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Leather, Fur Fashion FAQ; Fishing and Hunting FAQ
#60 What is wrong with leather and how can we do
#61 I can accept that trapping is inhumane, but what about fur
#62 Anything wrong with wool, silk, down?
#63 Humans are natural hunter/gatherers; aren't you trying to
repress natural human behavior?
#64 The world is made up of predators and prey; aren't we just
#65 Doesn't hunting control wildlife populations that would
otherwise get out of hand?
#66 Aren't hunting fees the major source of revenue for
wildlife management and habitat restoration?
#67 Isn't hunting OK as long as we eat what we kill?
#68 Fish are dumb like insects; what's wrong with fishing?
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 for slaughter.
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@example.com). --DG
can accept that trapping is inhumane, but what about fur ranches?
Link to Fur Factory Farming
Leaving aside the raw fact that the animals
must sacrifice their lives for human vanity, we are left with many objections to fur
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
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 animals endure.
"Cruelty is one fashion statement we can all do without."
"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)
#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
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 then slaughtered.
The "lucky" birds are plucked dead, i.e., they are killed
first and then plucked. --MT
HUNTING AND FISHING
#63 Humans are
natural hunter/gatherers; aren't you trying to repress natural human behavior?
Yes. Failing to
repress certain "natural behaviors" would create an uncivilized society.
Consider this: It would be an expression of natural behavior to hunt anything that moves
(e.g., my neighbor's dogs or horses) and to gather anything I desire (e.g., my employer's
money or furniture). It would even be natural behavior to indulge in unrestrained sexual
appetites or to injure a person in a fit of rage or jealousy.
In a civilized society, we restrain our natural impulses by two codes:
the written law of the land, and the unwritten law of morality. And this also applies to
hunting. It is unlawful in many places and at many times, and the majority of Americans
regard sport hunting as immoral. --DVH
Many would question the supposition that humans are natural hunters. In
many societies, the people live quite happily without hunting. In our own society, the
majority do not hunt, not because they are repressing their nature--they simply have no
desire to do so. Those that do hunt often show internal conflicts about it, as evidenced
by the myths and rituals that serve to legitimize hunting, cleanse the hunter, etc. This
suggests that hunting is not natural, but actually goes against a deeper part of our
nature, a desire not to do harm. --BL
-- Man's early hunting
role is in doubt. more:
"The squirrel that you kill in jest, dies in earnest."
David Thoreau (essayist and poet)
SEE ALSO: #37, #64-#67
#64 The world is
made up of predators and prey; aren't we just another predator?
No. Our behavior is far
worse than that of "just another predator". We kill others not just for
nourishment but also for sport (recreation!), for the satisfaction of our curiosity, for
fashion, for entertainment, for comfort, and for convenience. We also kill each other by
the millions for territory, wealth, and power. We often torture and torment others before
killing them. We conduct wholesale slaughter of vast proportions, on land and in the
oceans. No other species behaves in a comparable manner, and only humans are destroying
the balance of nature.
At the same time, our killing of nonhuman animals is unnecessary,
whereas nonhuman predators kill and consume only what is necessary for their survival.
They have no choice: kill or starve.
The one thing that really separates us from the other animals is our
moral capacity, and that has the potential to elevate us above the status of "just
another predator". Nonhumans lack this capacity, so we shouldn't look to them for
moral inspiration and guidance. --DVH
SEE ALSO: #37, #63, #67
hunting control wildlife populations that would otherwise get out of hand?
Starvation and disease are unfortunate, but they are nature's
way of ensuring that the strong survive. Natural predators help keep prey species strong
by killing only the sick and weak. Hunters, however, kill any animal they come across or
any animal they think would look good mounted above the fireplace--often the large,
healthy animals needed to keep the population strong. In fact, hunting creates the ideal
conditions for accelerated reproduction. The abrupt drop in population leads to less
competition among survivors, resulting in a higher birth rate. If we were really concerned
about keeping animals from starving, we would not hunt, but, rather, take steps to reduce
the animals' fertility. We would also preserve wolves, mountain lions, coyotes, and other
natural predators. In actuality, many predator species are killed in order to produce more
and more "game"; animals for hunters to kill.
often assert that their practices benefit their victims. A variation on the theme is their
common assertion that their actions keep populations in check so that animals do not die
of starvation ("a clean bullet in the brain is preferable to a slow death by
starvation"). Following are some facts and questions about hunting and "wildlife
management" that reveal what is really happening.
Game animals, such as deer, are physiologically adapted to cope with
seasonal food shortages. It is the young that bear the brunt of starvation. Among adults,
elderly and sick animals also starve. But the hunters do not seek out and kill only these
animals at risk of starvation; rather, they seek the strongest and most beautiful animals
(for maximum meat or trophy potential). The hunters thus recruit the forces of natural
selection against the species that they claim to be defending.
