I am what I describe as a #badvegan. Since May last year I have been changing from a person who eats all animal products to a person who rarely eats any. My main failing is dessert: cakes, chocolate, sweets, custard (I LOVE CUSTARD) not all the time just when I fancy. I do not desperately scan everything I buy to see if it contains animal but I don’t buy meat, fish, cheese, eggs or milk. I’m not dogmatic about it because that doesn’t work for me and opens me up to a whirlwind of self loathing and judgement that I can be prone to if I ever ‘slip’. I am not very good when I’m hungry so if it came down to starvation vs meat the meat would win. See what I mean?
My reason for giving up animal products is predominantly cruelty but also environmental. Animal agriculture is not sustainable if we want to continue living on this planet and frankly the way we kill, torture and inflict suffering upon other animals to satisfy our taste buds is not right to me. Despite this I still bought boots and a belt in the last year made from leather without even considering they were made of cow skin. Really.
Now it’s pretty easy to start feeling smug going for the veggie option at a table of meat eaters no matter if I participate in dessert while wearing my Timberlands. I too possess this human ability to forget the facts and swallow. When it comes to what we put in our mouths and wear on our bodies there is a clear disconnect between the finished product and its living, breathing, feeling origin. We learn to suppress our own feelings of discomfort, anxiety and stress every day in order to get on with our lives which is necessary to a certain extent. But when we ignore cruelty, savour dangerous habits and deny environmental chaos to stay in an unnecessary comfort zone do we need waking up?
At Christmas I was given the most beautiful coat. A coat I had borrowed on occasion from a family member who generously donated it to me as a Christmas present. This was an incredible gift. It was the warmest coat I had ever owned and was not something I would buy for myself as it was light years out of my budget. I was thrilled. The first time I had worn the coat I noticed it had a fur trim, fur not being something I have ever worn or find remotely attractive to look at, even fake fur or animal print possess no allure for me. I decided the fur was fake and chose to ignore it based on the level of comfort the rest of the coat provided. I decided no fur-ther investigation was necessary.
Even back in the day when I would happily devour a blue steak I would never have worn fur. The fur industry is much worse than the meat industry, at least meat provides food but let’s face it nobody needs an animal skin to live except the animal. It is the same as trophy killing in Africa. And please don’t kid yourself, it’s not road kill, an estimated 10 million dogs (just like yours) and 4 million cats (meow) are murdered each year in China for fur and the fur when sold to countries like ours will often be labelled as fake.
As the months passed and I started wearing the coat people began to comment. The fur came up. ‘No, no’ I would say, ‘It’s fake’ I would say ‘…at least I hope it is!’ I started looking at my coat differently. The trim was curiously soft. It certainly felt real. When one of my best friends categorically told me it was real fur I laughed and shrugged.
But now I was genuinely worried. Is it really real fur? Has a dog, wolf or fox been skinned alive for my coat? Am I walking around displaying dead animal and condoning an industry that goes against everything I believe in? It was time to consult a higher power. Oh shit Google.
I was wearing coyote.
Interestingly this information was still not enough for me to ditch the coat. I needed guidance. A sign from the universe. And I got one.
I get on the overground. I sit down. I am wearing the coat. I notice a loud, grubby looking hippy type with very muddy boots near me who vaguely annoys me, I don’t know why, but I carry on. The train felt crowded maybe because a man in muddy boots came and stood next to me. I then looked up to another man also wearing muddy boots looking right at me and handing me a flyer. I thought beggar or Jesus. It was PETA.
‘Can I give you this flyer about how those fur trims are made? It’s actually really crue…’
‘HOLD ON.’ I interrupt immediately jumping to my very confronted, very uncomfortable defence. ‘I don’t eat meat, I don’t eat any animals, I’ve just found out this is fur, I didn’t buy this coat it was a present given to me and I’m currently deciding what to do about it.’
They left me alone realising I was no way near a big enough threat for them to waste their paint on and soon got off the train. My first reaction was of invasion and offence. Who do these people think they are forcing their views on a complete stranger when I’m quietly minding my own business? I then realised the reason my instinct was to attack their behaviour was because I myself had felt attacked. And I had felt attacked because I didn’t want to get rid of my coat. You could argue that it’s not OK to approach strangers about issues like these. Live and let live and all that. Which yes I get to a certain extent but if we just tolerate bad behaviour, blatant ignorance and bad judgement about important issues isn’t that the same as participating? What if you were to see a child being abused? Or a racial assault? A sexual assault?
Live and let live right?
And yet thousands no millions of animals are bred to be killed for their meat, their secretions, eggs and skin all over the world for our consumption and we go home, eat them, wear them and then snuggle up to our pets while claiming to love animals. It’s absurd. Then when we are challenged on these issues we feel attacked. We are so comfortable with our lifestyles and our normality and do not want that comfort to be jeopardised. Realistically we don’t need to cause any of this suffering, we don’t need any of these products to live plus our environment and therefore our species will stand a much better chance of survival if we all stopped.
When I got off the train I suddenly wanted the fur off me. I felt sick as I caught a glimpse of it in my peripheral vision. Tugging at the trim I found a zip. Phew! The trim was detachable. I could keep my coat. I put the piece of fur in my bag. It was like I was seeing it for the first time. I saw movement in it as it slunk into my cotton bag. I felt utterly disgusted with myself. I then wished that I had engaged more with the men on the train. They were not aggressive merely informative. One of them had told me that I could donate the fur to animal sanctuaries who use them in rescued animals beds where they provide some kind of karmic comfort. But I had wanted the conversation to end, I had felt attacked and cut them off, looking back at my video replacing my headphones, dying of shame.
It was incredibly confronting to have my beliefs challenged so openly about an issue I claimed to care so much about. But I’m relieved it happened. I wish I had had the strength of character to thank those men for pointing out my own hypocrisy, to openly admit that I didn’t know what to do about it and to seek resolution with other humans who obviously felt similarly about these issues. I have taken their advice and will be donating my fur trim to a Fox sanctuary in Kent and hopefully my piece of coyote will soon be warming the bed of another Fox.
Maybe I’m not such a #badvegan after all?
Janna Fox is an actress, writer, yogi, aerialist in training and creator of many things. She started blogging for The New Establishment in February 2017 and her pieces are published every other Wednesday. Janna also contributes to sex blog Hitting the Spot. For more information please visit www.jannafox.com