Monday, October 26, 2009

bees and cows and sheep, oh my!

Okay, so maybe there isn't the same sense of fear as there would be when confronted with lions and tigers and bears, but these gentle creatures offer a more cerebral challenge. While the wild beasts of Oz may threaten physical danger, our honey-producing, leather-wearing, and wool-covered friends threaten our paradigms and ethical stands.

I had some great responses to my honey-flavored ramblings. A few helpful readers pointed me in the direction of some other resources I had not found in my own hunt for answers as to why honey was not considered vegan. And though I still needed some time to ruminate on that information before coming to realize that I do, in fact, find so many things wrong with the human consumption (and by necessity, burglary) of honey, I'm going to push my luck and appeal for help again.

It is a gorgeous autumn in Philadelphia. I have more or less given up on believing weather forecasters, because I really think they employ only slightly more science than native Americans who raised their eyes to the clouds and said "I think it will rain." I also put absolutely NO faith in a book written hundreds of years ago and its alleged ability to foresee the weather this winter. Nevertheless, whether we get the super-cold-and-snowy winter everyone is screaming about or not, it really does get very cold in this part of the country.

A few years ago (actually more like five or six), I got a beautiful black lambswool cashmere coat for Christmas. Not only is it beautiful and stylish, it is extremely warm when the winter wind blows. It is also starting to show its age - the lining is beginning to tear and I noticed some "balding" spots where the seatbelt rubs against my coat when I'm driving. If I don't replace it this winter, I will probably have to do so by next year. The urgency, however, to replace my coat comes from the going-on-now Macy's coat sale. When I visited the website, I found a couple of beautiful and warm and comfy looking wool coats for what I found to be a reasonable price.

This, of course, raises the conundrum about how ethical (or not) it is to rob sheep of their wool in order to craft a coat to keep me warm for many winters to come. I am not wasteful. I wear my clothing until it is threadbare or faded beyond what could vaguely pass for professional. I wear my shoes until they have holes in them or are broken in some other way. I drive my cars until they don't go anymore. If there is even enough leftover from a meal I've made to pass as a single-serving side dish, I will put it in tupperware and save it for later. So believe me, my stuff lasts. Like I said, I have had my current wool coat for 5-6 years. I also have a leather jacket that has lasted me a decade of winters and isn't even close to quitting. Unfortunately, it's not quite warm enough for January and February.

Admittedly, I have not done any research into this yet. If I don't hear back from any of you, I will do my usual google nonsense, but if someone already knows a compelling reason why I shouldn't buy a new wool coat this winter, I would love to hear it. Currently, I just can't see the harm - after all, it grows back. Obviously, there is something at least a little exploitative about stealing the fur off an animal to make clothes for me, but unlike silk or leather or a fur coat, which actually involves killing the animal who "supplied" the material, the sheep lives to bleat another day. I guess that is what keeps me from feeling bad about wearing wool.

So if anyone has some insight they would like to share with me, I would really appreciate it.

On a lighter note - I made Stir-Fried "Beef" with Broccoli and Peppers for dinner tonight. The steak strips were so much different stir-fried than they were in that funny Irish stew I put them in last time. I couldn't tell if they were saltier or if that was the soy sauce I sprinkled them with while discovering that my wok has decided (without consulting me) that it no longer wishes to be non-stick.


  1. I'm also a little bit torn on the whole wool issue. I do agree it's exploiting an animal, but I don't feel so terrible about it because I don't know that they suffer? There is mulesing though which is nasty, but I don't know if it's common or not.

    I will be checking back to see what others say cos I need convincing too!

  2. Well, wool is not so great. And sometimes it is from a slaughtered animal. I think of the whole sheep industry all tied in with people eating lambs and everything. It's really crazy how so many dog foods are made of lambs. They are BABIES! But I digress.

    Maybe you can find a second-hand wool coat at a thrift store or ebay or something?

    Btw, I used to keep my own bees, before I moved to the terrible suburbs, and I think honey is totally okay. I mean, no, it is not TECHNICALLY vegan, and maybe the honey industry is more focused on profits than the well-being of the bees, but it is possible to have ethical honey whereas it is not possible to have ethical meat...

  3. It never occurred to me that sheep would be harmed in having their wool shorn. I have never heard that sheep are killed for their wool either since it grows back and that would seem to make it unprofitable for the sheep farmer. I admit I have never looked into it however.
    I'm all for buying a new wool coat if you find a great price. Sometimes we take things a little too far. (signed, from a non-vegetarian but not a red meat eater!)