I want to throw my leather purse, shoes, and jacket in the trash because I feel that giving them away, even to the needy, is the same as saying, "It's okay for other people to use animal products, but it's not okay for me." My partner understands my logic but thinks it would be a waste, especially when there are people who need clothing and other essential items. I'm confused. I feel that giving away animal products rather than discarding them defeats the purpose of being vegan. I threw out our dairy products, even though they hadn't yet expired, and replaced them with vegan alternatives. So why shouldn't I do the same with other animal products?
Moving toward a wholly vegan lifestyle can be challenging, not only because we must find vegan alternatives for numerous items, but also because we need to "relocate" our nonvegan belongings. How completely and quickly we are able to accomplish this depends on our economic circumstances, our access to vegan options, and our willingness to part with items that still are functional or have sentimental value. Each vegan must make this choice individually, as there is no single best way to handle the transition.
Because veganism deals with reverence for life, it makes sense that you would feel uncomfortable keeping your nonvegan possessions or giving them to other people to use, as either choice could seem like a betrayal of your newfound convictions. At the same time, veganism demands compassion -- not only for animals and people who agree with us, but also for all life, especially those with the greatest need and the least resources.
The freedom to discard food or belongings in reasonable condition is a luxury. When there are countless people going hungry, living in poverty, and subsisting without the bare necessities we liberally take for granted, tossing our usable possessions in the trash not only is wasteful, but it borders on indifference as well. These are not qualities that mold the vegan experience. If anything, they contradict it.
Leather products are designed to endure a long time. If well cared for, they will last many years as footwear or apparel and will take scores of decades to decompose in a landfill. What purpose would be served by "throwing them out," other than providing a purging of our conscience, when others could use them?
Wearing and using animal products when viable alternatives exist and we have the funds to buy them certainly would present a facade of endorsement and contradict basic vegan values. Pitching them when they still have many years of wear remaining, however, would be insensitive and self-serving. When we give our nonvegan items to those in need, we exhibit a paradigm of kindness that is the fundamental core of vegan convictions -- caring about others, whomever those others may be, including our fellow humans.