The Ghosts In Our Machine

Samantha and Chris’ Ghost-Free Journey: Day 4

Photo courtesy of Donna Oakes

Good Morning Samantha and Chris – it’s so hard to believe that this is Day 4 already!

We’re starting the day with a discussion of vegan options for clothing, shoes, etc. Samantha asked about “what people do with their pre-vegan things. Is it acceptable to wear them until they fall a part? ” and Chris wonders “if most people sell or trash their old leather accessories or continue to use them after going vegan as I have a few items I picked up before going vegan”.

Coach Donna and Coach Rosemary

The opinions we express as GFJ Coaches are ours personally. We are not professional health practitioners.  Neither are we treating a specific health care issue.  That means we are not offering advice on health-care problems. If you  are experiencing a health-care problem, it is important to seek the advice of a health professional. However we are experienced, practicing vegans and we look forward to coaching you on your journey..

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  1. Samantha Beeney January 10, 2013 at 9:08 am

    I have always been anti-fur (when it is no longer on the animal is was meant to be on). For some reason, I never used to put things like leather in the same category. Now, it seems ridiculous to me that I didn’t think of leather as being the same as fur. Fur always upset me. If I ever touched anything made of it (I worked at a high-end clothing store), it reminded me of my cats. Mink are actually close relatives to my ferret-kids, and that is what I think about every time I see fur.

    Most of what I own is made out of synthetic materials or canvas. I tend to buy products that are accidentally vegan. I would like to not buy from places that support sweatshops. I am attempting to “start dressing like an adult” as my mother would put it. It seems people take me less seriously in jeans, a hooded sweater, and canvas tennis shoes.

    I was never the person who went out and intentionally purchased accessories made of leather. To me, leather never made anything better. At this point, I personally only have a handful of things that remain. I have two pair of boots and a bomber jacket that used to be my Grandpa’s (this coat has to be at least 40 years old).

    I have actually tried to look for replacements for my non-vegan boots. This is where things get tricky. I like tall boots…a lot. I also happen to wear a size 5 or 51/2 typically in a shoe and have the calves of a professional soccer player. My legs fit nicely in a size 8 boot but my feet clearly do not. I am starting to think that I may need custom made boots, but everywhere I see only uses leather.

  2. Coach Donna January 10, 2013 at 9:23 am

    Hi Samantha! There are so many options out there now for non-leather footwear, etc. Vegan shoe designers are also very concerned about the environmental and fair labor aspects of how/where their products are made. It sounds like your biggest issue right now is a sizing one. As far as boots that are more generously in the calf area, lace-ups are usually best for this.
    What have you tried so far ?

    • Samantha Beeney January 10, 2013 at 9:49 am

      Most of the boots I have tried on were at “conventional” shoe stores(I used to manage one). I have tried gusseted boots, zip, lace-ups, ones with flexible back panels. I have had a bit better luck with lace-ups, I can close them 90% of the way. I have two pair of non-vegan boots that work, one pair is very soft and flexible and the others are “sweater boots”. Neither is quite what I want but they fit. I would love a pair of vintage look lace-ups or riding style boots.

      I have had this problem since I was a young teen. I have even been to the doctor (yes a medical doctor) to find out what I could do to slim down my ridiculous calves. I was told that I should be pleased with my calves as they are muscle not fatty. The only medical option would be an actual operation to take out up to a 1/4 inch of muscle tissue. I will clearly not be doing that.

      Because I am a tricky fit, I don’t like to buy online due to issues with returns. Also online, measurements aren’t typically included for height of boot and circumference of boot shaft. To my knowledge, there aren’t any vegan shoe stores in the area. I can find some brands on occasion at TJ Max or somewhere along those lines. I HAVE purchased a pair of shorter boots online from MooShoes and that turned out fine.

    • Samantha Beeney January 10, 2013 at 10:45 am

      Is there anywhere that makes custom vegan shoes?

      • Coach Rosemary January 10, 2013 at 11:26 am

        These Hunter Boots are perfect for Rochester cold/snowy winters. Wide calf versions are available, and if you buy the fleece liners, they can be used all year around! Plus, they last forever.