The hunters restrict their activities to only those species that are
attractive for their meat or trophy potential. If the hunters were truly concerned with
protecting species from starvation, why do they not perform their "service" for
the skunk, or the field mouse? And why is hunting not limited to times when starvation
occurs, if hunting has as a goal the prevention of starvation? (The reason that deer
aren't hunted in early spring or late winter--when starvation occurs--is that the
carcasses would contain less fat, and hence, be far less desirable to meat consumers.
Also, hunting then would be unpopular to hunters due to the snow, mud, and insects.)
So-called "game management" policies are actually programs
designed to eliminate predators of the game species and to artificially provide additional
habitat and resources for the game species. Why are these predator species eliminated when
they would provide a natural and ecologically sound mechanism for controlling the
population of game species? Why are such activities as burning, clear-cutting, chemical
defoliation, flooding, and bulldozing employed to increase the populations of game
animals, if hunting has as its goal the reduction of populations to prevent starvation?
The truth is that the management agencies actually try to attain a maximum sustainable
yield, or harvest, of game animals.
The wildlife managers and hunters preferentially kill male animals, a
policy designed to keep populations high. If overpopulation were really a concern, they
would preferentially kill females.
Another common practice that belies the claim that wildlife management
has as a goal the reduction of populations to prevent starvation is the practice of game
stocking. For example, in the state of New York the Department of Environmental
Conservation obtains pheasants raised in captivity and then releases them in areas
frequented by hunters.
For every animal killed by a hunter, two are seriously injured and left
to die a slow death. Given these statistics, it is clear that hunting fails even in its
proclaimed goal--the reduction of suffering.
The species targeted by hunters, both the game animals and their
predators, have survived in balance for millions of years, yet now wildlife managers and
hunters insist they need to be "managed". The legitimate task of wildlife
management should be to preserve viable, natural wildlife populations and ecosystems.
In addition to the animal toll, hunters kill hundreds of human beings
Finally, there is an ethical argument to consider. Thousands of human
beings die from starvation each and every day. Should we assume that the reader will one
day be one of them, and dispatch him straight away? Definitely not. AR ethics asserts that
this same consideration should be accorded to the deer. --DG
Unless hunting is part of a controlled culling process, it is unlikely
to be of benefit in any population maintenance. The number and distribution of animals
slaughtered is unrelated to any perceived maldistribution of species, but is more closely
related to the predilections of the hunters.
Indeed, hunting, whether for "pleasure" or profit, has a
history more closely associated with bringing animals close to, or into, extinction,
rather than protecting from overpopulation. Examples include the buffalo and the passenger
pigeon. With the advent of modern "wildlife management", we see a transition to
systems designed to artificially increase the populations of certain species to sustain a
yield or harvest for hunters.
The need for population control of animals generally arises either from
the introduction of species that have become pests or from indigenous animals that are
competing for resources (such as the kangaroo, which competes with sheep and cattle).
These imbalances usually have a human base. It is more appropriate to examine our resource
uses and requirements, and to act more responsibly in our relationship with the
environment, than to seek a "solution" to self-created problems through the
morally dubious practice of hunting. --JK
"...the American public is footing the bill for predator-control
programs that cause the systematic slaughter of refuge animals. Raccoons and red fox,
squirrel and skunks are but a few of the many egg-eating predators trapped and destroyed
in the name of "wildlife management programs". Sea gulls are shot, fox pups
poisoned, and coyotes killed by aerial gunners in low-flying aircraft. This wholesale
destruction is taking place on the only Federal lands set aside to protect America's
wildlife!" --Humane Society of the United States
"The creed of maximum sustainable yield unmasks the
rhetoric about "humane service" to animals. It must be a perverse distortion of
the ideal of humane service to accept or engage in practices the explicit goal of which is
to insure that there will be a larger, rather than a smaller, number of animals to kill!
With "humane friends" like that, wild animals certainly do not need any
enemies." --Tom Regan (philosopher and AR activist)
"The real cure for our environmental problems is to understand
that our job is to salvage Mother Nature...We are facing a formidable enemy in this field.
It is the hunters...and to convince them to leave their guns on the wall is going to be
very difficult." --Jacques Cousteau (oceanographer)
SEE ALSO: #66
#66 Aren't hunting
fees the major source of revenue for wildlife management and habitat restoration?
We have seen in question #65 that practices described as
"wildlife management" are actually designed to increase the populations of game
species desirable to hunters. Viewed in this light, the connection between hunting fees
and the wildlife agencies looks more like an incestuous relationship than a constructive
one designed to protect the general public's interests. Following are some more facts of
interest in this regard.
Only 7 percent of the population hunt, yet all pay via taxation for
hunting programs and services. Licenses account for only a fraction of the cost of hunting
programs at the national level. For example, the US Fish and Wildlife Service programs get
up to 90 percent of their revenues from general tax revenues. At the state level, hunting
fees make up the largest part, and a significant part is obtained from Federal funds
obtained from excise taxes on guns and ammunition. These funds are distributed to the
states based on the number of hunters in the state! It is easy to see, then, how the
programs are designed to appease and satisfy hunters.
