Ethical Leather and Animal Products?

I have been contemplating how I feel about leather purchases. My long term goal is to foster animal rights in equality with human rights.

But how to best live this out as a person who finds animal products very practical?

I personally love animal products. I am a very sensitive individual to fabrics. I can almost immediately tell when a fabric is faux or cheaply made and have been able to do so since childhood or adolescence. I particularly like the feel of quality supple leather, modal, and certain newer, more innovative man-made fabrics to name a few. With man-made fabrics,  though, especially with older technology, they can sometimes leave a certain smell and feel suffocating.

I consider the “feel” of a product to be important when purchasing a product. I do not mean that to go overboard and irrational on “feelings”, but feeling comfortable and satisfied in a product will keep you from throwing it away and keep you from neglecting to take care of it. Ultimately, if you do not like your product or feel a connection with it you will contribute to the wasteful industry and overflowing landfills of textiles and material.

Animal products are incredibly durable. The very existence of their skin or fur is to protect a living creature from harsh weather and the environment, and that is not by man’s design. It is by nature’s. And the animals that are living are currently winning the evolutionary competition of Earth weather and predators thus far. So obviously, using their skin or fur is logical if you want to accomplish the same goals of the organism.

Recently, however, mass production and consumption have led to a very poor treatment of animals in exchange for their bodies.

I do not honor the modern practice of men harvesting animals without their consent and stealing their bodies at their choosing. This is absolutely atrocious and awful, and I am in great despair when I hear these stories. But that is why I am ever so determined to continue to seek solutions that is fair to all the truly fair requests and desires.

Eco Warrior Princess insists that there is no such thing as ethical leather. But I believe there is, but perhaps that current method does not exist anymore or as popularly.

I believe there are ethical cases to wear animal products. I take my philosophy in a way similar to Native Americans in that Native Americans befriended and respected their land and animals and used their fur and skin as honorable recognition for the great beings they are. I honor them when they are deceased. If I truly lived in the natural world, I would befriend animals and they would die naturally, and when they died, I would thank and bless their bodies and take up their skin to use for my own protection. This is overly simplistic of Native American culture and I hardly know anything about them in depth aside from one book I read on American history that was, albeit, very in depth about Native American use of land, etc. This is picture is merely used to serve as a vague direction in which I’d like to go towards, not my final ideological decision.

I recently bought two leather products. One secondhand jacket from a local luxury resale store, in which the original brand is BCBG, and a brand new leather bag from Serrv, a Fair Trade organization.

I have promoted the Serrv bag and realized that I may not necessarily be promoting ethical rights for animals when I do so. When I looked at Serrv’s product page and website, the information about the source and harvesting method of the leather is not readily available.  It does mention that the look of the leather is meant to uphold an antique look, but I am unsure if this means it is truly antique leather or if it was just made to look like antique leather. Antique leather, to my understanding, is old, worn leather, sometimes repurposed for new products, like bags and purses.

It is true, though that the Fair Trade industry is more about the people and the environment and less about animal treatment. At least they do not advertise it. I bought cow horn products in the same purchase from Roots n Streams (a local STL Fair Trade store), and upon further research, came across the owner’s blog of her time spent with the artist of the cow horn products. In the Fair Trade world, there is more of a pull to reuse, recycle, and reclaim animal products that were unfairly stolen from the traditional industry. I believe my cow horn products are the result of recycled cow horn that have been saved from the unjust industry.

PETA speaks against new leather products, but the majority of their criticism seems to be coming from underdeveloped countries like India, China, and Bangladesh. Not that the United States and Europe are not immature as well in some cases, but the West clearly understands ethics and proper industry protocol more than others. I suspect this has to do with the education level of its citizens that create a consumer population that has the luxury to recognize unjust industry practices. The majority of the citizens clearly are not living dirt poverty like the eastern countries, so they have free time to spend contemplating respect and fair treatment.

The secondhand jacket is another issue. Obviously, BCBG is a traditional high profile fashion brand and is horrible with sustainability and ethics. I love their designs, and that is why I bought the product. You just cannot get femininely flattering designed jackets in an eco friendly or your lower end mall brand companies. But since that is so obvious, I’d like to move beyond that and discuss the problem of buying secondhand leather, for some say that buying secondhand leather is still irresponsible.

I have read online on random forums that people believe wearing secondhand leather is still bad because it is like you are sending the message that wearing any animal products is okay. I just stated in this post that I actually do believe wearing animal products are okay, in certain conditions. But I’d like to say that it is not like an individual is so powerful in the sense that by wearing animal products an onlooker will just be so compelled with the image without critical consideration that they will automatically buy more leather. This is true with some people, but I on the other hand I am seriously like, Give me a break. You really think you are that important and people are just so stupid? It is not so simplistic that doing a simple act like wearing leather directly verifies an assumption, like supporting unjust animal slaughtery. Sometimes it is, but you are either undermining people’s intelligence or feeding into their lack of it if you think every action that happens people do not have a reaction besides obedient spellbound behavior. And, it is not my fault or responsibility if people assume I have no ethics for wearing this leather. That is why I advertise my ideology to the public and people I know so that people can understand my point of view and discuss the ideology to make it better. I expect people to ask me and critically engage with me with their curiosities and questions if they personally know me. I also expect people to ask me questions even in public. I have been having very interesting conversations myself with kind strangers just because I share my curiosity with them.

My true dilemma is to maintain animal products with the respect and integrity for animals, find an equal alternative fabric that protects me, and to restrain from purchasing bad ethics written into their clothing. Currently, I am in the process of figuring out how to uphold my values. It seems that if you are going to buy leather at all, the best places are through Fair Trade organizations and Western companies, especially in Europe and to avoid all new material in high end fashion companies. Another dilemma I have is how to stay buying intelligently designed clothing that is figure flattering. I have been having that discussion as well with others, on how to advance the design of the eco industry that retains glamour but does not compromise on ethical integrity.

What do you think? And do you have any resources or information about these topics and where I may be able to find ethical, respectful leather? Be sure to let me know.

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