So I am a BIG fan of Southwest Trading Company. I love knitting with their yarn, I love the colors, and I love the fact that they seem to use a lot of eco-friendly materials, such as bamboo and soy.
I've been really excited about trying out the Tofutsies yarn. Pretty colors, and come on, it's sock yarn! I love sock yarn. Even before I liked knitting socks I liked sock yarn. It's a weird thing.
Anyway, a discussion on Ravelry led me to the realization that Tofutsies actually uses shrimp and crab shells. Now, I have been a vegetarian since 1992/93. I don't tend to wear leather, but I will if it's used, or necessary. ie, there is not a good vegetarian substitute. For example, my skates. I don't LIKE the fact that they're leather, but I just could not find a vinyl alternative that would make me comfortable in the derby world. I know that other girls have, I just couldn't. Also when it comes to horses. They do not make good "pleather" saddles. It is another thing that just does not happen. However, when I have purchased saddles, I've purchased them used. Starkey the mini horse has a mini saddle that has been around since the early 1950's. A good saddle can last a hell of a long time if treated properly. Do I feel twinges of guilt about it? Sometimes. I like cows. I think they are sweet, cuddly, and have really cute faces. I don't like it when they die. Which is why I don't eat them, will always and forever lobby for cruelty free resources for goods, but when those cruelty free resources are unavailable, then I take what is available. Besides, I at least feel, in the case of my used leather goods, that I did not help contribute to the leather industry. Our house is a vegetarian safe home. Dan eats meat, but we have separate pans for it. You can not, in our house, use a "veggie safe" spatula to flip a burger. Once it has touched meat, it is not veggie safe anymore. You also can't say, at thanksgiving, use a spoon in gravy, or a fork on turkey, then try to use it in the veggie serving dish. once it touches, that dish is no longer veggie safe. I do know that when I go out to eat, those places aren't careful about that stuff. I just do what I can at home, and in my coffee shop, when we serve food, it's done veggie safe. (glove changes between veggies and meat, etc)
Now, that being said, my knee jerk reaction to Tofutsies yarn was, "oh hell no! I won't use that!" Which is okay. Because like I said, I LOVE so much of the other, cruelty free yarn that SWTC carries. But, after reading further on the discussion, with some input from one of the owners of SWTC himself, I realized that the shrimp and crab shells, called chitlin, were used in the yarn as a natural substitute to nylon. Not only that, these crab and shrimp shells were not harvested for the yarn, rather, they are the waste from crabs and shrimp used for food. Essentially, they are garbage. So this Tofutsies yarn is actually keeping the shells from going to waste. I am no expert, but a few claimed on Ravelry that the shells, left on their own, are actually bad for the earth. I don't know if that is actual fact, but I could consider that a good thing.
I like to think of myself as a fairly reasonable vegetarian. I don't eat meat when I know it's there. No gelatin, fish, etc. I am not a fan of PETA, simply because I don't like some of their marketing tactics. (women in lettuce bikinis, naked women in cages... funny how they never seem to feature a lot of marketing campaigns with naked men.) Also, I can not forget reading a piece of PETA literature aimed towards children, talking about how wool was cruel to sheep, and that sheep were slaughtered once they had been shaved. Um what? I grew up around sheep, pigs, and cows. There is no way anyone I knew wouldn't keep their sheep happy for as long as humanly possible to keep producing wool! I mean, you don't raze your field after one year of corn do you? I respect those that don't want to wear wool, or use animal products in any way. Just personally, I believe that sheep and alpaca producing beautiful wool and not being simply used for meat is a good thing.
Okay, I went of on a tangent there. What I'm basically trying to say is, I am not sure how I feel now about Tofutsies. I think the yarn is beautiful. But I don't want to see shrimp and crabs eaten and killed. But I do want to see us moving towards natural methods of producing fibers, so moving away from nylon is pretty rockin to me. (Though I feel like a bit of a hypocrite, since I will go through probably 50 pairs of derby nylon tights every year, and not feel the least bit bad about it) I also like that it's basically trash, being used to make yarn. That is kind of cool.
This is one I'm going to have to think on for a while.