Monday, 30 January 2012

On Shopping 2012, and thoughts on leather

In order to have a sensible approach to the 12 pieces of clothing I am allowed to buy this year, I made myself a shopping list. The list isn't definitive, and it will keep changing as time goes on. Right now, the list includes 5 items, and it looks like this:

- black, sleek "man boots"
- washing-machine-friendly skinny trousers in black or gray
- a black simple jersey t-shirt dress
- a shirt, white or blue
- a strapless bra

...and here's where it gets complicated. I added "a black leather jacket" - a wardrobe staple of sorts - to the list, and then crossed it out. It's the word "leather" there. I am starting to feel increasingly uncomfortable with leather.

It all started with red meat a long time ago. I am not against meat in general (I eat game and fish), but I am appalled by the way the meat industry treats its animals. I will not eat pork or beef because the treatment of the animals is disgusting and I don't approve of it. And yet I wear leather, which is mostly a by-product of the meat industry. So if I don't approve of the meat industry, why would I support the leather industry which in effect subsidizes it and makes money off the suffering of animals? The same goes with wool, whose production is immoral and disgusting.

I am not againt animal products in theory. If the animal had a good life, I wouldn't mind eating its meat or wearing its skin. I feel comfortable going fishing and eating the moose that my stepfather shot. But the reality is that the animals who became our shoes and leather jackets didn't have a good life. Most likely they suffered horribly.

I am not declaring anything specific in this post, I guess, except that I am starting to think that I will be unable to buy new leather and wool products in the future. The stuff I already have I'll keep wearing. I can live with that. As for the shopping list, when it comes to the black, sleek "man boots", it's too late to consider non-leather alternatives. Chris got me a pair of leather boots for my birthday. Until I figure things out, the boots will be the last leather item in my wardrobe. The leather jacket will stay off the list for now. I might try to find a nice pleather / synthetic one - if I can find a reasonably sustainable one, one that lasts. I also need to figure out how I feel about buying second hand leather.

Lastly, a big shout-out goes to jesse.anne.o. Her blog has been a huge influence in the way I view issues of sustainability and animal welfare. Thank you, Jesse, you are an inspiration. (View her vegan style post here.)


Sunjo said...

So awesome you are moving away from leather! The cows would thank you if they could :) I know it's hard...before I went vegan (I went vegetarian about five years before) it was such a struggle for me to move away from leather. Thankfully it's so much easier nowadays to get good quality, ethical, and cruelty free stuff! I'm gonna think about jacket ideas for you. You might also find something cool & vintage that's pleather. Then you won't have to worry about sweatshops or environmental impact too.

jesse.anne.o said...

Considering yours is one of my very favorite blogs, where never a post goes unread (even if I have to favorite them real-time and read them weeks later), I am honored!

Anonymous said...

Have you read the Sexual Politics of Meat by Carol J. Adams? I haven't read the book, but I've been following her blog for a while. The only leather I've purchased would have been the Frye boots in 2010 and everything last year came from a thrift, but I found a nice leather jacket there.

The Waves said...

How sad is it that I am getting leather-jacket-selling spam to my comment box now...

Madeline Quaint said...

I haven't got to where you are now yet... At the moment my primary concern is who is making my objects and whether they get a fair price for their work. Thinking about the animals is a new level. I'm sure eventually I will get there, but at the moment I like leather too much... Now I do feel shallow! :)

Bummble said...

Of course as knitter, I am probably slightly biased, but I think there is a huge difference between wool and leather!

The sheep aren't killed for their wool, of course, and in general are treated a lot better than cows and pigs: there is a (fast) growing assortment of eco-frienly woollen yarn as well, where care is taken with the dyes etc used.

Victoria said...

I know, my comment comes too late and I'm not even sure you'll read it. I've just discovered your blog and I'm reading it backwards.

I have to tell that I'm a meat-eater, and I don'
t see anything wrong about that. And still less - about using leather goods or wool clothes. After all the animal-produced goods are more environmentally frendly, isn't it? What about other materials? what are they made of? is it necessarily "green"? healthy?

and then - let's be honest, the animals that gave us the leather and meat were grown, fed and looked after especially for that. If they were not useful - nobody would care for them, and what would happen to those animals? Would they go to forests and fields and live freely and happily ever after? Would anybody keep hords of cows/sheep/pigs just for pure pleasure of feeding and observing them? Look what happened to horses after the motor cars entered our life. How many were there before and how many are there nowadays?
The farm animals are able to reproduce in great quantities, to eat well and get vet care only because we use them. Otherwise they may have already disappeared from the face of Earth.

The Waves said...

Victoria: Welcome to the blog, and thanks for your thought-provoking comment! (I always receive an alert, regardless of how late a comment might come vis-a-vis the date of the post.)

You raise some interesting questions. In theory, like I write in the post, I have nothing against eating meat or wearing leather. The problem for me is that the animals are actually treated very, very badly. In most parts of the industrialized world, farm animals are not able to live a healthy, "happy" life. They are being fed poor quality feed and antibiotics, they live in filth and in very small spaces, and they do not reproduce naturally. (Regarding the poor treatment of farm animals, I recommend an excellent documentary on the topic called "Food, Inc.") As for non-animal man-made materials, some of them actually score better on the carbon-footprint scale than "natural" materials. (I've discussed this in a post titled "How green is your style".) Of course, these issues are not simple or straight-forward. We need to keep asking questions about how we treat our animals, because only when we question things, can change eventually take place. We don't necessarily need to shut down all animal-product industries, but we desperately need to improve our standards. We owe that to our animals, our planet, and to ourselves.