a non-vegan lifestyle still contributes to this and the fact this problem exists does not negate the effort put forward by vegans to reduce suffering. In fact, slaughterhouses are known for having incredibly poor working conditions, often taking advantage of migrant workers and resulting in PTSD and other mental health concerns among their staff.
If anyone has any research from reputable, unbiased sources outlining how vegan leather impacts the environment as compared to the creation of real leather I would love to read it. In My attempts to dive into this further, I could only find articles which turned a blind eye to important information for each side, such as articles which say vegan leather is worse for the environment but do not take into consideration the impact raising livestock has, or the fact that most vegan products are made from recycled plastics.
With all of this said I do want to take the time to clarify: I am not attempting to shame those that have not made the change. It is hard to break from societal norms and take responsibility for the harm you are creating in the world, and realistically there is quite a lot of it. Each life creates a wake of death and destruction and people tend to focus on what they feel is important to change at any given point in time. Although I do believe switching over to a vegan lifestyle is a lot easier and more manageable than most realize, people may have other issues and priorities that draw their focus and energy. If I were to argue that fighting for consent in regards to sex trafficking, slavery etc. is negated by their non-vegan choices, it would be the same argument as saying a vegan does no good because they are not also focusing on other issues at hand unrelated to animal rights. We can all do better, and what matters is that we try and we understand we are fallible.
For ethical fetish options, you can check out the shops listed below. I haven’t had a chance to try them out as of yet but have heard lots of good things.
Black Ship Specialty is an Etsy shop that sells cuffs, belts and harnesses made from locally-sourced, reclaimed rubber.
Cherry Bombin’ Wear sells cuffs, floggers, and strap-on harnesses made with soft vegan bike tires.
JM Design is an Etsy store that sells affordable fetish wear made from vinyl.