More than just food – by Ben Martin

Despite what many people think, veganism is not simply a diet. It is about putting compassion for animals into practice by avoiding animal exploitation and suffering in all its forms as much as practically possible. Food is certainly a big part of that, as animal agriculture is probably the single biggest cause of animal suffering and death in the UK, with around one billion farmed animals being killed for our plates each year, not to mention countless fish. But it’s not the whole picture. Other ways in which animals are exploited for our benefit include producing clothing, testing products, and entertainment (such as zoos, circuses, and racing). All of these activities involve animal suffering and death, which is why vegans tend to avoid anything to do with these as well.

Now we don’t expect you to throw out all your toiletries or replace your wardrobe for a four-week challenge – especially given that you are students – but if you are considering adopting veganism long-term, you may wish to consider replacing these items with cruelty-free versions as they are used-up or wear-out. If that’s the case – and we sincerely hope it is – here is some advice on how to do that.

Toiletries

It’s surprisingly easy to replace your toiletries with vegan versions, once you know where to look. Your first point of call should be Superdrug as it labels all of it’s own-brand products that are vegan-friendly and non-animal-tested, which includes almost everything in the Superdrug range, including make-up, shampoo, deodorant, shower gel, toothpaste, etc. Another good place to try is the Co-op, as it also labels which of its own-brand beauty products are free of animal ingredients. For something a little more upmarket, or if you simply fancy pampering yourself, Lush have plenty of animal-free options in-store, all clearly labelled as being vegan-friendly, and none of their products are tested on animals. There are also a number of companies who specialise in making vegan, non-animal-tested toiletries, including Faith In Nature, Honesty Cosmetics and Beauty Without Cruelty. You can find all of these and several others on the Animal Aid online shop.

Clothes and Shoes

Given that animals are killed to produce leather, fur and silk (about 1,000 silk worms are boiled alive to make one shirt), it should be fairly obvious that vegans avoid these. But the same goes for wool, as shearing is a brutal process and wool helps to subsidise the meat industry. But fortunately there is plenty of fashionable clothing that is either produced from man-made materials or from natural plant fibres such as cotton, linen, hemp and even bamboo. You should have no trouble finding these in high street shops, just be sure to check the labels.

Finding vegan shoes can be a little more tricky, but not impossible. Budget shops, such as Shoe Zone, often have shoes that are 100% synthetic, making them suitable for vegans. Alternatively, you can find good quality animal-free footware from online retailers like these:

Ethical Wares
Freerangers
Veganline
Vegan Store
Vegetarian Shoes
Eco Vegan Shoes
Wills Vegan Shoes
Bourgeois Boheme
Beyond Skin

Cleaning products

Students may not be best known for doing housework, but you may want to have a spruce up before your parents come for a visit. If so, I’d suggest heading to Poundland and (bizarrely) Staples, where they sell the Astonish range, all of which are vegan-friendly and dirt cheap. As with toiletries, the Co-op are very good at lebelling which of their own-brand cleaning products are animal-free, and Marks & Spencer also label their vegan household products. Companies that specialise in vegan cleaners include Faith in Nature, Bio D, Method and Suma.

A word of caution – don’t be fooled by the Leaping Bunny logo. This indicates that a product has not been tested on animals, but it may still include animal products, making it unsuitable for vegans.