written by Mia Montalvo

Choosing to live a vegan lifestyle is making a commitment to continuous education and compassion. The most common misconception of veganism is that vegans remove animal ingredients and products just from their diets, however, going vegan encompasses finding alternatives in all specters of our lives. From fashion, beauty, to everyday essentials, there are many hidden animal ingredients that often go unheard of. 

Avoiding animal derived materials and opting for plant-based alternatives, or shopping second-hand is a way to be more intentional with a compassionate lifestyle. Leather and fur are most spoken of amongst anti animal cruelty groups, yet there are several others materials watch out for. 

1. Wool

This thick, warm material is found in many winter items such as the lining in coats, boots, blankets, etc. Wool is sheared from sheep, which in the cases of factory farming, sheep are bred for just their wool and are raised in small, uncleanly conditions. As explained in an article on Vegan Cuts, “Regardless of whether a sheep has been reared in a pen or allowed to wander in a field, shearing itself is often extremely traumatic for the animal: they are pinned down and aggressively sheared, often being cut, sliced, and torn during the process.” 

Alternatives to Wool: Cotton fleece, linen and polyester fleece, which will keep your warm and cost much less.

2. Silk

Silk pillowcases, kimonos, robes and pajamas are often seen as luxurious and elegant garments. Yet, silk is derived from “silkworms,” in which they produce to weave their cocoons. In obtaining this material, larvae are gassed and boiled before they can even reach their pupal stage.“Roughly 3,000 silkworms are killed to make a single pound of silk. That means that billions, if not trillions, of them are killed for this every year,” (PETA). 

Alternatives to Silk: Nylon, silk-cotton tree and ceiba tree filaments, polyester, and rayon which are easy to find and usually much less expensive.


3. Down

Down is a material that often goes way over our heads. When furnishing our homes, down can be found in pillows, comforters, and even clothing items such as coats. Down feathers are obtained by plucking the feathers in the closest area of a goose’s skin, typically their chests. Both ducks and geese are affected by this industry, being kept in tight enclosures and stripped of their feathers in inhumane ways. The animals face an immense amount of distress during the plucking process, and are often killed immediately after. 

Alternatives to Down: Primaloft, Thinsulate, MicroMax, TCS Down Free!

4. Cashmere

The classic cashmere sweater is another “staple” in many of our closets. While marketed to be cruelty-free, cashmere is actually the finer softer hair from goats found often in Mongolia. The goats are sheared mid-Winter and are left vulnerable to harsh, cold conditions.

Alternatives to Cashmere: Organic cotton, coconut fiber, hemp.

Choosing alternatives to animal-derived materials, like the ones mentioned above is a great way to continue choosing compassion in your everyday life. Educating yourself on the things that these industries do not want us to know is already making a small, but necessary change!