Practical - Index >
To Do - Index >
60. What is wrong with leather and
how can we do without it?
61. I can accept that trapping is inhumane, but what about
62. Anything wrong with wool, silk, down?
Additional topics: Wearing leather
#60 What is wrong with
leather and how can we do without it?
Most leather goods are made from the byproducts of the slaughterhouse,
and some is purpose-made, i.e., the animal is grown and slaughtered purely
for its skin. So, by buying leather products, you will be contributing
to the profits of these establishments and augmenting the economic demand
The Nov/Dec 1991 issue of the Vegetarian Journal has this to say about
leather: "Environmentally turning animal hides into leather is an
energy 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 must be treated is primarily related to the beamhouse
and tanning operations. The 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 of disposal, one would think that leather products
would be biodegradable, but the primary function for a tanning agent is
to stabilize the collagen or protein fibers so that they are no longer
For alternatives to leather, consult the excellent Leather Alternatives
FAQ maintained by Tom Swiss ([email protected]). --DG
Back to Questions
#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
do not 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
The raising of animals by humans to serve a specific purpose cannot
discount or excuse the lifetime of pain and suffering that these animals
"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: #12,
Back to Questions
#62 Anything wrong with
wool, silk, down?
What's wrong with wool? Scientists over the years have bred a Merino
sheep which is exaggeratedly wrinkled. The more wrinkles, the more wool.
Unfortunately, greater profits are rarely in the sheep's best interests.
In Australia, more wrinkles mean more perspiration and greater susceptibility
to 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 which sections 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
still 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 can 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
as "extremely cruel" by veterinary surgeons, and even geese
breeders, begins 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
The "lucky" birds are plucked dead, i.e., they are killed
first and then plucked. --MT
Back to Questions