On “Byproducts” of Animal Exploitation
Chris sent an interesting video that demonstrates the connections between/among various industries that exist to exploit sentient nonhumans. It’s not graphic the way you’re used to seeing graphic, and it’s actually used for promotional purposes and is available on the Fur Commission‘s site.
This video reminds me of when people excuse their leather shoes by saying they’re a byproduct of the cattle industry and that they’re environmentally friendly because, thanks to the demand for leather goods, there is less waste. I like the Guardian’s “Don’t Hide From the Truth,” which among other things states:
Take ostrich, for example – in South Africa, ostrich farms are a developing industry. But there, the conventional picture is reversed: the skins account for some 80% of the slaughtered bird’s value, and it is the meat that is sold as a byproduct. Again, if the bird’s death doesn’t bother you there’s no moral problem, but don’t kid yourself that the leather would have gone to waste if someone didn’t buy it.
Another oddity is that demand is rising for organic or free-range meats, as an increasing number (though still a tiny minority) of people try to source their food as ethically as possible. Yet many of these same people will happily buy cheap leather. This makes no sense: if you won’t tuck into a steak that came from a miserable animal, why buy its skin? Given much of the leather we use comes from countries where animal welfare is firmly at the bottom of the list of priorities, don’t imagine your handbag previously led a happy life.
The softest, most luxurious leather comes from the skin of newborn or even unborn calves, cut prematurely out of their mother’s wombs. Sometimes it will be from the same veal calves whose lives of misery are well documented. Many committed carnivores draw the line at veal: why then wear calfskin?
Then there’s the Clothing Information Sheet, which I really must send to a friend in NYC who this weekend told me she’s been eating better and paying closer attention to her purchasing decisions. “See, this sweater? It’s not wool–it’s cashmere. That’s good right?” I love her intentions. She just needs a bit more education.
When I first read the following on the Information Sheet I was a bit peeved: “Finding alternatives to leather is not quite as easy as finding alternative vegetarian foods, but we should certainly do what we can.” But I know that in my own life (as I’ve written previously), and particularly when it comes to dress shoes for me and also for my husband, shoes have been a bit of a headache. Not a huge problem, but definitely not as accessible as vegan food. We just returned from NYC where we both found what we needed at Mooshoes (the Elizabeth for me and I believe the 3-eyed brown gibson for him), however the shoes purchased were not the ones we were looking at online and we probably also would have ordered the wrong sizes.
Does that make it difficult to be a vegan? More like inconvenient at times, depending on your lifestyle. But certainly not a crisis.
But back to the video and arguments like it: I assume most regular readers don’t agree with the byproduct argument/excuse/rationale. But what do you say to people who give it to you? And what about recycled leather products, such as Ashley Watson‘s? Where do you stand on that?