J Morris Hicks

J Morris Hicks

Posted February 25, 2013

Published in Animals

  • digg
  • Delicious
  • Furl
  • reddit
  • blinklist
  • Technorati
  • stumbleupon

Leather? Vegan? Hypocrite? Realist?

Read More: animal suffering, exploitation of animals

Get VegSource Alerts Get VegSource Alerts

First Name


Email This Story to a Friend

From time to time, one of my readers asks me about our use of animal products---other than their food products like flesh, milk or eggs. I am primarily talking about their skins for our shoes, hand-bags, coats, car seats, furniture, etc.

Recently I received this note from Linda after she posted this comment under my recent blog: A reader’s question gets to the heart of “4Leaf for Life.”

"Actually, Jim and anyone else who is curious, the leather goods business is one of the primary reasons that beef and pork prices stay low. More affordable means more accessible to more people and we’re all in favor of as many people as possible eschewing meat. Plus, for me anyway, it’s hypocritical and expedient to rationalize wearing flesh when I would never eat it." Linda D.

Hi Jim.

I've been reading your blog for a long time and my perception is that you're not adverse to learning from your readers.  So, I'd like to elaborate a little on my comments about leather.

First, as I said, the leather industry actually subsidizes the beef industry and, to a lesser degree, the pork industry.  Beef prices would be much higher if the hides weren't sold for leather goods.  Without the domestic leather business, in fact, beef would be beyond the average person's budget.  More expensive beef = less consumption = improvement in our collective health and less environmental damage.

In addition, the process of tanning hides for leather is very bad for the environment.  Not only does it require a lot of energy, it requires the use of dangerous chemicals including formaldehyde, coal-tar derivatives, arsenic, and chromium, which results in particularly hazardous waste.

Thanks for listening.  And thank you for the daily posts over the last two years.  I've enjoyed them, as well as the comments from other readers.

Sincerely and thank you, Linda D.

Which came first? The chicken or the egg?
Which came first? The chicken or the egg?

My response. Dear Linda, You bring up some interesting points in your memo about leather---so interesting that I would like to share my thoughts in this blog. While reading your note, I was thinking about the age old question, "Which came first? The Chicken or the Egg?

As for cattle and leather? Which came first? Raising them for their meat or for their hides? As I mentioned in the earlier blog referenced above:

My work is all about diet, health, and the environment—I pay no attention to the leather coats, shoes, car seats, etc. I figure that they’re by-products of the meat industry and would be outrageously expensive if there were no meat industry. When the meat industry goes away, so will my leather purchases.

So it's probably that comment that triggered your suggestion that I can learn from my readers. I can---and I do. I must confess that there's a lot I don't know about the economics of selling meat without the leather products or selling leather products without using the meat for food. No doubt, each of them make the other more affordable. Click here to continue reading this article.

—J. Morris Hicks, board member, T. Colin Campbell Foundation