Staying in the Uncomfortable Place of Knowing

Barley's Favorite Way to Sleep

I was planning to share a recipe today, but instead I feel compelled to share something that I’ve been wrestling with these last few days. During the appointment with my allergist last week, I was mentioning that I get reactions (itchy eyes, stuffy nose) whenever I sit on our couch. In the past, I always attributed this to dust or tried to link it to food allergies from whatever I was eating, but I now know it’s from the dogs. So among a handful of changes we’re making around our apartment, one of them is getting a new couch, and preferably one I can easily vacuum and wipe down because there is just no way Honey and Barley are not going to be on the furniture. They are completely spoiled and we love having them cuddled next to us.

Couch Cuddling

I did some research on faux leather, thinking that would be a good option for us, but I had a really tough time finding anything that seemed like it would last and nothing that fit our design preferences. We browsed around a couple of stores over the weekend and suddenly I found myself looking at leather swatches and getting quotes. The sales person was really knowledgeable about what might be a good fit for the inevitable puggle wrestling and sprints around the living room, and overall long-term wear, and then he proceeded to tell us about how this particular leather is superior because it comes from vegetarian-fed cows, which makes their skin softer. He also told us it was leather we could feel good about because it’s “sustainable” – the manufacturer uses all of the animal and what can’t be used gets sold to China (“for tax breaks,” he added). He proudly told us, in summary, that the leather they use is “humane.”

Part of me silently screamed “bullshit!” and another part of me tried to push down that uncomfortable feeling you get when you know something is wrong and selfish. I’ve been vegan for two years and vegetarian for several years before that. I read the animal rights books and watch the documentaries and I know how these innocent, sentient animals are treated and slaughtered, grass-fed or not. I know there is unquestionably no such thing as a “humane” way to kill a cow for her skin. There are degrees of atrocity, yes, but there is not a single animal who does not feel terror and pain before he or she gets forcibly slaughtered. That is the reality.

I felt uncomfortable about looking at leather furniture and knew it was a betrayal from my own moral compass. It wasn’t until I sat down at my laptop to catch up on blog posts and read one from Kristy at Keepin’ It Kind that I felt the full weight of it all. Kristy posted about Farm Sanctuary’s Walk for Animals and the thing that triggered me was a photo of a rescued cow that was the same color as a swatch of leather I had been holding in my hand the previous day, seriously contemplating whether it would match our design vision. I felt sick to my stomach, but forced myself to read Kristy’s full post and really look at the animals. If you click over to it (and I highly recommend you do), there’s an image of a big, brown cow, happily lying in the dirt, soaking in the sunshine, with her front legs tucked under her body. I showed the photo to Aaron when he came home from work and said “I can’t do this. I can’t do leather.” And he responded knowingly and said, looking at her front legs tucked under her body, “She’s lying down like a puggle.”

Honey

For me, that realization and that connection is what keeps me vegan. Even being as educated and compassionate as I am, it is still so easy to disconnect from what it really means to purchase something made from leather, or to eat just a small amount of egg or dairy. Everything is designed to keep us from making those connections between what once was a living, feeling, breathing, loving animal and  what we now hold in our hands, neatly packaged, aesthetically pleasing, and temptingly convenient. It takes work and dedication to be a vegan, and it’s difficult to stay in that uncomfortable place of knowing. I stumble from time to time and it bothers me that I do, but ultimately, I’m learning from these experiences.

Every decision that we make out of compassion, no matter how seemingly small, matters.

xo
Amanda

P.S. My new solution to our couch problem? Stick with fabric upholstery and buy a steam cleaner. I don’t know why this didn’t occur to me before.

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  1. Caitlin says

    <3 i completely understand that uncomfortable feeling when you know something isn't right but that selfish part of you takes over. what you are going through has been going on for so long, you just want to feel better, and there's no shame in that. the question becomes- is my wellbeing or a cow's wellbeing more important? the problem is, they both are important.

    i'm so glad you figured out an alternative. maybe buy a couch AND slipcover. then wash the slipcover AND steam clean the couch. that way you'll get those pesky little hairs easier.

    1. Amanda says

      I agree about the slipcover. The tricky thing is that the furniture we tend to like (mid-century modern) is usually so structured that I’m not sure a slip cover will work. BUT, the clean lines do seem to lend themselves to easy steam cleaning! Our couch right now is this inky tweed with tufted cushions and it is like a magnet for dog hair – drives me nuts!

  2. Kristy says

    I completely understand how easy it is to disconnect from that place of “knowing.” It can really wear on you and I do find myself, every now and again, needing a reminder of why I live the way I live. Seeing animals always helps me reconnect too. 🙂 I’m so happy those pictures were able to help you realign yourself with your moral compass. Thank you for sharing! xx

    1. Amanda says

      Thanks for that post, Kristy. <3 I literally saw that photo of the cow and felt like it jolted me back to why I'm vegan.
      P.S. So glad you like the blog redesign!

  3. Kristy says

    P.S. I also love the new blog design! So purdy! 🙂

  4. Rena says

    YAY to the non-leather couch (although I do not judge people with leather couches….making consumer decisions is personal and complex, so no judgement here!). I just like to throw in, that there are some – although not many – new materials that are leather-like and are really high-quality faux materials. They are expensive, depending under what circumstances they are manufactured. Unfortunately with most of them they are made out of or by utilizing petrochemical products….but the same goes for most fabric couches.

    1. Amanda says

      You bring up a good point about the petrochemical products, and I’ll admit that I’m not all that knowledgeable about the subject. Is there a certain brand you know of that makes furniture from high quality faux leather? Right now, I’m considering a fabric couch made from mostly recycled polyester – which sounds nice – but I really don’t know if that’s just marketing speak.

  5. Rena says

    Hi Amanda, oh recycled polyester also sounds good – even you may never find our if it is only marketing speak. (I always think re-using things or keeping them as long as you can is the best of all options). Unfortunately I do not know any brands for high quality faux leather in North America. I am from Europe and there are some small companies or even one-person manufacturers who do that for seats and sofas by I myself was never able to afford it. I just wanted to throw in the petrochemical products to say, I think it is really really hard to make a good purchase decision. I think buying good quality and keeping things as long as you can is the best way…(if there is ever a best way). I love your blog by the way!

    1. Amanda says

      Thanks, Rena. I agree that it does seem to be really hard to make good purchase decisions. There are so many things to consider, and price can definitely be prohibitive. I just ordered a steam cleaner and will be attempting to use it on our current sofa, which is unfortunately a PITA to clean! If we can use what we have though, that would be ideal.

  6. Stacy says

    I have the same issue with my couch & dog, and then there is the fact she tends to drool on it. So, I just bought a new couch this weekend from Ikea. I did months of research, and found the perfect one for me. It is the Karlstad line and has a cover on each of the cushions that you can just unzip and throw in your wash machine. And then when you want to change up the color of your couch, you just can buy new covers instead of spending way more on the couch.

    1. Amanda says

      Your comment is so helpful, Stacy! I keep hearing about the Karlstad line, and while I’m always a little weary of how Ikea stuff will hold up (especially with dogs), people seem to love this particular couch. That’s awesome about the ability to wash the cushion covers and replace them with fun, new ones too! I’ll have to check it out.

  7. Crystal says

    It’s funny, how we come across just the thing we needed to read at the right time. Thank you.

    1. I’m so glad you found that blog post, Crystal. Thank you for taking the time to comment. <3

  8. Perpetua says

    Hi Amanda: I do love the dogs and would love to share the pic and link it to your site. I have blog at WordPress. at 3psbyseeker.wordpress.com

    Let me know if this is okay

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