Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas Shopping: My Challenge to Stay Cruelty-Free

This year's Christmas shopping brought new challenges—challenges that were never an issue for all the years before.  This year's shopping would be much different. For this year, I did my Christmas shopping for the first time as a vegan.  I really didn't think much about it as I headed out, but I soon was faced with decisions that would define who I 
I started my shopping a few months ago.  This year I decided that we would try layaway.  So we picked a store and went out to get it all done in one day. My husband and I decided to split the list and we each went our way throughout the store looking for gifts.  I already had an idea of the kinds of gifts I wanted for the people I was looking for. 

I was looking for handbags for the women on my list.  Every time I found one I liked, I read the label.  I think I read the label on just about every bag in the store.  It is sad that most of them have leather on some part, if not all of the bag.  What's even harder is that not all items label what they are made of.  So in that case, I would smell the bags to see if they smelled like leather. I must have looked like a crazy lady to the other shoppers. 

Needless to say, after sniffing most of the store, we finished our shopping and took them to the layaway department to leave them until they were ready for pick up eight weeks later.  Then yesterday, against my better judgment, I went out again (two days before Christmas) to see if I could find a few extra things for my husband and my daughter. 

I went to this one particular store that I thought I would be able to find what I needed without having to go anywhere else.  As I went in the store, I discovered the perfect handbag...for me! Of course I always find the perfect gifts for myself when I'm shopping for others.  It was way over budget, but I knew that I just had to have it.  So I carried it around with me as a looked for gifts. 

I found some great things for my husband and I wanted to get one more thing...a hat.  My husband loves to wear hats and I love the way he looks in them.  So I looked for one that he doesn't already have.  Then I found it! It was soft, black, sexy and I knew he would love it.  Then I read the label and it was cashmere.  I knew cashmere was made from animals but I didn't know the specifics.  So I grabbed my phone and did a search on cashmere and discovered that it has many of the same cruel practices involved with wool products. 

So I stood there for a few minutes looking at the hat, imagining my husband's face after opening the gift and how it would look of him.  For a second I thought to myself, would it be horrible if I bought this? After all, I don't eat animals and I don't buy any other animal products.  But then I saw the images of the goats and imagined what they might have endured to make this hat and I hung it back on the wall and walked away.

Then I made the really long line in the store, still carrying the handbag that I really couldn't afford.  As I stood in line, making my way to the front, little by little, I began to look more closely at this bag.  I could tell that most of it was made out of a synthetic material.  But then I noticed the strap and there it was...leather.  Or at least what I suspected to be leather.  Once again, the label did not specify the materials so I began to do what I did before, yes smell the bag.  It smelled like leather to me, but because I wanted so desperately for it to not be leather, I kept smelling it hoping that I would change my mind.  I could only imagine what the people around me were thinking. 

I came to the conclusion that it probably was leather and there again I had that conversation with myself in my mind, trying to justify why I could buy it.  But my conscience always wins and when I finally made it to the register, I gave it to the cashier and told her that I didn't want it anymore.  As I left the store, I felt a bit disappointed that I put those items back, but I also felt proud.  I was proud of myself for sticking to a commitment that I made months ago to live a life free of cruelty and suffering.  It's not always an easy way to live, but I could not have it any other way!


  1. This is so tough! I do this with beauty products that I know are tested on animals. You did the right thing...becoming more aware of where our products come from and what they are ACTUALLY made of is just a part of the process. If I'm on the fence about a leather product, I just try to really gross myself (sorry for the graphic imagery) asking myself if it would be ok if it were made of human skin. This makes it p-r-e-t-t-y easy to put back on the shelf and walk away.

    1. That's a great method since it helps you walk away! I might have to try that next time.

      Beauty products are always difficult for me. I've always been a products girl, I love to buy and try new products. However, now it's much harder now and I'm trying to be more green as well (in regards to bottles and packaging). But I now have a list downloaded in my phone of companies that do animal testing, so when I'm in doubt I check the list.