Vegan Deli

Vegan Deli  by Jo Stepaniak

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Raising Vegetarian Children
by Jo Stepaniak, M.S.Ed., & Vesanto Melina M.S., R.D.

Raising Vegetarian Children

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Do you have questions about being vegan? Send them to Jo using this easy form. She would be happy to address your individual concerns as well as general inquiries about vegan ethics, philosophy, practical applications, and living compassionately. Jo cannot respond to questions about nutrition or answer questions that have already been addressed in the Archives

Jo will make every attempt to answer each question personally, however, due to her schedule, this may not be possible. If a reply is forthcoming, it could take up to a few weeks, so please be patient. It is also possible that your question will be answered directly in the "Ask Jo!" column rather than an individual response.

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The Ethics of Leather

question.gif - 1.4 KAs a vegetarian (one who eats dairy) is it okay to wear leather? The first thing people say when I tell them I am a vegetarian is, If you wear leather, it is the same thing as eating animals. What is the correct response to this, if there is one.

answer.gif - 1.3 K The term "vegetarian" refers only to what one eats and does not pertain to any other aspect of one's life. People are drawn to vegetarianism for a multitude of reasons including ethical, religious, health, environmental, or economic concerns, or any combination of these. Once people have adopted a vegetarian diet, they often discover a multitude of new reasons for remaining vegetarian. Frequently, those who come to vegetarianism for ethical reasons decide to take the next logical step on the compassionate path and become vegan.

If your decision to be a vegetarian includes the ethical principle of compassion, you owe it to yourself and your conscience to fully understand the interconnectedness of animal commodities. The blunt truth is that the meat, leather, and dairy industries are tangibly and economically intertwined.

The animal-based materials that are prevalent in a culture are determined by the principal meat industries. For instance, in Australia, where kangaroo meat is utilized, particularly in the pet food industry, kangaroo leather is used fairly extensively for handbags, accessories, and tourist items such as "stuffed" kangaroos and koalas, as well as for kangaroo skin rugs. In other parts of the world where sheep meat is favored, sheep skin, shearling, and wool are rampant. In North America, cattle are the predominant food animals. Not surprisingly, leather, the skin of these animals, is widely used.

It is economically foolish for the slaughter industries to toss away profitable animal parts, so essentially every appendage, muscle, and organ are baked, boiled, ground, or otherwise processed into a salable product. The leather industry is virtually reliant on the beef industry. The beef industry rakes in even greater profits because of its ties with the leather industry.

Dairy cows survive only a fraction of their normal lifespan. In a natural environment, cattle can live up to twenty-five years. On modern dairy farms, however, cows are considered "spent" - drained, worn out, and useless - between four and six years of age. After enduring incredible physical abuse and stress, these relatively young cows are unable to continue to produce sufficient milk or offspring to remain lucrative for the farmers. Considered an economic liability, they are shipped off to slaughter.

What happens to slaughtered dairy cows? They become integrated into the beef-meat industry. About one-fifth of all hamburger meat in the United States is made from the flesh of spent dairy cows. Their hides are used in the production of leather, comprising the largest percentage of the so-called by-products of dairying and meat processing.

Another horrifying aspect of these industries is the use of male calves. Dairy cows are impregnated at a very young age - sometimes even before their bodies are mature enough to endure the strain of pregnancy - in order to make the animals as profitable as possible as soon as possible. They are then artificially inseminated shortly after giving birth - a grueling cycle that continues throughout their unnaturally shortened lives.

Half the calves born will be male, which are of no use to the dairy farmer. They are, however, considered valuable to the beef, veal, and leather industries. The majority of male calves are auctioned to beef producers. Others will be sold to the vicious veal industry, where some will be killed immediately to be used to make cheaper-grade veal products. Others will be sent to veal farms to live out brief, tortured existences, deprived of their mother's milk and comfort and denied virtually all sensory stimulation. Cruel isolation and deprivation methods are employed because these techniques keep the calves' flesh tender and white, thereby commanding a higher price when it is sold. When the calves are only twelve to sixteen weeks old, they will be slaughtered for the gourmet veal market.

The soft, unblemished hides of these little calves is considered quite valuable. It is used in making expensive calfskin shoe uppers, gloves, wallets, and other costly accessories. Some dairy cows are sent to slaughter while they are pregnant. It is not uncommon for industry workers to abort the baby calves or remove them after the mothers are slaughtered. The delicate, unmarred skin of unborn and newly born calves is considered the finest and most luxurious.

Does purchasing leather goods contribute, even in some small measure, to the support and perpetuation of the meat industry? Unquestionably, yes. The use of leather also helps sustain the dairy industry, which is responsible for creating and maintaining the veal industry. The use of dairy products, in turn, helps subsidize the meat and leather industries. It is a brutal cycle of cruelty and death among industries that are financially interdependent and reliant on each other for a continual supply of animal parts for their raw materials.

In many ways, using leather is comparable to eating meat. Leather is, by all respects, a by-product of the meat industry. Therefore, the purchase of leather goods contributes directly to the continued slaughter of billions of animals used for meat each year.

People who choose to be vegetarians because they do not want to participate in the senseless killing of animals for food must seriously evaluate the impact of all their lifestyle choices if they want to maintain a consistent philosophy. From an ethical perspective, leather, dairy products, and meat are indistinguishable.




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