      • Coach Donna January 10, 2013 at 11:52 am

        Samantha – somewhere around 20(?) years ago I had a pair of boots and shoes custom made in NYC. It took me forever to find somebody who was willing to do this – in the end, it turned out to be a place that specializes in orthotics – they cost quite a bit of money, but I had a job that paid well at the time and I thought about how I had bought nothing but cnoverse high tops for a few years.
        There is a company in the UK that custom makes shoes/boots in both leather and non-leather. They have a beautiful style of lace-ups – they are pricey but would probably last a life time. Here is a link-
        (when ordering, you can specify color and give them your calf measurements)

      • Samantha Beeney January 10, 2013 at 11:56 am

        Rosemary, I didn’t see any wide calf version or options for it in sizing drop downs. I did email customer service to inquire. Thanks!

        Donna, I will check them out right now! 🙂 I am perfectly fine with spending more money on a pair of good boots. I will get a lot of use out of them and they will last for years.

  3. Coach Rosemary January 10, 2013 at 9:37 am

    Good Morning! As a fairly new vegan, I understand about having non-vegan friendly items in our wardrobes that are difficult to part with. I have mixed feelings about this, but for the most part I have kept some items that are too expensive to replace (like our sofas) and a few leather shoes and boots. When it’s time to replace these items, I choose cruelty-free. Same goes for make up, household products, etc. That said, I donated several handbags and other items.
    I’m sure our resident fashionista, Donna will lend her wisdom and expertise to this topic. There is so much to learn and be aware of, as you mention, Samantha. Fair trade, eco fibers, and the welfare of humans working to make our products is also so important. Great topic!

  4. Coach Donna January 10, 2013 at 9:42 am

    I think that many people have not thought about leather issues as much as those of fur. For one thing, there are numerous people who are anti-fur but are not (yet) vegetarians. For them, they think of leather as a by-product of an industry that produces something that they eat. Also, leather goes through so much processing that it does not directly resemble an animal in the same way that fur products do. Feeling a leather shoe does not feel the same as stroking a living cow whereas feeling a fur coat definitely feels like petting one of our furry friends.
    Fur products also go through a lot of toxic processing, but the end result still resembles an animal more than a leather product which makes it easier for someone to.recognize that this is clearly from a sentient being.

    • Samantha Beeney January 10, 2013 at 9:58 am

      Since going to Farm Sanctuary, touching leather feels like patting a cow to me.
      Any of the personal care, beauty, or cleaning products that where not Ghost-Free went in the trash when I became vegan (or long before in some cases). I even got rid of all my Urban Decay makeup (about $300 worth) when they where going to allow their products to be tested on animals for sale in China. Of course a week after, they took it back.
      I would happily get rid of my non-vegan boots if I could find something that I could wear instead that fits my style.

      We have had similar issues with Chris’ accessories.

      • Coach Donna January 10, 2013 at 10:05 am

        Yes – I think that leather feels like animals to those who have been awakened – but to others, not necessarily.
        Here is a pair of vegan boots that you can wrap to fit (from Tom’s) – have you looked into these ?

        • Samantha Beeney January 10, 2013 at 10:19 am

          I have seen these and I do like them. I may get these to replace the sweater boots as soon as I am able. However, I could not wear them very often. They do not seem to be waterproof and it is pretty wet up here, between rain and snow. I grew up wearing sandals year-round in Phoenix and still have not adjusted to the weather (after 6 years it is doubtful to ever happen).

  5. Chris Beeney January 10, 2013 at 10:14 am

    I’m not a small shoe size, so it’s hard to find something I like in the first place. I tend to get European style shoes because they are slimmer. I do have Converse and Vans for non work use but my work requires dress shoes and those are traditionally leather. There was a time that some of my co-workers were wearing sneakers to work but management advised us that they are aware and that we need to adhere to dress code.

    I also have a suede jacket from before I went vegetarian that was very expensive and not ready to be replaced. On top of that, I just got a bunch of those fancy Barnes & Noble book editions for Christmas and only just realized they are leather bound and I purchased my phone case before going vegan because it looks like a book (also leather).

