Can Ethics and Luxury go Hand in Hand?

Can Ethics and Luxury go Hand in Hand?

An odd question it probably seems. The truth is, material wealth is exactly what it is, material, and as vegans, materials are a delicate subject, especially when animals are involved. But at, the study is on Ethical Evolution, and it’s my belief we truly can have nice things without being detrimental to Earth’s eco-system.

Gone are they days (almost) where vegans are seen as sun drenched, beaded hair, pot smoking drivers of vegetable oil fuelled vans. Now, vegans are just as much integrated into regular society as non-vegans, but does this integration increase our chances of being branded as hypocrites?

So what constitutes nice things or luxury items? I have worked in department stores my whole life, and I am surrounded by what’s labelled as premium luxury, in other words, items that make people happy, such as handbags, clothing, makeup, furniture, jewellery, electronics, skincare, hair-care, just to name a few. But from my knowledge gained as a vegan, I have noticed there to be many ethical problems with each of these departments.

Lets face it, if you want a handbag, the chances are, the one you choose from any high street store, is going to be made from some sort of animal skin. If you buy cosmetics, there’s a high chance it’s been tested on animals. If you buy an electrical device, it’s very likely it’s been manufactured in a polluting factory. If you buy clothing, then it’s possible to have been sewn by a child in a sweatshop. Even amenities can sprout questions. Where is my electricity coming from? How ethical is my water? Necessity, yes, but luxury, absolutely. Really, it’s something some people only dream of having. And yet as vegans, people who have spent hours thinking about what to negate from their lifestyle, are still indulging in such luxuries.

The problem, I believe, comes from the fact that many (not all) companies that provide services and goods, are thinking too much like a corporation. Let me explain. Businesses are created to make money. Right now, I’m ignoring those businesses that are started as a hobby or charity, and just so happen to start earning its founder a profit. Instead I’m focusing on businesses that provide luxuries, and those businesses, exist to sell for profits. When profit becomes priority, (no matter how many people this can help, employee or customer) ethics can, and are usually tossed out of the window.

As an example, a luxury designer handbag company, turning a fabulous profit and making many people happy with its products, can still have a disgusting work ethic. Yes I’m looking at you, Hermes. But in defence of houses like this, and this coming from a materialistic person, I know why materials like alligator skin and fur are used. It’s because these materials are beautiful. Let’s face it, they come from beautiful animals. Fur is soft and insulating, leather is durable and malleable, and not to mention, they derive from practices and skills that date back hundreds of years.

So what’s the problem? The problem is the ethics, something many luxury companies lack. The only excuse companies without ethics have, is the idea they will be deemed lesser quality, and risk their loyal client base, should they invest resources into ethical practices and materials. Customers are usually blind to the history of unethical luxury products, and if they are accustomed to purchasing a pair of luxury snakeskin shoes, a pair of plastic alternatives may cause them to look elsewhere.

So why do companies still have such unethical and immoral practices? Because money, end of. If a luxury company really cared for ethics, they would consider the conditions of their animal husbandry, and their employee working environments, of which are also usually of poor conditions, which also have a negative impact on the surrounding communities.

So, What Can be Done?

It’s all about taking extra precautions and considering what luxuries to have in your life. Sounds like hard work? Well, maybe at first it is. Transitioning from a meat eater to vegetarian, then vegetarian to vegan can be stressful enough for some people, and when you throw materialism into the mix, things can really get complicated. But what you must remember, is that companies have a very strong impact on your choices, providing you let them. The amount of people I know who’ve admitted to wanting a Louis Vuitton handbag, just because it’s a Louis Vuitton, is astronomical. But you are an intelligent human being, and finding new things, is always an exciting experience.

The best part of being a vegan, for me, is removing one unethical thing from my life, and finding more than one ethical thing to replace it with. If you are considering going beyond your choice not to eat animal products, and also replace or indulge your material luxury, it’s worth knowing where to go, and knowing what’s available to you. Here are a few examples:

Leather goods:     Matt and Nat, Emperia, Gunas

Clothing:     Vaute, Stella McCartney, People Tree

Shoes:     Vegetarian Shoes, Bboheme, Blackspot

Beauty:     Neal’s Yard, Aveda, Paul Mitchell, Odylique

Tech:     Apple, Tesla, LG

Energy:     Good Energy, Ecotricity

A fantastic website I use, is the Ethical Consumer website. I use this whenever I’m stuck on a particular brand and want to know more about it and whether it’s suitable for my lifestyle. What are your thoughts? Do you think vegans should stick to their stereotypes, or do you believe it’s possible for vegans to submit to one’s indulgence?

2 responses to “Can Ethics and Luxury go Hand in Hand?”

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