I’ve been told driving a car is hypocritical to my vegan views. Is it possible for me to drive a car, considering their environmental impact, and still retain my ethics as a vegan?
I for one am a bit of a petrol head, or at least I would be if I ever had an enormous garage that I hadn’t filled with rubbish. I love the idea of waking up, walking to my kitchen for a kale smoothie, and admiring the line of stunning motors sat behind a wall of glass onto the Tony Stark-like museum of fast cars. I can dream…
But one thing has always bothered me. In fact several things have. As vegans, is it truly possible for us to enjoy the driving experience given to those behind the wheels of our carnivorous brothers and sisters? Again it all comes down to what kind of vegan / vegetarian you are, and how far your morals and ethics stretch in this continuously confusing world of hypocrisy and luxury.
In my opinion, YES, we can drive cars. But for us, like most things in life, there are certain things we can do to ensure we are doing our part still for the environment, and keeping animal materials out.
Lets brake the car down a little. I am in no means a specialist when it comes to cars. I am in fact super happy with my gorgeously orange 2015 Smart Car Fortwo, which I will refer to often throughout this post, though what goes on under the hood, (or the boot for that matter) is anyone’s guess. So let’s see what steps can be made to ensure we are driving as environmentally conscious as we can.
Get the Right Interior – The most important thing when considering a new vehicle as a vegan will always be the car’s interior. It’s the space that is closest to us, and adds to the luxurious comfort of the driving experience. I also mentioned once in one post that I would be lying if I said leather was unappealing. Leather is a very nice material, especially when it comes to seats, but we know the horrible truth behind it: it’s cruel, polluting and unsustainable.
Even the steering wheel can be covered in leather without your knowledge, as well as the handbrake, the gearstick and even the dashboard. These details are usually offered in leather as standard. I myself fell into the trap of not realising that when I bought my Smart Car, the steering wheel was in fact leather-bound.
I recently sent a letter to Daimler requesting a response as to whether they would start implementing leather alternatives into their Smart Car range:
“I have done research into this matter and understand that Mercedes, a subsidiary of yours offers the option of ARTICO leather in some of its lines, as well as MB TEX. I also understand that competitors use materials such as BMWs Sensatec, Lexus Nuluxe, or even the Winiw Microfibre Leather alternative or Alcantara Suede.”
unfortunately, I have yet to receive a response from them.
When it comes to opting for a vehicle, it may be wise to ask the sales rep for a vegan leather alternative for the interior, though don’t be surprised when they tell you that it would require the car to be removed from the assembly line, only to receive a bespoke alteration, resulting in a higher price point. Either that, or they may tell you the option does not exist at all. Steering wheels and handbrakes are also likely to have been pre-made as a standard.
But then again, you may get lucky. Many car manufacturers are noticing the rise of demand for cruelty free materials in their vehicles, and many of them are listening. Tesla, being the best example here, has now eliminated real leather from all of their cars after a shareholder’s press conference. Such good news!
Make the Choice of Fuel or Electric – This will always be one of the biggest arguments when it comes to driving. I know my car is petrol, averaging a 94g/km of CO2, which isn’t super high, but isn’t the best either, considering Smart Cars were at one time the pioneers of compact forward thinking innovation.
Currently, one of the most environmentally friendly hybrids out there is the Toyota Prius, averaging at 70g/km of CO2, which is some of the lowest. Whereas if you compare emissions to something like the Bentley Continental Flying Spur, with its gargantuan 6-litre engine and nearly 400g/km of CO2, you’ll appreciate just how little an impact some cars have on the environment should you choose a fuel powered vehicle.
Check out this interesting post: The Most Polluting Cars on Sale
So are fuel-based cars good? Ideally, all cars should be electric. We are in such a great time where the technology of creating truly amazing cars that compete with some of the best fuel-based cars is now finally a reality. Just look at Tesla as an example, with their upcoming Model 3, which performs at a 0-60 mph in less than 6 seconds, which for a motor head like me, that’s sounds pretty dreamy, especially if I’m keeping it clean. Fuel-based cars are not just polluting, but their source is un-renewable, which means once it’s gone, then electric will be the only way forward.
But what about the source of the car’s electricity? Good question. If like me you live in the UK, you may have recently heard about the Government commitment to end the production of new petrol and diesel cars by 2040, which is great news for those who want the air to be cleaner, especially if you live in a city area. But there is still speculation that if we were all to suddenly come home and plug in, the National Grid will have a difficult time keeping up with the high demands, resulting in the need for possibly more fossil fuels.
And there’s the next problem. It’s all well and good everyone having an electric car, but if the source of the electricity through the National Grid is still coming from fossil fuels, then it’s likely we may be contributing more or very much the same to our carbon footprint.
If you do buy an electric car, the best way to retain our ethics is to either change our power provider to a clean energy company, so when we plug in, we know our car is powered cleanly, or consider the implementation of solar electricity into our homes, that is until local councils and governments elect to disband fossil fuels entirely.
“Also in the UK, the government has a scheme to offer a grant that will pay for 35% of the purchase price for certain vehicles, or up to a maximum of £4,500. This is great news if you’re still unsure of going electric due to the price. (Source from 2017)”
Choose the Right Tyres – Tyres can also come with a few issues for vegans. Many tyre brands use animal derived Stearic Acid in their manufacturing process, which is used as a Releasing Agent, meaning it helps to repel other materials from bonding or sticking to the tyres, and helps keep their shape under heavy friction. The problem is, animal derived Stearic Acid is almost 25% higher in fat and oil yield than the vegetable alternative, meaning many tyre companies still use the animal based ones.
Thankfully there are tyre brands that provide vegan options, like Michelin and continental. Once again, I discovered my Smart Car is equipped with Dunlop tires, which according to my research, use the animal based Stearic Acid.
Be Wary of Wildlife – So it may seem like an odd topic to talk about when it comes to cars, but as Vegans, we face the constant challenges of defending our right to drive when someone brings up the fact about wildlife and insects. It’s a common issue. You’re driving along, when suddenly; you get the hugest splat against your windshield. Bugs are unfortunately something that is very unlikely to stop being a problem. Remember, being vegan is not about being perfect. It is next to impossible to travel at any kind of high speed without encountering some sort of winged insect.
As for wildlife, it’s important to stick to the highway code as best as you can. Stay under the speed limit, keep your path well lit with high beams providing you don’t distract other drivers, honk your horn on tight bends with limited visibility, and if possible, stay as centred to the road as you can without rearing off into the opposite lane. This way you have less chance of hitting any animal should it venture out the foliage at the side of the road. I can’t tell you how often I’ve seen foxes in pieces, so close to the side of the road it makes you wonder if the driver that hit it wasn’t driving partially on the pavement.
Clean it Cleanly – As vegans, we are all very well informed when it comes to buying skincare and cosmetics. What’s animal tested? What contains animal ingredients? But for many of us, we sometimes don’t consider the products we buy to clean with. Do you know if that car wax contains palm oil? Do you know if that windshield washer was pumped into a bunny rabbit for testing? (Yes that does happen.)
It’s very easy these days to miss details like this, but it’s also very easy to research which products to buy too. Check out this great post from PETA over which brands to consider when buying. My newfound favourite products are from Astonish, a British company, which not only has a huge array of car cleaning equipment, but a huge array of other household products, from floor cleaning to steel polishing.
What are your thoughts? Do you find yourself extending your veganism towards your car? Were you informed of the leather interiors when you purchased? Do you only buy second hand cars anyway? Let us know in the comments?