    The only other thing that I wish could be different is that the seats in my car are leather, but I purchased it used and it came that way. If I could afford to re-cover them I would but many of these things aren’t in the budget for replacing before they wear out.

    I should think about where accessories and things I purchase come from before I buy them but that’s been a struggle to keep in mind on top of the food I eat.

    • Samantha Beeney January 10, 2013 at 10:30 am

      It should be noted that Chris has not purchased new shoes for work in over 4 years. We (I) plan to replace his belt soon with one from MooShoes.

      We have tried other coats for him, and have yet to find one that is somewhat stylish and warm enough. We do not buy anything with down or wool.

      I am looking for really warm socks that are not made of wool. I have purchased ones made of synthetics and other alternatives in the past and they just don’t cut it for me. I can actually warm my feet, put on two pair of socks, then boots that are rated to -20 degrees and take my feet out a hour later to have them feel like blocks of ice. I am beginning to wonder if this is more a a medical issue than a sock issue though. What are your favorite vegan socks?

      • Coach Donna January 10, 2013 at 6:05 pm

        I forgot to respond to the issue of stylish coats for Chris. Have you checked out Vaute Couture (gorgeous styles for men AND women).
        As far as socks go, I don’t really have a favorite brand – When it is cold, I tend to wear several layers of thick socks under boots. Maggie’s Organics makes some nice thick organic cotton socks.
        Here’s a link to Vaute Couture :

    • Coach Donna January 10, 2013 at 12:13 pm

      Hi Chris !! As far as shoes for men,the companies Novacas and Vegetarian Shoes make wonderful office-style shoes. Mooshoes has a great selection of both of these brands – they are of excellent quality, ethically made in all respects and are durable.
      More than likely, most people new to veganism/vegetarianism have items made from some animal derived materials – whether it is leather, wool, down, silk, pearls, shells,etc. We tend to get bogged down sometimes in our worries about this. Some people use/wear what they have until it wears out. Others might donate to homeless shelters or sell to thrift shops and use the money to buy non-vegan items or donate the money to charitable causes.
      There really is no right answer to this. In my opinion, thinking about why we are making changes and doing our best rather than trying to be perfect will help us to manitain more momentum. I believe that this is the discussion that Rosemary is opening up in her post.

  6. Coach Rosemary January 10, 2013 at 11:13 am

    Chris and Samantha,
    You’re both doing an awesome job with being conscious and aware of cruelty-free products that we’ve discussed in the past few days. You’re knowledgeable and have the curiosity and motivation to seek these products, which is awesome!

    Perhaps we can shift the conversation a bit to a discussion about your process and shift to a vegan lifestyle (emotional/spiritual/cultural)? A theme that seems to be emerging is one where you… and all of us go through a time of reflection and almost hyperawareness of Ghosts….everywhere we look there are there.
    How do we adjust and make compromises when necessary, when it is ok for us, and when is it not ok? We’ve brushed this topic each day with food, medicine, clothing and food for our non-human companions.
    Remembering that veganism is not about perfection, but doing our best to cause the least harm. <3

  7. Samantha Beeney January 10, 2013 at 11:44 am

    We can certainly shift the conversation. 🙂 I am not entirely sure what you mean by our ‘process’. If you could elaborate a bit more I would be happy to answer 🙂 Only one cup of coffee in my system so far.

    I know socially for me at least, I have made a lot of vegan and vegetarian friends. This was not intentional, it just happened somehow. I do have friends that are omnivores but they tend to be people are curious about the vegan lifestyle or at least very open to different ways of being.

    I would like to join one of the local veg(an) groups. I think that it would be especially nice for Chris to get to meet some other guys in the area with similar beliefs.

  8. Coach Rosemary January 10, 2013 at 11:56 am

    When referring to process in this context, I mean focus more on “how vs. what”. An example is how you and Chris are making decisions about these products instead of what products to purchase. Or, how you know where you draw the line or not…for example still purchasing non-vegan cat food, and how you feel about those decisions.
    You and Chris seem to have a good handle on finding products to suit your needs, so we thought a “deeper” and more reflection may be helpful and productive at this point in your GFJ. Take this where you want, it’s just a suggestion 🙂

    • Samantha Beeney January 10, 2013 at 12:23 pm

      How we make our choices about products to purchase? I believe that to both of us, buying any new products made out of animal products is out of the question. When I look at these types of products I see the animals that where harmed in the making of them.

