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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I'm feeling a bit concerned at the moment. I'm a vegetarian. I also am studying the cello to play it professionally. My bow contains: leather, ivory, pearl and horse-hair. This is all standard for stringed-instrument bows. I can easily find alternatives for the leather, pearl and ivory, but the horse-hair is a bit more difficult (I'd have to buy a new bow to change the pearl as well and they're upwards of £1000 to even start getting near professional standard). I also want to specialise in baroque or historical performance. This means I may end up having to use strings made out of sheep gut if I can't find an alternative! The thought of playing on animal intestines makes me feel terrible, but it's my dream to pursue this career - I have been playing since I was 3 (I'm now 20). Does anyone else play stringed instruments? How do you deal with this situation?
 

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I don't have any tips, but I have been wondering about this myself so I'm interested to see the answers people give. I saw a folk concert last night and the guitarist had a violinist as accompaniment - her violin had horsehair strings and she was vegan.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Yeah, there's not really much you can do about the horse-hair, as I don't think there are any alternatives available that would work as well. I know it's silly, and it shouldn't make a difference, but I'm more concerned about the gut! I just think it's disgusting!
 

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Do what you can.

In a society and culture that has built its kingdom on the bones of animals, you can only remove yourself so much. The roads themselves contain animal products.

Perhaps find used but quality bows instead of new ones.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Most bows are second-hand; the good bows get handed down generation after generation, so I didn't 'buy' the animal products in the first place. However, the parts of the instrument like the hair and the strings need to be replaced regularly as they wear out or snap. I currently use steel strings on my modern cello, but if I were to play a baroque cello it would be more difficult to find animal-free strings, though I could try nylon core; don't know if they make the right sound though! I know; there's only so much you can do! I just wish it didn't involve intestines!
 

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If there are no alternatives and it's a choice between using animal products and giving up music which means so much to you, then use the animal products. Maybe in the future someone will develop better bows, strings, glue etc. that aren't made from animal products and then you can use those.

The Vegan Society's definition of a vegan - and this can apply to vegetarians and their use of animal products too - is: "A vegan is someone who tries to avoid - as far as is possible and practical - all forms of exploitation of animals for food, clothing or any other purpose. " Sometimes it is possible and practical to avoid animal products, such as buying non-leather shoes, but sometimes it isn't. Do your best to be cruelty-free, but if you don't have a choice that's not your fault.
 

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You have little choice here.

Play your music and give joy to the world.
Without any guilt.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Don't know about joy to the world - will have to do a bit more practise first! Cello teacher wasn't very impressed in my last lesson! Thanks for all the advice, I feel a bit better. I will definately investigate different string types, though, even if I do end up using gut. I'd like to feel I tried! And (when I can afford it on my student budget) I'm going to get the tip of my bow replaced with silver; I snapped the ivory a few years ago and it's now quite jagged. It wasn't a problem until I managed to poke my teacher in the eye with it!
 

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I agree with Diana ....not to certain if your issue with horse hair that comes from a horse that is slaughtered or hair from an animal that is alive and well looked after . If it really worries you , you could contact the suppliers . There might be some that use hair from a live animal .

Personally , I wouldn't worry about it .
 

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Quote:
Originally Posted by derwenna View Post

If there are no alternatives and it's a choice between using animal products and giving up music which means so much to you, then use the animal products. ... Do your best to be cruelty-free, but if you don't have a choice that's not your fault.
I agree with this 100%. You do your best. There are some things we just end up compromising on because the alternative isn't acceptable (bad sounds wouldn't be acceptable).
 

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Being that this is in the vegetarian forum I can't see what the problem is. As vegetarianism is mostly a dietary choice I would say that using animal products shouldn't trouble you.

If you are headed towards veganism though, I think you are obliged to do everything you can to move away from using animal products. Even using secondhand animal products perpetuates the attitude that it is the only way to do it.

Just because 'it's always been that way' does not mean it always has to be that way.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Thanks for all the encouraging posts! I am currently vegetarian, but have 'vegan leanings', so I don't consume much eggs or dairy, and try to cut out animal products when I can. I agree that things don't have to stay the way they areust because it's the way they have always been, but there really are no alternatives to the horse-hair. For the strings, you can get nylon cored ones, which I am willing to experiment on, but they don't act or sound the same as gut, so I'm wondering if it will hamper my career options if I don't play on gut. Anyway, plenty for me to be thinking about!
 

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you know, I wondered about this too. I don't play the cello at this time, but I have played the piano for 12+ years and I REALLY want to start playing the cello. Then I found out about the animal products involved and I had some second thoughts. I guess I'll have to think about it before/if I start, and I have some time since it's definitely not convenient for me at this moment!
 

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As a string player: I am in the same boat! There really is only so much we can do at times.. I am not about to NOT play anymore--violin is who I am.

I also have a bow that has silver, leather, ivory, mother of pearl and endangered wood from the rainforest.
And yes... I need to get all of my bows rehaired. Synthetic bowhair is just not acceptable, unfortunately. If it was, I'd be the first one to use it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 ·
I suppose it will probably get easier for us veggie string players; they are using much more synthetic materials now. Mind you, I think fibre-glass bows are too light for my liking (I snapped a bow once on a chord and so I like my bow to feel heavy-duty!), as I tried one before. I think the fibre-glass cellos and violins look really odd so I haven't got round to trying one yet! And if only it was the wood that was the problem, not the animal products, because then I could just use fibre-glass!
 

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You would have to learn to compensate. It's the intent that matters, I'm glad that you have a clear conscience. My suggestion would be to get second hand stuff as much possible and try to compensate by cutting-down on other animal products like diary, eggs and leather shoes (this one you can completely steer clear off).
 

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Hi everybody. I've enjoyed reading all your posts about this dilemma for ethical musicians. I'm sorry it's taken me 14 years to respond, but to be honest I've had nothing to add until now. My name is Padraig O'Dubhlaoidh, an Irish violinmaker working in Malvern, Worcestershire. I'm currently celebrating Veganuary with the launch of my Vegan society certified, hand made vegan violins. The first in the world. This has been a long labour of love for me and I'm proud to present my 100% Vegan handmade violins to the vegan community. After a long and difficult process, they have been certified by the Vegan society as free of animal products. There's more information on www.veganviolins.com
As for strings, there's no problem for modern musicians, as there are plenty of steel and nylon core alternatives, but for early musicians the nylon core strings that sound most like gut strings are Obligato brand strings from Pirastro. These come in 3 gauges, Soft, Medium and thick. Most people use Medium, but If your violin can deal with it, I think the Soft gauge would be even closer to the early music gut sound. I hope this is helpful.
Happy Veganuary, Padraig O'Dubhlaoidh.
 
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