Monday, March 19, 2012

Why I don't wear leather

I've come to realize that purses are my very, very soft spot. It may have something to do with the fact that my mother works with handbags. I've been around the brands Coach, Dooney and Bourke, etc before they were even popular. I also love shoes. I probably have spent more money on shoes and purses in the last year than I have on clothes. But I have a moral obligation to uphold and no matter how cute the current trends are I refuse to wear or use any product from an animal source.

Many people try and dissassociate leather from an animal, but it is the skin of the animal. The higher demand, the higher number of animals each year will be killed for their skin. The same thing goes with the fur industry, the past few years revival of fur has increased the number of animals killed for their fur. Leather can be from all types of animals: cow, pig, goat, sheep, alligator, ostrich, kangaroo, dogs, and cats. Yes, I said cats and dogs. Much of our fashion is produced in countries that use cat and dog fur and leather, and there is no requirement to label the type of animal the leather came from. None of this happens dainty either. The animal is not allowed to live to an age old, are confined in overcrowded filthy conditions, and many are skinned/dismembered while still conscious.

In the United States most leather comes from milk cows and beef cows. Beef cows are raised on over crowded feed lots that have the same amount of space as a human would have if they lived in a small closet. They are fed unnatural diets to fatten them, fed antibiotics and hormones to help them grow faster and keep them alive in terrible conditions, and many die from infection and injury (little to no veterinarian care).

Milk cows are generally confined indoors in small spaces, are force impregnated using artificial insemination, and their new calves are taken immediately at birth (sometime even ripped out of the cow) so they can move on to veal crates, beef lots, or milking. The hormones that the cow's are fed cause them to produce 10x the amount of milk they would produce naturally, think bovine growth hormone (BGH). A cow's natural lifespan is 25 years, but dairy cows are killed only after 4-5 years. And their confinement causes their muscles to atrophy so their meat is generally only able to be used as low-grade pet food or cheap meat.

Veal crates are a whole other story. The little males are confined in crates, in the dark, that disallow them to grow beyond a certain point and keeps their meat tender. They are fed a liquid diet of no nutrition to keep their flesh white. They are killed within a few months of life.

All cattle are subjected to the same horrible end at the slaughterhouse where their meat and skin will be removed. The few laws regulating transport of animals is not routinely enforced (and excludes poultry). Animals are confined sometimes for more than 36-48 hours without being unloaded for food, water, or rest. They load as many animals as possible to save money and even have double and triple decker transport vehicles. The trucks are not insulated and in summer many animals die of heat exhaustion. In winter many die from the cold or become frozen stuck to the floor. Any downed animal will have ropes or chains tied around its legs and will be dragged off the trucks. And if they are stuck to the floor legs have been ripped beneath them. They are prodded and shocked and beaten to get into line neatly.

I don't mean to scare or gross you out. I'm also not just giving a picture of the most extreme of the extremes. These facts are of what the majority of cows in america are subjected to. All I want to do is inform you. You should be a conscious consumer. You cannot make an informed decision or purchase without knowing all the facts.

I was a vegetarian for almost 9 years before I went vegan. It wasn't until I learned the facts that I realized how the dairy and egg industry directly contribute to factory farming and slaughterhouses. And when my reasoning to be a vegetarian was animal cruelty and rights, I realized I was not doing all I could to help reduce animal suffering.

Now I have to say that I do not generally like wearing faux fur. It makes me feel funny. For years real fur could have possibly been labeled as faux fur if the value of the fur was less than $150. For example, raccoon dog fur, popularly 'cultivated' in China, was mislabeled and sold in the US as faux. There is now a law that recently went into place (The Truth in Fur Labeling Act of 2010) that prohibits the false labeling no matter the value. But I still don't like the idea that it only took effect last year.

But I am torn with fake leather. I have a few bags and purses that mimic the patterns of alligator and ostrich. I sometimes wonder if someone who liked my fake purse or shoes went out and bought the real, leather version. But, in our day and age it is very hard to completely avoid all leather-like shoes and purses. I mean I don't want to wear only hemp or rubber shoes and totes. I love fashion and I choose to express myself without the burden of animal suffering. I am doing my best and only hope to spread the word.

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