Only six people received the first newsletter of the Vegan Society, the oldest organization in this field. It was 1944, in the midst of World War II, a time of famine and rationing, when Donald Watson, an English carpentry teacher, founded this organization with half a dozen friends. And he also created a word, vegan, that only they understood then, but which today defines a philosophy of life shared by tens of millions of people around the world. A philosophy that permeates what we do at dau al deu, our hand-printed fabric and our handmade bags and accessories. Why vegan products?
If you don’t believe it, type in Google. This search engine is the all-seeing eye. It knows what we do, what we want or what we think, even before we know we’re going to do it, want it, or think about it. When it adds up the preferences of millions and millions of people is able to know the major trends in society, and everything seems to indicate that we are walking in the direction of veganism. Any data? Since 2015, searches related to this word have multiplied by three or more in countries such as the United Kingdom, France or Spain, and by two in the United States. Why this interest?
The first main reason is to favor animal welfare, although to some extent that is an inaccurate expression, a euphemism. In fact, the aim is to avoid becoming a participant in the extreme cruelty with which big industry treats living beings. It is not only that to manufacture a leather item or that to eat meat you have to kill an animal, but in the last decades a process of hyper-industrialization has been added to those circumstances, which has made the living conditions in huge farms and productive complexes, to put it mildly, poor.
A second group of people come to veganism –not to be confused with vegetarianism– for health reasons, to take better care of themselves. They consider that a diet that excludes food of animal origin is healthier and can be equally balanced.
Saving the environment
The third major reason is respect for the environment. The number of studies is overwhelming. To cite just one, research from the University of Oxford points out that the consumption of vegan products –food or not– would be the greatest contribution to curbing the greenhouse effect, but also to rationalize the use of water or land across the globe.
According to one of the study’s authors, adopting a vegan way of life “would be much more effective than reducing air travel or switching to electric cars”. Another research published by the prestigious scientific journal Nature states that meat consumption in Western countries should be reduced by 90% if global warming is to be contained.
The vegan lifestyle also expands to the field of fashion; in our case, to handmade and hand-printed bags and accessories
For the layman, not many years ago, talking about veganism was almost like talking about any diet and little more. That, at best, because there were not a few who looked at it with suspicion. But for some time now this concept has been standardized and extended to many other areas. After all, neither animal suffering nor the deterioration of the environment is due exclusively to our way of feeding ourselves and, therefore, this is a philosophy that reaches all aspects of life.
In other fields, such as cosmetics, vegan products are becoming the big emerging trend. They will reach a worldwide turnover of –attention– 20 billion euros this year. It is not only a question of cosmetic products being made without components of animal origin, but of not experimenting with living beings in the process of their creation. More and more consumers are becoming aware of the fact that their own well-being does not necessarily have to go through the abuse of animals, and that is why many brands are concerned about the ethical and environmental impact of our lifestyle is the number one issue they have to face.
We can say the same about fashion. Vegan fashion is that which avoids animal cruelty. That is, that without leather, feathers, wool or any other fiber of animal origin.
The idea, therefore, is not only to avoid the raw materials that imply the death of the animal, as could be leather, but also all those that imply their exploitation, although they do not mean ending their life, that in most of the cases can suppose a greater or smaller degree of cruelty. That is what happens with wool.
Also in this case it is very important to take into account the environmental impact. A recently published study noted that in the United States the leather industry pollutes as many as thirty million cars. With the current technology all these materials can be replaced by others that are not of animal origin. Yes, even leather.
The craft world
The push for vegan fashion is big, so much so that many places are already holding catwalks and prestigious festivals. The most important is the Vegan Fashion Week in Los Angeles. Meanwhile, big brands are promoting product lines designed for vegan consumers and a legion of small companies and artisans are basing their business on that philosophy.
The latter is our case. At dau al deu we don’t make vegan bags or accessories exclusively because there is an emerging potential market. Animal welfare is a fundamental part of our way of thinking and of our way of seeing the world. Therefore, when we started our small artisan business, we could not consider it any other way.
An emerging trend
The Google data mentioned at the beginning are not the only one that supports this trend. In the United States, for example, a survey indicates that a quarter of people between the ages of 25 and 34 –the famous millennials, that is, those who will set the consumption patterns of the next two or three decades– define themselves as vegans or vegetarians. Meanwhile, brands located at the antipodes of this trend are now pointing to the current. It is not surprising, then, that in 2018 the prestigious British weekly The Economist proclaimed the following year as the year of the vegans.
What a time to be alive, Donald Watson could say today, almost eighty years after that first newsletter.