It is important to remember that state game officials are appointed,
not elected, and their salaries are paid through the purchase of hunting fees. This
ensures that these officials regard the hunters as their constituents. David
Professor of Wildlife Law at the Detroit College of Law, describes the situation as
The primary question asked by many within these special [state]
agencies would be something like, "How do we provide the best hunting experience for
the hunters of our state?" The literature is replete with surveys of hunter desires
and preferences in an attempt to serve these constituents.
...Three factors support the status quo within the agency. First, as
with most bureaucracies, individuals are hesitant to question their own on-going
programs...Second, besides the normal bureaucratics, most state game agencies have a
substantial group of individuals who are strong advocates for the hunters of the state.
They are not neutral but very supportive of the hunting ethic and would not be expected to
raise broader questions. Finally, and in many ways most importantly, is the funding
mechanism...Since a large proportion of the funds which run the department and pay the
salaries are from hunters and fishermen, there is a strong tendency for the agency to
consider itself not as representing and working for the general public but that they need
only serve their financial sponsors, the hunters and fishermen of the state. If your
financial support is dependent on the activity of hunting, obviously very few are going to
question the ecological or ethical problems therewith.
Many would argue that these funding arrangements constitute a
prostitution of the public lands for the benefit of the few. We can envision possible
alternatives to these arrangements. Other users of parks and natural resources, such as
hikers, bird watchers, wildlife enthusiasts, eco-tourists, etc., can provide access to
funds necessary for real habitat restoration and wildlife management, not the perverted
brand that caters to the desires of hunters. As far as acquisition and protection of land
is concerned, organizations such as the Nature Conservancy play an important role. They
can do much more with even a fraction of the funding currently earmarked to subsidize
hunting ($500 million per year). --DG/JK
SEE ALSO: #65
#67 Isn't hunting
OK as long as we eat what we kill?
Did the fact that Jeffrey Dahmer ate his victims
justify his crimes? What is done with a corpse after its murder doesn't lessen the
victim's suffering. Furthermore, hunters are harming animals other than the ones they kill
and take home. It is estimated that for every animal a hunter kills and recovers, at least
two wounded but unrecovered animals die slowly and painfully of blood loss, infection, or
starvation. Those who don't die outright often suffer disabling injuries. The stress that
hunting inflicts on animals--the noise, the fear, and the constant chase--severely
restricts their ability to eat adequately and store the fat and energy they need to
survive the winter. Hunting also disrupts migration and hibernation. For animals like
wolves who mate for life and have close-knit family units, hunting can severely harm
Some vegetarians accept that where farmers
or small landholders breed, maintain, and then kill their own livestock there is an
argument for their eating that meat. There would need, at all stages, to be a humane life
and death involved. Hunting seems not to fit within this argument because the kill is
often not "clean", and the hunter has not had any involvement in the birth and
growth of the animal.
As the arguments in the FAQ demonstrate, however, there is a wider
context in which these actions have to be considered. Animals are sentient creatures who
share many of our characteristics. The question is not only whether it is acceptable to
eat an animal (which we perhaps hunted and killed), but if it is an appropriate action to
take--stalking and murdering another animal, or eating the product of someone else's
killing. Is it a proper action for a supposedly rational and ethical man or woman?
This question reminds one of question #12, where it is suggested that
killing and eating an animal is justified because the animal is raised for that purpose.
The process leading up to the eating is used to justify the eating. In this question, the
eating is used to justify the process leading up to it. Both attempts are totally
illogical. Imagine telling the police not to worry that you have just stalked and killed a
person because you ate the person! --DG
SEE ALSO: #12,
#68 Fish are dumb
like insects; what's wrong with fishing?
Fish are not "dumb" except in the sense that they
are unable to speak. They have a complex nervous system based around a brain and spinal
cord similar to other vertebrates. They are not as intelligent as humans in terms of
functioning in our social and physical environment, but they are very successful and
effective in their own environment. Behavioral studies indicate that they exhibit complex
forms of learning, such as operant conditioning, serial reversal learning, probability
learning, and avoidance learning. Many authorities doubt that there is a significant
qualitative difference between learning in fishes and that in rats.
Many people who fish talk about the challenge of fishing, and the
contest between themselves and the fish (on a one-to-one basis, not in relation to
trawling or other net fishing). This implies an awareness and intelligence in the hunted
of a level at least sufficient to challenge the hunter.
The death inflicted by fishing--a slow asphyxiation either in a net or
after an extended period fighting against a barbed hook wedged somewhere in their head--is
painful and distressing to a sentient animal. Those that doubt that fish feel pain must
explain why it is that their brains contain endogenous opiates and receptors for them;
these are accepted as mechanisms for the attenuation of pain in other vertebrates.
Some people believe that it is OK to catch fish as long as they are
returned to the water. But, when you think about it, it's as if one is playing with the
fish. Also, handling the fish wipes off an important disease-fighting coating on their
scales. The hook can be swallowed, leading to serious complications, and even if it isn't,
pulling it out of their mouth leaves a lesion that is open to infection. --JSD
SEE ALSO: #22,