LEATHER, FUR, AND FASHION
Question 60: What is wrong with leather
and how can we do without it?
Most leather goods are made from the byproducts of the slaughterhouse,
some is purpose-made, i.e., the animal is grown and slaughtered purely
its skin. So, by buying leather products, you will be contributing to the
profits of these establishments and augmenting the economic demand for
The Nov/Dec 1991 issue of the Vegetarian Journal has this to say about
leather: "Environmentally turning animal hides into leather is an
intensive and polluting practice. Production of leather basically involves
soaking (beamhouse), tanning, dyeing, drying, and finishing. Over 95 percent
of all leather produced in the U.S. is chrome-tanned. The effluent that
be treated is primarily related to the beamhouse and tanning operations.
most difficult to treat is effluent from the tanning process. All wastes
containing chromium are considered hazardous by the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA). Many other pollutants involved in the processing
of leather are associated with environmental and health risks. In terms
disposal, one would think that leather products would be biodegradable,
the primary function for a tanning agent is to stabilize the collagen or
protein fibers so that they are no longer biodegradable."
For alternatives to leather, consult the excellent Leather Alternatives
maintained by Tom Swiss (email@example.com).
Question 61: I can accept that trapping is
inhumane, but what about fur ranches?
Leaving aside the raw fact that the animals must sacrifice their
lives for human vanity, we are left with many objections to fur ranching.
A common misconception about fur "ranches" is that the animals
suffer. This is entirely untrue. These animals suffer a life of misery
and frustration, deprived of their most basic needs. They are kept in
wire-mesh cages that are tiny, overcrowded, and filthy. Here they are
malnourished, suffer contagious diseases, and endure severe stress.
On these farms, the animals are forced to forfeit their natural
instincts. Beavers, who live in water in the wild, must exist on cement
floors. Minks in the wild, too, spend much of their time in water,
which keeps their salivation, respiration, and body temperature
stable. They are also, by nature, solitary animals. However, on these
farms, they are forced to live in close contact with other animals.
This often leads to self-destructive behavior, such as pelt and tail
biting. They often resort to cannibalism.
The methods used on these farms reflect not the interests and welfare
of the animals but the furriers' primary interest--profit. The end of
the suffering of these animals comes only with death, which, in order
to preserve the quality of the fur, is inflicted with extreme cruelty
and brutality. Engine exhaust is often pumped into a box of animals.
This exhaust is not always lethal, and the animals sometimes writhe in
pain as they are skinned alive. Another common execution practice,
often used on larger animals, is anal electrocution. The farmers attach
clamps to an animal's lips and insert metal rods into its anus. The
animal is then electrocuted. Decompression chambers, neck snapping,
and poison are also used.
The raising of animals by humans to serve a specific purpose cannot
discount or excuse the lifetime of pain and suffering that these
Cruelty is one fashion statement we can all do without.
Rue McClanahan (actress)
The recklessness with which we sacrifice our sense of decency to
maximize profit in the factory farming process sets a pattern for cruelty
to our own kind.
Jonathan Kozol (author)
see also question 12, 14, 48-49
Question 62: Anything wrong with wool, silk,
What's wrong with wool? Scientists over the years have bred a Merino
which is exaggeratedly wrinkled. The more wrinkles, the more wool.
Unfortunately, greater profits are rarely in the sheep's best interests.
Australia, more wrinkles mean more perspiration and greater susceptibility
fly-strike, a ghastly condition resulting from maggot infestation in the
sweaty folds of the sheep's over-wrinkled skin. To counteract this, farmers
perform an operation without anesthetic called "mulesing", in
of flesh around the anus are sliced away, leaving a painful, bloody wound.
Without human interference, sheep would grow just enough wool to
protect them from the weather, but scientific breeding techniques have
ensured that these animals have become wool-producing monstrosities.
Their unnatural overload of wool (often half their body weight) brings
added misery during summer months when they often die from heat exhaustion.
Also, one million sheep die in Australia alone each year from exposure
to cold after shearing.Every year, in Australia alone, about ten million
lambs die before they are more than a few days old. This is due largely
to unmanageable numbers of sheep and inadequate stockpersons.
Of UK wool, 27 percent is "skin wool", pulled from the skins
of slaughtered sheep and lambs.
What's wrong with silk? It is the practice to boil the cocoons that
contain the living moth larvae in order to obtain the silk. This produces
longer silk threads than if the moth was allowed to emerge. The silkworm
certainly feel pain and will recoil and writhe when injured.
What's wrong with down? The process of live-plucking is widespread. The
terrified birds are lifted by their necks, with their legs tied, and then
have all their body feathers ripped out. The struggling geese sustain
injuries and after their ordeal are thrown back to join their fellow victims
until their turn comes round again. This torture, which has been described
"extremely cruel" by veterinary surgeons, and even geese breeders,
when the geese are only eight weeks old. It is then repeated at eight-week
intervals for two or three more sessions. The birds are then slaughtered.
The "lucky" birds are plucked dead, i.e., they are killed first