Ethical Walking Wear

21 03 2016

I’m not aiming to make this a preachy post – you can wear whatever you like on the hill and it’s nothing to do with me. I don’t write many posts on walking gear as I’m not much of a gear freak but, during conversations about it, I often find that many walkers have no idea what their chosen product might entail during production. So, in case you’re using products which are cruel to creatures and are not aware of why and how but would care if you found out, this post aims to address that.

I’d been mulling over whether to write this post for quite a while and, during a conversation at my friend’s house over Christmas, a comment she made made me think I should. Basically, she’d been on a shopping trip to York with her son and they’d bought some merino clothing… but they had no idea what merino was, never mind anything about its production. They didn’t even know what animal it came from! My friend isn’t stupid either as she is a solicitor with a good law degree…

Everywhere you look now in outdoors shops it’s Merino this or Smartwool that. I’m truly surprised about all the claims which are being made for merino wool. It is no superior to British wool – the claims they make are true of any sheepswool so, if buying in England, surely we should be loyal to our struggling hillfarmers?

There are many claims made for Merino/smartwool but those attributes are simply those of any natural wool product. If your Merino is coming from Australia rather than New Zealand it is not generally ethically produced as it involves ‘mulesing’ the sheep. See the link below for further information and then go back to supporting our home farms!

While there are some (rare) neglectful sheep farmers in the British uplands, there are no cruel practices in the production of wool here. But our farmers are paid so little for their wool, they generally lose money on the shearing and often just try to burn or bury the stuff. A little support for their product and all that wastage could be avoided.

A quick note on PETA (whom I generally support) and their campaign against wool. They are claiming that shearing is cruel to sheep. In some countries it may be carried out brutally but no British farmer would allow any kind of rough handling to his sheep during shearing and, once the sheep have been settled, they are relaxed and at ease. They also ‘buck’ and prance with joy when they leave the pen much lighter and cooler!

Contrary to shearing being cruel, it is actually cruel NOT to shear sheep. Their fleece is heavy, cumbersome and exceedingly warm – great in winter but horrific on a hot summer’s day. If I saw a farmer hadn’t sheared by at least August here (or sooner in a warm summer) I’d report him!

The Ethical Man on Merino

I think almost everyone thinks down is a product of the poultry meat trade – not so! Down is generally ripped from a live bird, usually a goose. This is done pretty quickly and without concern for the pain caused to the animal and often causes severe tearing of their flesh. Of course, this isn’t just done once but regularly – the poor birds must dread seeing someone approaching…

Is your down coat cruel?

Leather is another product thought to emanate only as a byproduct from the meat industry. While much of it is, unfortunately, the demand for leather has become so high that is no longer so. Think sofas, car seats etc – these use huge amounts. Many animals are bred and killed just for leather. Regrettably, this often takes place in countries who have no animal welfare standards whatsoever, e.g. China, and the maximum cruelty is involved in the slaughter.


What about hiking boots I hear you cry? They need to be good, strong, waterproof leather for proper hillwalking. Well there is an excellent vegan option. I use a company called ‘Vegetarian Shoes’ for my boots (link below). I have always used the Veggie Trekker 4 but this has now been upgraded to the Veggie Trekker 5 which I haven’t tried yet but looks even better – one new addition is a rand all the way around just above the sole which will help up the waterproofness even more.

The boots can be ‘Dubbined’ or similar but are naturally waterproof until a couple of years down the line when they start to get scuffed and worn if used heavily (which mine are). These are superbly comfortable and supportive boots and I’ve used them for about 20 years – I’m on my third pair now and one pair did all the Munros with me in addition to much walking on the rocky paths of the Lake District.

They are compatible with flexible/articulated crampons and I’ve used them year-round. They’re lighter than leather too and I’ve only ever had sweaty feet in them on very hot days in summer (pretty rare over here). I’d say the price is pretty average for a good pair of walking boots…

Vegetarian Shoes Veggie Trekker Mk 5

Now then ladies… do you come back from a walk with what you might optimistically call a ‘healthy glow’ in your cheeks? i.e. they’re bright red? Well don’t! This is no healthy glow, it is massive skin damage! Nor does it generally come from the sun in the UK – mostly this is wind damage or from the cold. Drying of your skin by the cold and the winds here is, in my opinion, far more ageing than any sun damage you might encounter in Britain.

