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I’d Rather Go Naked Than Wear Leather

I always found it odd that once fall rolled around each year, so did the anti-fur campaigns. You know, naked people all around the world claiming they’d rather strip down than wear fur. Or something like that.

But what about leather, which is worn year round on the feet of most of the US population, and which covers the innards of most cars on our highways? Where are all the anti-leather campaigns? Far more people "enjoy" the skin of the cow on their belts, purses, wallets, and jackets, and both men and women wear said skin as frequently as daily, so where’s the uproar?

This morning I read that Passion for Leather Has Made Cowhides a Hot Item, and though I think I was supposed to be upset for Skip Horween of the Horween Leather Company in Chicago, a small-time operation that provides the leather used to make NFL footballs that’s suffering because of high overseas demand for leather, I didn’t weep for him. It’s always unfortunate when a tiny number of behemoth corporations takes over an industry and pushes the little guys out by undercutting their prices and forging into markets the little guys cannot afford to expand to. But it’s tough to muster up the requisite compassion when, "Each week semi trucks bring pallets of cowhides to the factory, where Horween’s 130-member staff removes the hair and uses dyes, oils, and machines to turn them into soft leather."

Think about leather, for a moment. Ponder skinning your cat or dog, removing his hair, and greasing and pummeling his skin until Fido is supple enough to be formed and stitched into a shoe or the seat of your car. Isn’t it odd to wear skin on your skin? Or wear skin over your socks, which are over your skin? It’s clearly unnecessary to wear the skin of another, so why do we continue to do it?

Furthermore, why do most vegetarians, who eschew meat, eat dairy and wear leather? Isn’t there a disconnect there? I used to find vegetarianism acceptable, but now I find it baffling. What is the rationale for the imaginary line? If you’re going to wear the cow’s skin, you cannot, without drawing a gut-bursting laugh from those you speak to, talk of reducing suffering, the environmental costs of eating animals, or how unnecessary it is to eat animals.

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Campaigners should be clear that the avoidance of all animal-derived clothing is important. Indeed, the anti-fur position makes ethical sense only as part of the broader position that animals were not put on this earth for us (to paraphrase Alice Walker) any more than women for men or blacks for whites. The avoidance of fur products just becomes one example in that line of reasoning.

    With that essential point in mind, fur, as a category of use to be abolished, is distinguishable in one way which you might wish to consider. The article you link touches on this when it says, "Demand for leather is growing around the world, and leather makers in China, South Korea, and elsewhere are buying huge numbers of U.S. hides. That has driven up prices and reduced supplies — good news for the U.S. beef industry, but not so good for domestic leather companies."

    The key term is ~beef industry~, of which leather is a product. It is, in that sense, automatically opposed when one opposes the domestication and commodification of nonhuman animals in agribusiness. Leather is part of the general problem with domestication for that major industry.

    Pelts are not necessarily derived from domesticated animals but are taken from trapped or captive animals who, were the industry abolished, could enjoy autonomy. Chinchillas, lynx, foxes, seals, beavers, and rabbits (if let alone in their own territories) are able to enjoy freedom in their natural biocommunities. That is, they are animals who really could have what we mean by "animal rights" which is freedom to live on their own terms without human interference or control.

    It will be important for abolitionism to develop in a way that sees the importance of freedom — which necessarily involves habitat.

    To date, both animal-husbandry and animal-rights paradigms have focused overmuch on the hens in cages and the capacities of animals who've been systemtically forced to adapt, physically and mentally, to human settings. This has perhaps led to some confusion about what animal rights really means, understood in its simplest and best light. We need not decide what can be done within animal agribusiness that will lead to abolition (for nothing will, as long as those animals stay within those systems of commerce); rather, we need to opt out of the industry entirely, so that the domesticated animals therein can be phased out.

    If animal rights means anything, at its core it means the right to be let alone: to simply ~be~. Thus, animal rights will not be found on the farm. It will be found in the air, in the waterways, in the forests, swamps and deserts. Abolitionist theory should influence and radically revise humanity’s current environmentalist paradigm.

    May 7, 2007
  2. Canaduck #

    I have no idea why people against fur or meat would WEAR leather, but I will tell you exactly why one can campaign against fur and not leather. When you're campaigning against fur, you're trying to convince a generally omnivorous public not to kill animals solely for their skin. Of course there are issues of cruelty involved, but the fact remains that if we were eating fur animals, it would be a lot tougher to convince people that it's stupid to wear their fur. When it comes to leather, there is generally a twofold issue; that is, we are killing cows for food and then we are wearing their skins. To make leather seem wrong to most people, you have to get them to stop eating beef first. It would be wasteful to kill cows and then throw away their skins, and that's about as much as most people can understand.

    May 21, 2007

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