I have no desire to turn this discussion into an argument. Nor to "school" anyone. What you do and decide to do with regard to leather is your business and of little significance to me.
That said, perhaps just from hanging around one of my most recent students--Christophe from Brussels--for three years now, I have come to respect the European ability to differ and discuss controversial issues over breakfast, lunch, dinner. Anytime. Without coming to blows or even harsh words.
Without, I might add, deleting other people's remarks simply because they disagree with one...something that has NEVER
happened on this forum since the day it was created..
Didn't someone once say something about the "unexamined" life? I suspect that anyone who works with leather has had to come to grips with these issues at some point or another. If they don't, they will never be able to work with the material that informs their their career and lives, without some deep-seated reservations that will inevitably...eventually...cause them to question themselves and their commitments to the Trade.
Personally, I am of the opinion that anyone who has not killed and butchered an animal at least once in their lives--watched the light go out of the eyes, smelled the blood and the offal and plunged their hands into the body cavity to remove the bowels and other organs--not only have the absolute right, but maybe even a solemn duty
, to not eat
meat, much less work with leather.
If one has not intimately participated in the death and harvesting of the living creatures that will provide sustenance and shelter, claiming that one has sufficient knowledge, understanding or respect to take advantage of those lives...and deaths...rings hollow to my ears.
One is not truly part of the cycle of life when their only source of meat is wrapped in plastic and can be plucked out of the cooler section of the market with no more hassle, thought or consideration than snatching an apple off the tree.
To be in harmony with the universe...with reality...involves recognizing and accepting one's place in the universe. Human beings cannot hold themselves above all that, cannot posture as somehow better, more ethical, somehow transcendent.
It is no more ethical to use cow or calf leather because these animals have been raised for meat than it is to use alligator though it was only raised for its hide. We are still utilizing resources that are available to us only by virtue of the life...and death...of another creature.
It is not the amount or location of the resources that we use, it is the act itself. The animal itself...the life it embodies becomes the the consumable commodity. Body parts ain't in it.
To the extent that we are so disrespectful or divorced from the reality of that process; to the degree that we are content to relegate those tasks to someone else and to wash our hands of the concomitant violence, the responsibility, the gore...and even the sadness and regret...we have forfeited our right to profit from the end results.
I also suspect that it is a mistake to conflate cruelty to animals with our reliance on them for survival. The real cruelty is the indifference that comes about when we avoid thinking about and/or taking responsibility for our actions and the footprint of our lives. It is easy to see and identify that on an individual level but it is just as true societal-ly, as well.
I am near-as-nevermind certain that many (even among my peers) will disagree with me...in some cases as much, I suspect, out of discomfort and the inconvenience of it all, than out of a valid countervailing philosophy. All I can say is that I have worked with leather for over 40 years. I have come to terms with the angst and unease that afflict anyone who attempts to live mindfully. I have killed and butchered and felt that very real sadness for taking the life of another creature. I have not made excuses. I have not shied away from facing the enormity of what I do and have done.
And through it all, if anything, my respect for the sanctity of all
life has been strengthened immeasurably. I cannot find it in myself to make nice distinctions about which forms of life are acceptable for slaughter and which are not. To do so is to disrespect those lives we mark for harvest...and to do that is, in my opinion, to disrespect all life.
Little Jack Dandiprat in a white petticoat,
The longer he lives, the shorter he grows.