While I don’t wear make-up or such things on the hill, I will not set foot outside without a bloody good moisturiser – winter or summer but especially in winter! As I age, I apply ever thicker and stronger products. Freezing and drying of skin is absolutely fatal to your future looks – you’ll end up with thread-veined cheeks and wrinkles galore.

I’m very careful whose facial or other cosmetic products I use as I refuse to use anything tested on animals – either the ingredients or the product. A lot of firms tell you nowadays that they don’t animal test – these are basically misleading you… Nearly all the major brands still have their products tested on animals and the tests are horrific.

Many tests use rabbits – supposedly one of our favourite pets. This is because they can’t produce tears – this gives them the special ‘privilege’ of having chemical products dripped into their eyes as they can’t wash it away. This shows the lovely people doing the tests how much damage the product will do if not washed out of an eye. The same things are done to animals’ skin after being shaven – again, mostly bunnies. Celebrate the evening back in their cages they most certainly do not – it’s merely a brief respite before they have to face more torture!

There is a huge risk in using animal testing for cosmetics anyway – due to species difference, that means that essentially products which were animal tested haven’t been tested for use on humans. There are plenty of modern scientific methods available but, of course, they cost more which is why major firms ignore them – animals are cheap unfortunately.

Why can these companies still claim non-animal testing of their products? Because they either test the ingredients rather than the finished product or get someone else (like the helpful Chinese) to do testing for them. If an outside company does the testing for them, they’re not responsible right? 😦

There are animal charities who do lists of companies who produce ethical cosmetics which aren’t animal tested. PETA produce a guide but it can be a bit Americanised and not a lot of help over here, although many companies are, of course, multi-national.

A great guide I use is produced by a British animal charity called ‘Naturewatch’. These produce regular guides and cover all products from cosmetics to household chemicals. The guides aren’t free (after all, they are a charity and it takes a lot to fact-find and produce them) and are paper-based booklets rather than online information.

Naturewatch Compassionate Shopping Guide

Or you can look for the ‘leaping bunny’ logo which means the anti-vivisection charity BUAV have approved it. This is widely used and looks like this:

leaping bunny

Some of these products can be difficult to source if you’re like me and don’t generally shop online. However, one High Street chain is fine if you stick to their own products and that is Marks and Spencers. These are reasonably priced too. The product I’m currently using on my face in the outdoors is on the link below:

Marks & Spencers moisturiser with SPF25.

Nowadays this is slightly tinted but I can live with that…



10 responses

29 04 2017
fake leather

I really love your post. I read your blog
fairly frequently and you’re always coming out with some amazing things.
I discussed this on my FB and my followers only loved
it. Keep up the great work!


28 03 2016

And then there’s the ethical issue of now you treat the people involved in the manufacture of outdoor. It’s a total minefield but at least Paramo make an effort. Sweatshop labour is still the order of the day in the rag trade.


28 03 2016

I wonder if there’s two sides to the ‘sweatshop labour’ debate though – they interviewed some workers who worked in one of those factories and it was in a country of very low employment (and of course no social support for non-workers). They said they were grateful to have work as otherwise they would have to beg or starve. It would be nice if we could be totally ethical though and I know Paramo do make an effort – which is probably why their stuff is expensive. I have quite a bit of their outerwear though and really like it.


26 03 2016
Blue Sky Scotland

No, you misunderstand. I do wear moisturizer, coloured cheek blusher, and tinted lip gloss on the hills as looking after yourself is very important :o)


26 03 2016

Well I’m upset now ‘cos you didn’t put make-up on when you came on my compleation walk up Ben Lui! 😉


23 03 2016
Blue Sky Scotland

As I normally go for the cheapest deal possible I never have to worry about wool products or down just leather boots. An interesting post though. I’m always bright red if its sunny up the hills and proud of it :o)


23 03 2016

I think it’s classed as okay for men to look rugged and leathery (still skin damage though) 😉


22 03 2016
Mark Adams

Good post. Thanks.


22 03 2016

Hi Carol, very informative post. Plenty of information that was new to me. Liked the looks of the Veggie Trekker. Looks like a solid boot. Bob


22 03 2016

My Mk4 Veggie Trekkers have been absolutely superb. I still have all 3 pairs just the treads have worn down on the very oldest ones now and it isn’t worth getting them retreaded so I just use them for non-hill walks.


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