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Can leather be ethical?

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by ben39, Dec 16, 2010.

  1. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    Like I said before, I am in no way against the killing of animals for food or other such products. What I find troubling is the disconnection between what we eat and consume and where it comes from. I like a good steak, but I also like knowing where it comes from and how it was treated. I'm just wondering if I'm contradicting myself by avoiding factory farmed steak but buying leather products (even if it is from smaller businesses).
    An admirable philosophy, no question. But "knowing" comes more from direct experience than from anecdotes so far removed from the original source as to assume all the outward trappings of fantasy. If you rely on what you've been told, or what is au currant among your social group, you end up being every bit as "disconnected" as those you find troubling. I have lived and worked in ranch and farming country for the last 40 years and I don't see much if any of the abuse that is so cavalierly bandied about as tales to frighten small children. On the other hand ranchers seldom name their charges and I've yet to see weeping as the cattle are loaded to go to market. But make no mistake, leather and steaks come from the same source...with all that implies.
     
  2. TheWraith

    TheWraith Senior member

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    There are breeders/slaughterhouses that do partake in less than savoury methods of maintaining and slaughtering their "product." And yes, I have been to several slaughterhouses and breeders in my time. None of that has anything to do with the question of whether leather is ethical or not. Of course it is. If we eat meat, then it is ethical to use as much of the rest of the animal as we can. Nothing wrong with that. Of course, we have to treat the animals with respect and humanely while they're alive, but that's just common sense surely.
     
  3. Nosu3

    Nosu3 Senior member

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    Here are some things you should know when considering "ethical" leather:

    • Do not purchase leather products from China or India. The animals are abused/tortured and conditions are overall terrible.
    • Synthetics may do more harm than good when considering environmental impact, also with chrome-tanned leathers
    • There are companies who claim use of "natural death" animal hides



    I haven't eaten meat for 25 years but have nine leather jackets/coats and several shoes all leather. Not quite sure where my ethics are, I think factory farming is a disgusting mess but I also think cows are one of the dumbest creatures on the planet who wouldn't last ten minutes without humans to protect them from wolves. They contribute to global warming with their methane farts and don't even have the sense to lift their tails, just shitting all over their back legs the dirty dirty bastards.

    Cows are pleasant animals. The problem is not the existence of cows that contributes to the Global Climate Alteration Crisis. The population is much greater than it would be naturally, without humans farming them or using them. I'm not sure how many cows you've met, but they are some of my favorite picnic guests.


    Are all hides obtained from factory farms?

    Not all hides.

    I hear shell cordovan (the US made stuff anyway, not sure about Japan) is harvested only from horses that have died of natural causes. Probably about as ethical as leather can get, if you're concerned about such things.

    Keep in mind, there is a black market for horse hides. In the US, there are illegal slaughter farms that torture/kill horses and sell their meat and hides through a black market.
     
  4. Jerome

    Jerome Senior member

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    I heard that even exotic leathers of once African animals are already 'farmed'/raised in the U-S. these days. I myself like cordovan leather for my loafers and also boxcalf for shoes, if I were richer I'd be interested in alligator leather shoes (and I even have asked some bespoke shoe maker about a batch of elephant leather he still is calling his own..least seems to be very durable but maybe a bit strange/thick in its structure.)
     
  5. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    There are breeders/slaughterhouses that do partake in less than savoury methods of maintaining and slaughtering their "product." And yes, I have been to several slaughterhouses and breeders in my time.
    I don't doubt that if you look hard enough you can find examples. In an infinite universe, the nutcase that microwaves a living chicken is bound to end up owning a slaughterhouse sometime, somewhere. But it begs the question doesn't it? What exactly is "less than savoury methods?' What is this "torture" that horses about to be slaughtered are subject to? And does it really make any sense? I'm talking about logic and self interest... What does it benefit a company or a rancher to "torture" an animal that is about to be slaughtered? Every part of the animal...including the meat...is affected by severe stress such as would occur during torture. And not for the better. Slaughterhouses know that...it's a business--they're no more going to destroy the quality of their product than a car manufacturer is going to put sugar in the gas tank. So...back to square one...are the "less than savoury methods" simply that cattle are processed quickly and efficiently...no time for Last Rites or Extreme Unction? No time for eulogies? Isn't that simply anthropomorphizing? Every creature dies. There is probably a 90%+ chance that every creature experiences pain and/or sickness somewhere in the moments leading up to the end of life. And when life is over none of that matters or is remembered. In a very real sense...for the individual involved...it as if it never happened. So what is a "savoury method?" I suspect it is simply that death comes quickly and efficiently and with as little fear and/or suffering as can be afforded...yet recognizing that all pain or suffering can never be avoided. And all of that still has nothing to do with whether leather is ethical
     
