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60. What is wrong with leather and how can we do without it?

61. I can accept that trapping is inhumane, but what about fur ranches?

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 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 biodegradable." --MT

For alternatives to leather, consult the excellent Leather Alternatives FAQ maintained by Tom Swiss (tms@tis.com). --DG

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#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 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. --JLS

"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, #14, #48-#49

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#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 then slaughtered.

The "lucky" birds are plucked dead, i.e., they are killed first and then plucked. --MT

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