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From: Anna ( -
Subject: Re: skins
Date: February 17, 2006 at 2:27 pm PST

In Reply to: skins posted by katie on February 16, 2006 at 7:03 pm:

> hmm...interesting things to think about.

Yes, I'm always glad when I can be of help introducing people to the basics of vegan ethics. Sometimes I just wish though, that there were a greater culture embracing the discussion around vegan ethics. But I don't know whether that is actually desired by people on a plant based diet who refer to that diet as vegan. So my wish may not be met by the requirements and interests of environments whose focus simply isn't ethics.

> i would ride in the car with the leather seats because the damage had
> already been done, someone else has already consumed that product.

I'm not quite sure what you mean with "product". Are you referring to a nonhuman animal as a "product"? If yes, is it possible for you to consider why some people would find such excessively derogatory definitions offensive?

To make you understand why it is offensive, let me give you following example. If your daughter was kidnapped and sold into child slavery to be exploited by pedophiles, who'd refer to her as a "prime product" (perhaps evidenced by court documents), how would that make you feel? Now when use what is referred to as speciesistic language, what helps us to find out what is offensive, is when we simply translate the animals situation into the human context like I just did. Because as it relates to ethics, the dichtonomy between humans and animals is invented and irrelevant.

As for the "leather". In reality, there is no separation between different parts. "Leather" is not a waste product, it is simply a different part of the body of a killed animal used for different purposes all geared towards profit. *Everything* is sold for profit. When you go to buy "leather" shoes, you pay for them. The shop doesn't pay you because you help them dispose of a waste product. You pay them, and they profit directly from that nonhuman just as any of the other animal exploiters in the chain. That's why "leather" is not acceptable. And that's why second hand "leather" is not acceptable either, because wearing any "leather" (which is a milder word for chemically manipulated skin whose decay has been slowed down in a toxic process) communicates that it is acceptable. For your colleagues or people in the shopping mall, it's not obvious if the "leather" you're wearing is second hand. For them, you are reinforcing the perceived acceptability of using the skin which was ripped off someones body. This is why I don't even wear faux "leather" and make every effort to find vegan shoes which distinctly look different from leather.

> products, although i probably wouldn't anyway since i find it kinda freaky
> (shaved skin, as you put it).

Well the freaky aspect isn't actually that it's shaved skin, the freaky aspect is that it was ripped off someones body.

> as to the skins of humans thing...i have mixed feelings about it. obviously
> i am not okay with people being killed to make furniture. but it's
> interesting to think about the use of people's bodies after they have died
> of natural causes. admittedly, i feel uncomfortable about it now, but maybe
> that's just because of the current views of our societies.

Societies don't have views. Societies are just the consequence of individual people squeezed into the same space. And even if we break down your dilution to one person, that still shifts the ethical question away from you. So, how would *you* react, if a soap vendor came knocking on *your* door, because he wants to collect the body fat of your daughter, who tragically died, to turn it into soap for his profit? Would that *merely* make you feel "uncomfortable"? Would you think that's an "effective" use of your daughters body? This is not comparable to organ donation. Organ donation is an act of kindness, it saves someone else's life. Making soap from human bodies would be an erosion of human spirit. Just like making soap from animal bodies ("tallow") constitutes a lack of human spirit.

> i have heard of
> people who have the tattoos of their deceased loved ones tanned and made
> into keychains, bookmarks, etc. sure it sounds freaky. but then i think,
> hey, the people are dead. and leather can be a useful material in some
> applications.

You're comparing a mourning strategy of coping with loss with the "usefulness of applications of body parts"?

So when you have the chance of either including animals in our ethics, or, on the other side erode, no deface the little human values we have now, you suggest we go worse?

> so why not make use of people's materials?
> harvest their
> organs for transplants, use their skin to make leather, use their hair,
> their bones. use every scrap possible.

Sure, I'm an organ and body donor for example. If I die at an age where my organs can be used, they can have it, and my body will be used for teaching medical students. This means my family will not be burdened with funeral costs. But I consented to that because these are ethical usages. You can't make this decision for other people. However, I don't want anyone to use my body for turning it into a product. And even if everybody would choose to do the same as me, this still would not make animal "leather" acceptable, because animals can't consent to this. And of course, having scouts in the woods searching for animals who have died a natural death would first of all not be economical *and* still unacceptable, because other animals happen to life off flesh. For *them* to utilize dead bodies *is* acceptable, because they don't have the ability to make tofu.

So, mixing up ethically acceptable usages of dead human bodies and a sort of fascist exploitation for profit is not a legitimate strategy to attempt to justify the use of animal "leather". Because organ donation is very different from being born into and murdered with captivity and having your skin ripped off your body while other parts are eaten.

> but who knows how our societies' attitudes will
> evolve over time?

Well, for my part I don't leave it at estimation. I actively work towards society evolving to develop a vegan Status Quo. That's the beauty of being human, our intelligence and will can be an active aspect of how we will evolve.

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