  6. ben39

    ben39 Well-Known Member

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    Here are some things you should know when considering "ethical" leather:
    • Do not purchase leather products from China or India. The animals are abused/tortured and conditions are overall terrible.
    • Synthetics may do more harm than good when considering environmental impact, also with chrome-tanned leathers

    Doesn't surprise me. Most the goods I am interested in are from the USA anyway. I've found out Tanner sources all their material domestically. Yeah, I don't like synthetics for a few reasons. First, the environmental impact is questionable. Second, durability. I would rather spend more on a product which will last me a lifetime and ages beautifully. I don't want to have to buy a new bag every year, even if it is cheaper.
     
  7. Crane's

    Crane's Senior member

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    Is this ethical or not and why? All fair chase rules apply.

    [​IMG]
    2 by DYSong Photography, on Flickr
     
  8. upnorth

    upnorth Senior member

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    There is no such thing as ethics when you are at the top of the food chain.

    According to a great friend and banker, the topic of ethics is only raised by those who are weak or weak-willed.
     
  9. Crane's

    Crane's Senior member

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    There is no such thing as ethics when you are at the top of the food chain.

    According to a great friend and banker, the topic of ethics is only raised by those who are weak or weak-willed.


    Wrong answer, there is such a thing called ethics and it takes a thinking man to understand that.
     
  10. LabelKing

    LabelKing Senior member

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    Can fur be ethical?
     
  11. LabelKing

    LabelKing Senior member

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    There is no such thing as ethics when you are at the top of the food chain.

    According to a great friend and banker, the topic of ethics is only raised by those who are weak or weak-willed.


    That sounds like something a banker might say.
     
  12. CunningSmeagol

    CunningSmeagol Senior member

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    Surprisingly, not an awful thread.[​IMG]
     
  13. Nosu3

    Nosu3 Senior member

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    There is no such thing as ethics when you are at the top of the food chain. According to a great friend and banker, the topic of ethics is only raised by those who are weak or weak-willed.
    What does species superiority have to do with losing ethics?
    Can fur be ethical?
    Rarely. Some designers are using Nutria fur... an animal that is killed for pest control and the otherwise discarded remains are used. Beware of faux fur. Sometimes fur is labeled as fake even though it comes from cats and dogs that were skinned alive.
     
  14. Nosu3

    Nosu3 Senior member

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    As I understand it, to be a healthy vegetarian or vegan and maintain a vigorous, active lifestyle requires more or less indenturing oneself to nutritional supplements.

    If I recall correctly, Larry Byrd who played for the Portland TrailBlazers some years back claimed to be a vegetarian but also admitted to taking massive doses of vitamins to maintain his energy for games.



    It is very simple to meet nutritional needs while being a vegetarian without supplements. Only vegans might need supplementation. The animal itself does not provide much of anything that can't be found elsewhere in plant foods.
     
  15. Avocat

    Avocat Senior member

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    What does species superiority have to do with losing ethics? Rarely. Some designers are using Nutria fur... an animal that is killed for pest control and the otherwise discarded remains are used.
    North American Natives might disagree with you there, Nosu. Then again, they have--and continue to--follow the rules of Fair Chase, hunting free range animals since time immemorial. Take the Inuit and seals for e.g. The Inuit (and Nfld/Labrador) eat seal (rich in essential Omega fats so very nutritious), using the fur to make boots and coats (staying warm and dry themselves), and make a living also by trading the meat/fur for other goods and money (as is their Constitutional right). Without the hunt, seals would also become a pest, depleting fish stocks. Coyote fur is also used in parkas, etc. (resists frost as wolf pelts do, keeping one's face warm), and are also free-range (though in many places considered "pests", so very interesting that you say that). We all know North American Natives are good-conservationists, and would never take the last coyote (or seal, or deer, or ... ). It's about sustainability, these animals--seals, coyotes, etc. (being different than wolves)--are in no way endangered; it's also about conservation, to cull the herd else they'd die of disease and/or starve to death. Far more humane than fur-farming (like mink and fox in the EU for e.g.), as the ones hunted over here are free-range, and their populations properly managed. Then, I also agree with Crane: it's all about ethical hunting (which sportsmen tend to carry over into other areas of life) . Fur is no different than hide--it's just that some skins keep you, well, warmer than does i.e. leather. To each their own as I said before; so long as it's sustainable and well run, the animal killed swiftly as opposed to prolonged suffering, then I haven't any issue with it. (And if I lived up North, you bet I'd wear seal-skin boots -- unlike a polar bear, we humans don't come with fur [​IMG] EDIT: as to the argument about vegan diets, this simply isn't true. Meat contains protein and essential nutrients, as discussed in post #57. Also, the hunt is humane (I base my op not on conjecture, but on science, see for e.g.: http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/fm-gp/seal-...faq-eng.htm#_1 .) tl/DR: Natives are the "original environmentalists" and definitely remain good conservationists, they and their hunting practices having been around since time-immemorial (such conservation practices and traditions fully backed by science and "in fashion" today, then, traditional practices never go out of style). That said, to each their own conscious.
     