      We do not go places that we cannot eat/shop. It was really a shift of our ethics. I love designer clothes and accessories, though they are not usually in the budget. I used to window shop and on occasion buy something. I actually boycott quite a few places.

      I believe that every dollar that you spend is a vote. It says what you support and where you stand. If I cannot find a ghost-free version of what I am looking for, I will go without before spending a dime on something I don’t support.

      For me, the line to this is when no alternatives exist and health or safety is at risk. Vegan food for my cats and ferrets for example. Too much plant material can kill my ferrets kids, and very quickly. The risk is also to high for my cat kids. I will find both groups a good food that is minimally harmful to other creatures. Since being vegan is a viable option for my Luna, she will be vegan like mommy and daddy.

      If Chris or I (especially Chris) needed a life saving medication or procedure that was not vegan or was tested on animals (where no alternative exists) I would not hesitate to take it. If we are dead we cannot be advocates for animals.

      • Coach Donna January 10, 2013 at 12:35 pm

        I think that your statement “I believe that every dollar that you spend is a vote. It says what you support and where you stand” reflects the sentiments of many. You talked about not going into places where you can’t eat or shop. – do you mean ones that have no options for you ? You mentioned boycotting some, so I wondered if it is also that you avoid places that sell fur or serve foie gras, etc.?

      • Coach Rosemary January 10, 2013 at 12:53 pm

        You seem very clear about your choices and ethics, Samantha…good for you! I wonder where others are, as this is not as clear for so many of us. I hope we have some additional people join in this discussion.

        Some issues I think about are riding horses, gardening, building a fence around my yard for my dogs, but it may impact other animal negatively. All in all, I feel like this is a process and trying my best to be aware and make adjustments along the way, is how I choose to live. I don’t want to get bogged down with so many details that I wind up not advocating more broadly for non-violence overall.

  9. Samantha Beeney January 10, 2013 at 12:56 pm

    I have found the vast majority of places have something I can eat or are willing to make something just for me.

    We do boycott places that sell fur, foie gras, etc.

    • Coach Rosemary January 10, 2013 at 1:03 pm

      Donna, this is a very important subject. We all face these decisions once we leave our homes, don’t we?
      Samantha, I wonder how did you come to the conclusion to boycott restaurants that sell foie gras vs. veal, beef or stores that sell fur vs. leather or wool? Do you see foie gras or fur as a more abusive industry?

  10. Samantha Beeney January 10, 2013 at 1:29 pm

    We also boycott restaurants that sell veal. If we boycott every restaurant/store that sells meat/dairy that would limit my options to exactly zero, in this area. It is not feasible for us to buy all of our groceries from an online vegan store.

    To me veal, foie gras, and fur are slightly more cruel.

    • Coach Rosemary January 10, 2013 at 2:01 pm

      I guess the bottom line for many of our choices, whether it’s boycotting a restaurant because they sell veal or a major discount chain because of sweat-shop roots, we all make judgements…and it seem like it’s on a continuum. There doesn’t seem to be a black or white line many times, but it sure would be alot easier if there was.

  11. Coach Rosemary January 10, 2013 at 1:56 pm
  12. Chris Beeney January 10, 2013 at 2:36 pm

    For me, my societal ethics have always been high? I don’t know if that’s the right word to use. I try not to use the word hate, and when it comes to people who are bad for society, I just feel sorry for them instead. I’ve always liked nature even though I didn’t grow up in it, and I don’t believe in yardwork. Gardening is ok because you grow things to eat or flora to enjoy looking at. Many times when I’m driving somewhere, I think about how we’ve laid asphalt/concrete all across this beautiful land and imagine how it was before we settled into the area.

    As for animal derived accessories, it took me a lot longer to realize how these items actually come into existence but I do think about it when out shopping, etc. When we did go into stores that sold things with fur, I could usually be found touching whatever it was while thinking about the animal it came from and what kind of life they could have had.

