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30 April 2000 Issue
Excuses For Leather

* People have always used leather

People have certainly been using leather for at least 600,000 years but we've been having wars and murdering each other just as long. The antiquity of a practice is neither a guarantee of its morality nor a justification for it.

* Leather is environmentally friendly

Leather is far from environmentally friendly; its production involves the use of lead, zinc, formaldehyde and cyanide based products. On the other hand, the synthetic alternatives can be just as bad. Environmentally speaking there is little to choose between them. The big difference is that the leather is a product of the suffering and death of millions upon millions or animals.

The ethical choice is clear. but at the same time, every effort must be made to protect the environment. It seems that the best choice, whenever possible, is canvas.

* There is no substitute for leather

When people say there is no substitute for leather they are usually referring to their footwear. But there are many alternatives. Canvas, for example, is a natural and hard-wearing material that will see you through most (if not all) of the year.

Then there are plastics (even leather shoes usually have plastic soles) and rubber. More recently, advances have been made with waterproof and breathable synthetics like Goretex and there are now companies specializing in using materials that have the appearance and qualities of real leather.

Canvas shoes are widely available but some of the newer products are not. Their availability will only increase with demand, so seek them out.

* What if I made use of an animal that was already dead?

It is not the eating of meat that is wrong but the killing of animals unnecessarily. As meat eating is unnecessary and generally requires the killing of an animal, it usually follows that meat eating is wrong.

If, however, you managed to obtain some meat without killing an animal (or by paying someone else to kill it for you) -- for example, by stumbling across an animal that was already dead -- then there is no moral objection to your eating it. Recent archeological evidence suggests that early humans were much more inclined toward scavenging than hunting.

* The animal was killed for food not leather

The animal was killed for profit and every last part of it was sold to achieve that profit. It makes no difference which particular parts you buy, the money all goes the same way (the skin represents about 10% of the animals 'value').

Go on to Traveling With Kitty - by Plane
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