In mid-2012 I made the transition to a vegan lifestyle after almost 6 years of being an ovo-lacto-pesca-vegetarian. I did this for health, environmental, and ethical reasons initially, but I keep finding more reasons every day. The World Health Organization recommends that people eat a plant-based diet, citing health and environmental data. The amount of land, water, and energy spent on factory farms alarmed me, and leaked videos inside the facilities depicting the treatment of these animals was something that I was not OK with in any form. The dairy industry requires keeping female cows pregnant and, once born, male dairy calves are made into veal. Many varieties of cheese use rennet, an enzyme sourced from the stomachs of these calves, and is not included in ingredient lists, or listed simply as ‘enzymes.’ Most hens sit in in battery cages with their beaks removed (so that they don’t peck each other to death) for their whole lives to provide eggs, and eggs that are sold as ‘cage-fee’ varieties are still vulnerable to cruel farming practices. The seafood industry uses unsustainable practices and fish are very sensitive to chemical contamination.  Speaking to the health and mental health benefits of cutting animal products, I’ve noticed a small positive increase in my energy levels, and a small reduction in allergy symptoms (cats, pollen). Furthermore, I feel much more mentally at-peace knowing that my money is not going towards funding any of these operations and that I’m acting in a ethically-and-ideologically-consistent manner. I view nonhuman animals in a different light now, too- I believe them to have inherent value in their lives, not a resource for the rest of us to exploit to any ends we desire.

I feel that since I’ve been acquainted with a mostly vegetarian diet for so long, it was not hard to adapt my habits to a whole-foods plant-based diet (there are plenty of animal ingredients hidden in processed foods). You can find cookbooks and recipes in a wealth of places now so I won’t focus on that here. Avoiding the use of animal-based and animal-tested products in personal care products and clothing is a little more nuanced, though. Below are links to companies selling vegan and cruelty-free merchandise that I have personally purchased and can recommend to vegans or those looking to reduce their consumption of animal-based commodities.

My favorite vegan belts I found so far are from Couch Guitar Straps. They’re made from old car vinyl and so they’re relatively inexpensive, look and feel good, and wear pretty well. I had an issue with a metal grommet coming off of the belt hole I used most often, but 4 months later it hasn’t mattered much. Cliffbelts sells terrific vegan belts made of cork. Although they’re pricey, they look great and will custom make their product to suit you. They’re an American company and everything they sell is made in-house. When Cliffbelts wear, however, they tend to flake cork away from the belt, which is a little annoying. At the time of writing, RUE21 has vegan dress belts for like $10 as well.

Vegan Essentials is a great website that has tons of offerings, and I’m a fan of the dress vegetarian shoes (especially in the office shoe and Oxford styles), they’re comfortable, priced competitively, and they look terrific.

Jann J. makes beautiful non-silk, non-wool ties and many of them are cheaper than what you’d expect to find in a department store. It’s not particularly hard to find well-made cotton ties in department stores. I think polyester ties tend to shine too much.

Alba Botanica makes skin care and other beauty products. I use their sunscreen and used to use their shaving gel. They can usually be found in larger chain stores or food co-ops.

It’s important to keep in mind that abuse towards other humans (trafficking/sweatshops/unfair labor practices) in the assembly of clothing and other products is a real thing. I think it’s at least as bad as animal cruelty and for that reason, I’m trying to reduce the extent to which I participate in it. Thanks for reading.