24 February, 2008

Are Feathers And Shells Vegan?

Hey All,
This is PM here to give my answer to a question many of you will be asking as summer draws closer. You want to know if using / buying / collecting shells / feathers is vegan. Short answer: NO!!!!!

Here's the part when some one says "But PM, why not? It doesn't hurt the birds or the sea creatures. They weren't gonna use them. Can't I take what is essentially their trash and recycle it?"
To understand why it's not vegan to use shells and feathers maybe it would be prudent to have a small science lesson.

Shells - Lets expand our definition of shells, because lets face it from sea shells to tortoise shells there are alot of varieties we could talk about. To quote wikipedia "A shell is a hard, rigid outer layer developed by a wide variety of different animal species, including mollusks, crustaceans, turtles and tortoises, armadillos, and microscopic organisms.Shells are used for protection, locomotion, defence, structure or in ways that relate to feeding."

Please note the "mysterious" absence of uses like decoration, or to entertain bored humans. Like most things in nature shells have a role to play, some animals use abandoned shells for shelter, and even if the shells aren't used over time they are weathered down and reworked into other parts of the natural world that created them. similarly...

Feathers- Feathers insulate birds from water and cold temperatures. The individual feathers in the wings and tail play important roles in controlling flight.
As to what the feathers just laying around are for, well to put it simply: They're for the birds. Birds will often use found feathers in making nests.
now the tricky part about feathers is that found feathers aren't the only sort you're likely to come across.

Don't forget down: the following info on down comes from Veganpeace.com : Most down is plucked out of live geese. The geese are put through extreme agony when pluckers tear out several ounces of their feathers. about 5 weeks after having been plucked, the geese will have grown new feathers and are sent through a machine which will pluck their longest feathers. After this they will go to the slaughterhouse.

The Point
: The animals don't make their feathers and shells for us to use. Using them is making the statement that it is ok to use animals and their creations. It supports the idea that they are commodities. Besides... I could be wrong but doesn't the whole concept of Veganism center on not using animal products if it is in our power to chose an alternative? There is no life or death choice involved in this case. Because, where shells and feathers are concerned, it is always in our power to seek an alternative, it's never vegan to use them.

As always this is just my sensible opinion and not the universal one,
Yours as long as wanted,


  1. I've been vegan for 12 years. I also have collected sea shells on the beach, and feathers left in the grass.

    Your argument is so prohibitive, that it is approaching puritanical religion. It's important to remember that veganism isn't a religion or about being 'pure' and 100% animal free... That's impossible. I could make arguments against all agriculture with the same logic you make against collecting shells - it disrupts the soil, insects are killed, etc.

    We are not "separate" from nature - our aim shouldn't be to completely remove ourselves from the natural world, but to change our relationship with it as to be less destructive.

    Frankly, I wouldn't want to live on a planet where I couldn't interact with fellow animals.

    1. I agree with this person.. I have been vegan for nearly 4 yrs now.. I love collecting EMPTY sea shells on the coast and finding feathers on the ground to use in dream catchers.. i am not stealing a shell or removing the living being that once inhabited it and I am not plucking feathers off of birds. It drives me nuts that some people take veganism to an extreme, but yet wonder why non-vegans are so turned off by the idea. Our goal is to stop the cruelty. Make this a peaceful world where we can tread lighter and be kinder to the creatures we share this planet with... and if people want to go collect feathers off the ground rather than purchase them from a store where they get them by harming birds.. i would encourage it!

    2. I agree!! Collecting empty seashells isn't going to deplenish the oceans of sand -__- plenty more shellfish are born each day than die, so the ocean is never going to run out of shells...and the birds can definetely make their nests without the use of fallen feathers.

    3. It’s called survival of the fittest

  2. I'm kind of with anonymous here. I think you're awesome and like your blog a lot, but I can't believe that collecting a few shells from the beach or a few feathers from the grass would really qualify as non-vegan. I totally agree with you, however, in that we shouldn't be BUYING shells or feathers, because who knows where they came from?

  3. I don't think we should be buying or selling feathers or shells, but there is nothing exploitative about collecting one that isn't in use. Many animals use rocks for shelter, but I don't believe it is unvegan to collect rocks. So I respectfully disagree with your position.

  4. Under this logic, it seems like all animal waste would also be un-vegan to use.

    I agree that buying/selling them can be problematic.

  5. i wear feathers in my hair. i'm vegan.

    i do not purchase feathers. and agree with down and the mistreatment of animals to collect their remains. but if i find something, i think of it as a promise to the animals.

  6. ***correction***
    i wear feathers in my hair. i'm vegan.

    i do not purchase feathers.

    and agree with YOU ABOUT down and the mistreatment of animals to collect their remains.

    but if i find something, i think of it as a promise to the animals.

    1. I agree with you!! I'm vegan and I pick up feathers from the ground when I find them....When we die, animals will eat our flesh and bones without a second thought. Just saying. At least we can treat them well and protect them while there is breath in our bodies.

    2. I agree with you!! I'm vegan and I pick up feathers from the ground when I find them....When we die, animals will eat our flesh and bones without a second thought. Just saying. At least we can treat them well and protect them while there is breath in our bodies.

  7. Outtathiswhirld6/5/11 9:33 PM

    @Plant_Murderer i LOVE this post---actually, i just referenced it in a new vegan blog i started.
    here's the link if u wanna check it out!

  8. you can get vegan feathers at Montabahn on Etsy:


    from site:

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    Perfect for Burlesque, Drag, Weddings, Decorations, Hats, Accessories, Fashion, Burning Man, Festivals, Bachelorette Parties and more!