  16. ben39

    ben39 Well-Known Member

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    It is very simple to meet nutritional needs while being a vegetarian without supplements.

    I don't know, my sister is vegetarian and she has a terrible time. But I suspect that's because she eats quite a lot of processed food. Nobody in my family really knows how to cook from scratch (although I am learning).
     
  17. alexspecs

    alexspecs Member

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    A while ago I was thinking about getting a leather jacket made from Aero and upon receiving a leather sample called 'seal' I sent them an email regarding treatment of animals. This was there reply [​IMG]

    "The leathers come from Cows, Horses and sheep..

    The cows and sheep are used for food products and the skins are a by-product
    of that...

    The horse skins we use are from horses that die of natural causes only..

    We don't use skins of animals that have solely been used for leather
    manufacturing..

    We don't use ANY endangered species and wouldn't make anything for anyone
    even if they approached us with this..

    Seal is just a colour, the leather is dyed.."

    I dislike leathers from animals killed purely for their hide and when we wear them we create an environment for demand so I try my best to have nothing to do with them (although i suppose one could also argue how well you wear the leather, I think most exotic leathers are a bit of a turn off personally.)

    I think recycled or vintage leather products are definately okay. Alot of fair trade stores also sell "No Kill" leather products like these.
     
  18. Frihed89

    Frihed89 Senior member

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    Leather has smaller carbon footprint than wool, cotton and all the synthetics, plus by putting the bugger to death you reduce methane emissions! Kill a cow (or sheep) for the UNFCCC!
     
  19. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    The thing that bothers me the most about all of this (aside from the fact that such posts are a little like waving a red hanky at an enraged bull) is the indifferent, almost willful, disconnect. Some are all too ready to wear used shoes or leather harvested from animals that died of "natural causes" (nevermind that the most natural death that can be experienced by any creature is the stopping of the heart--regardless of the proximate cause of that stoppage) without a recognition that such shoes don't fluoresce or mark their provenance to the casual observer in any way. Thus they create demand as surely as a new shoe or leather harvested solely for the hide. But somehow it's "more better." Or the disconnect about fur and leather...fur is leather. It's simply leather with the hair left on. An animal has died. In all likelihood there was actually no more pain, fear or suffering in its demise that there was for the meat animal. Bottom line is that both animals were killed to harvest resources that humans need, can use and whose characteristics cannot be duplicated or even emulated without raising serious questions about the costs to the environment. And yet somehow those costs are dismissed or considered acceptable ...all in the service of keeping our hands "clean"--both actually and metaphorically. Or the disconnect about which animals are OK to kill. I suspect some people have this hierarchy of disdain for life--it's way OK to kill an insect or a spider. Or a snake or an alligator. But not a seal or a horse or even...if only to reduce squalor and or disease...a "wee timorous beastie" (so cute...and destructive) such as a field mouse cum house mouse. A rat with its "scaly tail" (shudder) doesn't receive near as much love as its smaller cousin. The more an animal seems alien to us--the cockroach, for instance--the less our sympathies are invoked. The "cuddlier," the younger, the bigger the eyes, the softer and furry-er, the more we tear up at the thought of killing it. Or the disconnect about how much or what part of the animal is used. Do we eat or skin the mouse? Is it ethical to kill the mouse just to get it out of our sight/ houses? There is an apparent hypocrisy...or at least a critical contradiction in the logic such people employ and live by. And I suspect it is in such contradictions that whatever "ethical" dilemmas are at issue, arise. The "ethics" become troublesome when you can't resolve the environmental trade-off satisfactorily and you have to close your mind to the real issues. They become troublesome when you know at some gut level that to denigrate one life form is to denigrate all. Troublesome when it begins to seep into the conscious that there is no distinction between "used" leather and new leather. No distinction between the alligator and the seal in terms of "right to life" or what they perceive their lives are worth. And that to continue on requires more and more excuses and the bolstering of ideas that simply will not stand the light of reason.
     
  20. George

    George Senior member

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    Ultimately, no!

    I am feasting on a rather nice game pie as I type this, however.
     

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