If you've chosen to live a vegan lifestyle, you've chosen to not support animal exploitation where possible, sadly animal exploitation goes beyond the food industry, it's a big part of the fashion industry too.
Some of the main animal-based materials used to make shoes are leather, wool, and fur. I'll let Animals Australia explain what happens to animals in the process of getting leather, wool , and fur. Like the food aspect of the vegan lifestyle, animal cruelty is the biggest reason to choose vegan shoes.
It is easy to forget or not even know about the cruelty that occurs to get animal-based materials to make the shoes, but it happens on horrifying mass scale across the world.
Many people may think of leather as ok because they believe that leather is just a by-product of the meat industry, and have the mentality of waste not want not, but interestingly it's not necessarily always a by-product.
What about the environment?
Environmental impacts of making leather products include polluting rivers, rendering water sources poisonous and making air toxic. A neighborhood in Dhaka, Bangladesh used to be home to 150 leather tanning businesses. It has been repeatedly named one of the most polluted places on earth by environmentalists.
But does vegan mean environmentally friendly? No, not always. Shoes made from petroleum-based synthetic leather are seen as a possible vegan alternative but of course, it has its own environmental impact.
So, which option is more environmentally friendly?
Well, firstly, there is a wide selection of vegan alternatives, they're not all petroleum based. Pinatex is a company that uses the leaves from the pineapple plant to create a leather that is "natural, sustainably-sourced, cruelty-free material". Companies such as nae sell shoes made from cork.
Beyond Skin looks at the question of which is more sustainable and provides some insight:
"vegan leather requires no grain to be watered and harvested for feed; no animals to be reared and then slaughtered; it is not a major contributor to water pollution, requiring only the land of the factory used to produce it. Synthetic materials have also come a very long way since PVC, and manufacturers are always upping their game, innovating ways to improve sustainability. As vegan leather will always be tied to textile technology, it will always be reducing its environmental footprint."
The good news is that there are more and more companies producing vegan-friendly shoes, and many of them are conscious of being environmentally friendly as well. Click the image below for a list of online vegan shoe shops.
If you know of any amazing Vegan shoe companies not on the list, please let me know, and I will add them to the list.