    • Coach Donna January 10, 2013 at 3:18 pm

      Chris – I know what you mean about seeing things and then thinking about how they came about. I call this ‘the world that I see”. I believe that the world that we see when we are aware of the ghosts is so vastly different from what others see. Sometimes the awareness can be so painful that it is overwhelming. I remember sitting in a fancy restaurant years ago in NYC (on my birthday) looking at what some of the other peope at nearby tables were eating and I choked up with tears. All I could think about were the animals who were killed for those meals.

      What do you usually do when you are in that situation and thinking about the hidden ghosts. Do you have a way of dealing with the feelings that come along with the awareness?

    • Chris Beeney January 10, 2013 at 4:20 pm

      I don’t much think about what things used to be as far as food (and it’s not because I don’t care). But with clothing/accessories I may pat the item a few times until Samantha tells me to stop, and I just carry on with my life. It’s like a small moment of silence for the ghosts, but life is so very short and I can only devote so much time to each ghost or spend the rest of my life feeling sorry for all of them.

      Upward and onward as they say. In my every day life choices I make for myself and those that affect the animals/planet, I keep looking toward the future. I keep hope that things will be better. And I teach anyone willing to hear my philosophies on life.

      • Coach Donna January 10, 2013 at 4:28 pm

        I like what you said about “a small moment of silence for the ghosts’. and I think that it is great that you teach anyone willing to hear your philosophies. You live your life as a wonderful example for all to see – some will be influenced more than others. Without a doubt, you are making quite a beautiful impact on the world around you.

  13. Coach Donna January 10, 2013 at 2:50 pm

    Very interesting article, Rosemary. I am going to read through this again later.

    Samantha – it sounds like your decisions or where to eat, what to buy, etc are based on a continuum (as Rosemary spoke of). I think that holds true for most of us.
    From my own experiences as a vegan business owner, I can attest to the fact that just about every decision that I made revolved around lots of weighing of pros and cons. I first thought that I would only order from companies that only made vegan products. I quickly realized that while this would have been ideal and really soothing to my conscience, it would be quite limiting. So I also ordered from some companies that were not all vegan but were sympathetic to the concept and clearly labeled their styles. Over the years, I have worked with small, independent designers who are super conscious of environmental concerns and fair labor – some of them do make styles from wool or silk. They have been been wonderfully responsive to requests to custom make certain styles using only vegan materials. Possibly this also gave them food for thought.

    I think that I actually belabored certain issues more when I first became vegan – over 23 years ago. I don’t think that I have relaxed my ethics but I am more focused now on how to make connections with other people who might be ripe for some eye-openers.

    Some people used to come into my shop and say “Oh, I probably shouldn’t be here, I’m wearing leather shoes”. That really would have been the last thing I would want them to think – by coming in, we were able to discuss the issues – and maybe they left with a pair of non-leather shoes or at least a spark of awareness. Some of them were actually already vegetarians or vegans who still had their old leather stuff. They always felt the need to apologize – as if I might sit in judgement. This is kind of a long winded way of saying that I think that sometimes as vegans, we worry about being judged by others as not being vegan enough.

    • Chris Beeney January 10, 2013 at 3:13 pm

      Donna, we have discussed such sentiment and our approach towards others (particularly non-vegans) but I think we are talking about that more in depth tomorrow.

      A few months ago we were checking out businesses approved by PETA and I noticed that 3M was on a trial run of no animal testing, that this meant they wouldn’t necessarily stop animal testing in the future but that they were giving it a go. Although we didn’t purchase items from them during this time, I think that supporting companies like this during these times may give them the awareness that we like them when they treat animals with respect.

      I also feel this way, and Samantha had discussed it with me when talking about ‘casting our votes with money’, when purchasing items by Lightlife or Honest Tea, or any other food company who’s parent company is a conglomerate. It shows that we want organic and we want vegan… and money certainly talks. Should we buy from conglomerations in the long run? Probably not, but then again they are going to put out tons of products and they can either be vegan friendly or not. Why make vegan friendly items when vegans don’t buy them?