Buying vegan leather or meat alternatives isn’t new. In fact, there are options galore available that plant-based folks don’t feel like we’re missing out on much.
But that doesn’t mean those firm in their conventional ways are about to change. To many, nothing can beat the taste and feel of authentic products. It’s not an easy switch to make and certainly not one I’d do overnight.
Mind you, we’ve come a long way in making animal-product alternatives as normal and accessible as the originals. For example, vegan leather can be made of different materials such as Vegetan and Lorica, both made of microfiber resembling the look of feel of the real stuff. No cruelty required.
With a little digging, you might be surprised to find that many brands already offer vegan leather products. Just search websites you already shop from for their options, or do a quick Google search for listings of great vegan leather handbags and more.
Besides vegan leather, vegan alternatives to meat, dairy, and eggs are all now available across the States (including my desolate-feeling home in the Midwest). The list goes on for all the brands and products out there, including bacon, coffee creamer, scrambled eggs, and sour cream… If you step into your local chain grocery store and take a look around, chances are you’ll find something new to try.
But maybe you’re a stickler for what you’re used to and yes, that almond milk does taste different from cow’s milk…what then? That’s where technology and science come in. A TED Talk from Andras Forgacs is one example of how we’re finding the best of both worlds: not having to give up our customs and traditional products whilst still living a more sustainable life.
By taking cells from an animal, we can now go straight to the laboratory. After Forgacs began an operation that essentially 3D-printed human tissues and organs (which, let’s be honest, already seems mind-blowing), he considered applying those same methods and principles to animal cells.
This process is called biofabrication. Individual cells grow into biological products, sometimes as sophisticated as functional body parts to implant into patients. If we take this process beyond medicine, it could serve as a sustainable and humane new industry.
Okay, maybe it sounds like a Frankenstein-esque experiment, but this is the future. This is what we’re now capable of. What seems new and foreign now will soon become an everyday concept. I can see us becoming so acquainted with making meat and leather this way, it will feel archaic to consider our current methods of slaughtering animals for our own musings.
Based on current statistics, 70 billion farmed animals are reared annually worldwide. More than 6 million animals are killed for food every hour. And the livestock used for meat and leather cover 45% of the planet’s land. If the world’s population continues growing as it is, and that population still wants to maintain its current lifestyle dependent upon meat and leather, then we won’t survive much longer. The numbers don’t add up.
Animals in the midst of agriculture and fashion are not treated as living beings, but as commodities. Raw materials. We focus on the end-products resulting from their demise, the leather and food, and forget that something once alive was involved. It’s hard to the put two together, but it’s necessary if we want to accept new standards of how we treat living organisms and ecosystems.
We don’t have to completely forgo our history and preferences; we just adapt and evolve to make those preferences feasible. Just because I’m vegan doesn’t mean I don’t see leather as a luxurious material humanity has used for centuries. It’s a great material to introduce biofabrication to a mass audience, not only because it’s a simpler, two-dimensional product to make, but it’s also more approachable for people antsy about buying and supporting what might feel like a weird science experiment.
I eat up (pun intended) these new ideas because this is our future. This is human innovation at work, utilizing our minds and talents for good. It makes me excited to see what the future holds. Rather than focusing on all the ways inflict harm on the environment, we should celebrate how so many of us are proactively seeking out solutions.
Who knows when we’ll actually see biofabricated leather goods on store shelves, but until then, I highly suggest you look into choosing vegan leather goods and opening your eyes to what alternatives are out there.
What is your stance on vegan leather and food substitutes? If you have any recommendations, please share them!
Take care, and keep the faith. -Allie