I’ve been thinking about dairy and leather a lot recently. Perhaps a recent viewing of Earthlings inspired these thoughts. Earthlings is a documentary narrated by the odd-but-still-dreamy Joaquin Phoenix and with a musical score by Moby. It’s about ‘making the connection’. I know that dairy and leather can be touchy subjects or confusing for some people, so if you’re interested in learning more, I’m going to share my thoughts and research with you.
Dairy and Leather are not innocent by-products of the meat industry.
If pictured ‘ideally’ a typical life of a cow raised for meat, dairy and leather would look like this:
A cow, much like the adorable one above, hangs out in a pasture all day. Eating grass, playing with her friends, maybe letting out an adorable “Mooooo” every so often. And when she gets preggo from an eager suitor, the farmer comes out every morning and kindly milks her.
After her long and fun-filled life of romping, she meets her unfortunate demise. In order to create as little waste as possible, her insides are made into food, and her skin is treated with chemicals for people to wear.
This situation is the best possible scenario for raising cows for food and wearing their skin. If this is how the industries actually worked, I would get why so many people choose to eat cheese or buy designer leather shoes.
I probably don’t need to tell you though: this is definitely not how the industry works. What comes to mind when I think of the dairy, leather and meat industries: rampant waste. Oh my goodness, it so wasteful. (I’m not even going to talk about the insane waste of water and land in raising cattle for food and clothes; that is certainly well-documented elsewhere.)
Leather and Dairy
Basically, the cows that are raised for dairy and leather do not look like the precious little cow above. They look emaciated and unhealthy and are covered in sores. I tried googling a picture to show you guys, but unsurprisingly, that kind of cow picture isn’t plastered all over the internet.
These Cows (much of the leather industry comes from India, China, and Turkey) are so sickly that they cannot be used for edible meat once they are slaughtered. (Often times, the meat gets mashed up with loads of other dead cows and used for meals in schools or in fast food restaurants). As terrible and well-documented as animals raised for food or clothes are treated in the United States, there is little to no oversight in other countries.
Sadly, the same hold true for dairy cows. Dairy cows spend their life crammed into tiny spaces, repeatedly artificially impregnated and oftentimes injected with Bovine Growth Hormone (BGH). By the time their life is over (generally before they’re seven years old), their bodies are spent and their meat isn’t good for anything either, other than mashed together with the leather industry leftovers.
And do you want to know something really gross? Probably not, but this skeeved me out when I watched Earthlings: Once it’s no longer living, skin naturally decomposes and starts stinking after awhile, right? Can you even imagine how many chemicals are used to treat leather, to make sure it doesn’t stink and decompose? And the people who work in tanneries (and sorry, but the videos I saw showed women, kids, and old men) have to wear custom-made clothes and gloves and cover their mouths just to turn dead rotting skin into something to wear. Gross, and not at all worth it.
If the meat of leather and dairy cows isn’t actually super edible, then… what does that mean? It means that leather and dairy are not just byproducts of small farms or factory farms. Dead cow skin is sold to tanneries in order to offset the high cost of raising animals for food. Buying leather directly keeps factory farms in business. And dairy is no better. Dairy cows are bred to be impregnated, their sons are made into veal, and once their premature life ends, their meat isn’t even edible.
What can I do?
1. Educate yourself:
- Leather fact sheet
- PETA fact sheet
- Dairy Cows
- Earthlings the Movie
- The Vegetarian Society fact sheet on leather
A note: When I googled sites to give you for these links, the first several that pop up are animal rights sites like PETA, The Farm Sanctuary, and the Vegan Society. I encourage you to do your own research and find information from all different sources.
2. Choose not to buy leather:
- Alternative Outfitters
- Herbivore Clothing
- Donate your old leather clothes and accessories to friends or a second-hand store.
3. Choose not to eat dairy: