Sunday, 15 April 2012

Dance Without Cruelty : Part Three

Cruelty-free costuming
So here we are at last ... the final part of our 'Dance Without Cruelty' series (which has taken far, far longer than I ever thought it would!). In some ways this is the hardest bit to write. Indeed, when I became vegan last year (having been vegetarian for close on thirty years) this was the most involved step to take. I had planned on a phased introduction of a vegan diet - but that took only a week! I was already using cruelty free cosmetics and so on, so that just meant watching out for ingredients such as honey and milk, which wasn't too bad. But clothes? Now that was another matter!

Yes, we know some people won't agree
with us, but we still have to say our piece!
I really just want to tell you how we manage our costuming, and don't want to preach, so I'll include some links at the end if you want to know WHY we avoid the things we do. Or just contact us and we'll explain (And no, we're not crazy. We're all intelligent women who've made an informed decision!!!) (Well, ok, maybe a little crazy in some ways, but not in this one!!)

A whole vegan shoe shop - heaven!

Leather is the obvious material that most people understand that vegetarians and vegans avoid. We've been doing that for years, so it isn't too much of a hardship as there are lots of sources out there for shoes, bags and belts; it just means we have to search and research a bit. I've certainly become even stricter on that since becoming vegan. The only thing I do bemoan on at least a weekly basis is the TOTAL LACK OF NON-LEATHER DANCE SANDALS! .I really so love them - I just wish there was an option for us!

Fur - well, that goes without saying. None of us have ever worn it, and none of us ever would.

Real beauty
What many people don't realise however is that vegans and many strict vegetarians wouldn't wear anything that came from an  animal, regardless of how it was obtained or, in the case of a dead animal, how it died. I'm not going to go into the whys and wherefores here, but suffice it to say it's about respect, exploitation and in general our attitude to other living, sentient beings. Yes, animals are beautiful - their soft fur, glossy feathers, wonderful colours - but to us an essential part of that beauty is in their life, that spark of warmth. I read a quote from Ellen De Generes upon seeing a stag's head on someone's wall. Ellen asked why it was up there. It's owner replied 'Because it's a beautiful animal'. To which Ellen replied 'Well, so's my mother, but I don't have her head on display in my home!'. Nuff said!

A lovely hair frippery from The Tribal Temptress.
Look, no feathers!
 So, with that in mind, we don't now wear feathers or quills of any kind (even naturally-shed ones). Now, you may well see photos of some of us looking rather fluffy in feathery headdresses .... but that was before our awareness was raised. We underwent extensive de-feathering (in a non-painful way!) and now don't wear them at all. We do make lots of our own headwear which is helpful here, but some sellers do offer non-feathery options! We also find that we can get a beautiful tribal look with flowers, hairsticks and scarves ... who needs feathers?

Sadly it's not like this!
Cowrie shells can be a large part of a tribal dancer's wardrobe. I will confess that I adorned myself in them for many years - blithely imagining some gentle island girl tripping down a warm beach in the bright sunshine happily flinging cast off shells into a large basket just for the use of Sakura Tribal. It doesn't happen like that. And yes, I have de-shelled too now and wouldn't buy or wear them anymore. We use beads, buttons, wood and metal findings instead.

More cruelty-free costuming!

Now - what else do we avoid? Well, silk is another biggie. And it really is pretty hard to avoid in our dance. Silk veils, silk skirts, silk scarves, silk mixes in velvet, silk sari ribbon ..... but avoid it we do! It just, once again, involves a bit of research. but when you believe in something you do it. So we go for natural fibres such as cotton. The vegans amongst us also don't use wool at all ... but we get by on acrylic!

So, that's us. Of course, you don't have all the arguments and reasoning behind our choices here, so they may not make sense to some of you. If you are interested in delving a little deeper here are some links :

UK VEGAN SOCIETY  - The Vegan Society promote veganism and a cruelty-free lifestyle. There's a wealth of information on their site!

PETA - People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals - have lots of information about the fur and leather industries in addition to articles on cruel practices in many other areas of the clothing industry

 ANIMAL AID - Animal Aid campaign peacefully against all forms of animal abuse and promote a cruelty-free lifestyle. If you browse their site and look through their campaigns you'll find lots of information on clothing

And hey ---- if you thought veganism was all a bit un-exciting, just check this out :

CHIC VEGAN - a totally fab site with so many tips for funky cruelty-free living. You can even get free e-books there, including 'The Ethical Girl's Guide To Being Vegan and Fabulous'! 100% recommended!

Now, all this doesn't mean we rate animals over humans - a really common (and very annoying) misconception. (Not least because veganism and vegetarianism also bring untold benefits to humans and the environment too, but that's not why I'm here today!) We also do everything we can to ensure sustainability, fair trade and recycling in our costume choices. I think however that's a post for another time!

So, making cruelty-free costume choices isn't easy, and can sometimes be soooo frustrating (like when you see that dream hair frippery ... with a couple of feathers firmly attached). But to us (and the animals concerned) it's worth it.

Think we're crazy? Well, if trying to live a dance lifestyle that avoids causing pain and suffering to any other living thing is crazy, then yes, we are. But that's just us ... and we're crazy in so many other ways it's just a drop in the ocean!

We'll be back soon with our usual dancey blogs!

Until then, happy - and crazy - dancing!

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