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  9. We have a human hair loop 'n' lock alternative to hair feathers. You can now get the look without the cruelty! You will get two feathers for the price of $15.00 ready to install. These are also 20" in length, so you can cut them to the appropriate length. We have grizzily and solid colors availible.

  10. Windsurf188/10/11 2:24 PM

    I didn't realize collecting shells from the beach is against veganism, which I follow.  Should I return the shells I have back to the beach where I found them?

  11. Ummm. Just curious, but all of these vegan alternatives...what are they made of? Is there plastic in ANY of them? Any idea how harmful plastic is on the environment and all of the animals that live on this earth, including ourselves??
    Surely picking up a feather that is no longer being used by a bird or a shell that has washed up on the beach and using that is better than using a manufactured alternative that required polluting fossil fuels to manufacture and transport to you. Plus, when you are finished with the shell or feather it can then be discarded and will return to the earth as you say...plastic never goes away. Instead, most of it makes its way to the ocean where fish and birds eat it thinking it's a bit of plankton or little fish and they end up dying because they can't process it.

    Think about it. If you are such a strict vegan that you won't even pick up a feather because it might inconvenience a bird or the dirt then you better not even think of using anything made of plastic, driving a car, or doing anything else that harms our planet.

  12. I agree with all the Anonymous posters. By the logic of this article, we could not eat fruit or vegetables or grain. The tree does not produce fruit for humans to consume and profit from - it produces fruit in order to produce more trees. The same with all other growing things. They are not ours, they belong to the earth, and yet we eat from them. And in the case of plants, we don't take the discarded and unwanted pieces. We pluck the living plant. While I respect your opinion, I feel it's faulty logic.

    1. Fruit is made to be edible to animals so that the seeds spread though the waste we produce ( if we actually pooped in the ground) so technically as we are part of this planet we have has much right to eat what other animals eat too - the point is we have a CHOICE not to cause undue suffering and not to take more than we need / truly desire. :) x

  13. Whilst I see where this is coming from, we are as much animal and have the *right* to use animal waste as others - I feel here is to just trust what FEELS right and if you don't feel good about doing it, don't do it. The Soul knows best! :) x

  14. How about nuts? Cuz for some of you that would be cannibalism.

  15. From my experience birds only use the fluffy down feathers for their nests. If this is the case then picking up the other feathers doesn't do any harm. Even collecting down feathers can be morally acceptable if they are collected in Autumn and Winter then thrown outside for the birds in spring when they are needed for nests.

  16. sorry but this is crap. here is my take on it, as a parrot owner which OP clearly is not. My birds molt. they no longer need that. its necessary.If I do not help them (help preen the tops of their heads) they would be in discomfort. I rescue birds, so often they have issues and cant necessarily behave the way they would in the wild including preening them selves. a lot of abused or stressed captive birds have feather picking issues which is not only a sign of emotional issues but could be indicative and or CAUSE physical issues as well. To a serial over plucker, like one of mine, having her molt feathers in her cage may cause her to pluck more either because she feels unconfident, or because she thinks feather loss is necessary she will do it to the extreme. its very damaging. I love my birds and i keep every single one of their molt.

    it is very common for us to use them to make crafts and such because we love them so much and frankly we want to share their mystifying beauty. it is also VERY common for people and rescues to SELL that product to benefit the rescues.

    "its not ours for the taking"? .. i didnt tell the bird that landed in my dads hair who wanted his gray hairs for their nest that, i dont tell the birds that took the discarded scraps to make the nest, and no one told the bees that flowers weren't for their taking. saying this is wrong is like saying brushing the shed of your dog or cant is cruel. which is simply moronic. this is CAST OFF pain free bi product.

    bottom line is, is just because you're using it and its not necessary or vital doesnt mean its evil. just because it isnt granted permission doesnt make it wrong. the animals literally have no concept of that.

    if you want to split hairs there are many acts of giving that animals do... including gifting of themselves. my birds preen me and offer me their molt. just FYI. maybe gain some actual knowledge. OH and btw im sure animals shit pee etc all over every damn blade of grass, so you cant say you're all vegan either. face it your consuming it daily, breathing it in. eating peanut butter had bug particles. so you cant be so damn quick to judge.

    1. Your situation is obviously different. The OP is talking about taking these items from outside when another animal needs it more. There is of course a big difference between any creature taking something they need to survive, verses us taking a thing for mild amusement or profit that someone else needs to survive. I'm not completely on board with this mentality as a vegan. I think this would be too puritanical and off-putting to non-vegans but I do see her point and will think twice about collecting things mindlessly from the outdoors. It's just not a concept I would want to share with non-vegans who don't yet understand veganism.

      Buying these items is never ethical as they were probably forcibly removed from a captive and likely slaughtered animal. I think most people haven't yet made the connection that feather accessories and down are as cruel as real fur. It really bothers me when I see people wearing things with feathers.

  17. My bottom line is that I don't want to do anything that will hurt or manipulate animals. I became a vegan because of my love for animals. I care more about animals' well-being than if I have feathers or shells to wear – items that I don't need in my life. It's just a choice I've made in my life because of my love for animals. What other people do is their business.

  18. Animals' parts are not things to wear. They are parts of animals. I thought vegans all agreed that their bodies are not ours to wear? Why is there an exception for feathers and shells? So weird. I wouldn't wear human skin from a dead human just 'cause it isn't serving a purpose anymore. Wtf people, do animals equate to "things" and "parts" for your wanton consumption, or don't they? If you don't know, don't go around spreading lies about what veganism is, please.