Where do you draw the line as to how much of an animal should be used for our gain? That doesn't just mean what we eat – but what we wear and even what we sit on. We as human beings have had a history of hunting for our own needs, wants and gains – many have conflicting ideas about whether indeed that is our prerogative, or whether we have a role to respect every animal on this earth. Whatever your own particular stance on this matter, we have looked into some truly shocking objects made out of animals for our own pure gain...
Materials Made from Animals
One of the most popular materials used for our own benefit from the likes of animals is leather. In general leather isn't unethical because it is a by-product of meat, so if you eat meat, then you are more likely to have no problem sitting on a leather couch. Usually is it entirely down to an individual's morals as to whether they think using leather on furniture, car seats, wallets, bags, belts and clothing is ethical or not.
The majority of leather made and sold in the U.S. is made from cattle; although other popular leather products can be made from goats, lambs, sheep, pigs and horses that are more often than not, killed for their meat. More unusual types of leather made throughout the world, comes from that of water buffalos, bison, zebras, elephants, sharks, dolphins, frogs, turtles, crocodiles, lizards, snakes, boars, kangaroos, eels, seals and walruses. In Florida, alligators are often killed for their meat and skin; they have a lifespan of up to 60 years old, although many are killed and butchered before they are two years old.
Soccer shoes are often made out of leather, and Kangaroo leather is said to be excellent for soccer shoes in Australia. Often it is wild kangaroos killed for their meat and skin (larger sized species which exist in large quantities are allowed to be hunted – most species are protected by law). Undoubtedly the Kangaroo leather caused a great deal of controversy, with footballer David Beckham famously rejecting such leathers in favour for synthetic materials. Kangaroo leather is used also in car upholstery and such like (known for being stronger than cow and goat leather).
In general many animals who are killed for their meat and skin are done so keeping in line with the country's laws (whichever country that may be), although as with many things – there are examples of ill treated animals suffering for hours, and even days.
China is known for killing up to two million cats and dogs each year from cat and dog farms throughout the country – which are traded in Europe, and sent to Japan. Their skins can be used to make many things from purses and wallets to shoes etc.
Incredibly the blood of an animal is used as adhesive as well as their bones. They tend to be made from the collagen based protein which is extracted from the skin, bone and muscle; this is mixed with hot water which together creates a glue. Glues made from the blood of an animal tend to be light powders which need to be dissolved in water. It has been known to be used in food packaging; it is also used for plywood. This approach to creating glue is slowly dying out – with scientists coming up with new ideas which do not involve the use of animals.
Feathers and Down
We all know how it feels to finish a long day at work, and long cuddle up in bed with our favourite pillow, although the materials used in said pillow may differ depending upon your own personal preference, morals and beliefs. Feathers and down is generally the most expensive of pillows (and are said to be the most comfortable).
The difference between down and feather is that down is the soft feathers found underneath the rough exterior. Generally young birds are covered in down. In many meat packing industries, the feathers and down is taken off the birds before or after the animal is killed for its meat (various places have different preferences). In other circumstances the birds are purely killed for their feathers and down, and more humane circumstances see people harvesting the feathers and down fallen off the birds.
After burning animal bones, you are generally left with powdery, white ash known as the bone ash. The bone is used to make Bone China, often cattle bones are preferred as they contain less iron. Many have an issue with using the likes of Bone China, due to the use of animals for our own gains (which to some is unethical). The bone, such as skin for leather, is used as a by-product of the animals killed for their meat, and is merely a means of using up the whole animal, although a person's opinion can depend on whether this is ethical or not.
Teeth and tusks from animals have been known to be greatly hunted for ornamental and practical purposes. Although now plastic replacements have been made, and Ivory hunting has been banned in many areas, it is still a problem a few places such as Africa. Ivory has previously been used for cutlery handles and instruments, and although some ivory is taken from dead animals, which have died from natural causes – many have been killed for their teeth and tusks. Gradually the hunting and selling of ivory is being banned all over the world, although there are bound to be exceptions to this. Ivory although is still being sold, while many are attempting to ensure the complete ban happens sooner rather than later; one particular site prides itself on being able to deliver walrus tusks, narwhal tusks, polar bear bones, whale teeth and ivory 'art' – legal within Canada.
Much like ivory, animals have been hunted in the past for their antlers, to be used for furniture as well as trophies, musical instruments and gun holders. More traditionally there are few places which provide furniture made from antlers, such as frames, chairs (with a zebra coat), tables, candle holders, desks, umbrella holders etc all made from the 1800s and early 1900s.
Michel Haillard Collection
Michel has created and designed many furniture pieces out of animal remains. Such furniture mainly involves chair made out of alligator and goat skins with zebu horns, cow, bongo water buffalo skin and hippopotamus' teeth. Some have branded the furniture as impressive, although one can't help but find a crocodile tail on a chair somewhat scary, some may agree – others may not.
What Can We be Used for?
Yes, you have read it right – animals are often used for human gains, and there have been examples whereby humans have been used for human gains. Human ashes can create diamonds (yes it has been known), some think of it as leaving their loved ones a lasting momentum. Known as a Lifegem, the diamond is created from the carbon of a deceased loved one, from remains after a cremation, or from a lock of hair. Once the carbon has been captured it has to be heated and the existing ash removed, and then it will be pressed followed by cut to the design.
Many years ago, a Roman Catholic chapel was built with human bones artistically used as decorations and furniture – this can be seen at the Sedlec Church in the Czech Republic.
Is it Ethical or Not?
This is where you will decide. Since the dawn of time, human beings have been part of the food chain, and using animals more so than they could ever truly benefit from us. However given that we now have more of a choice as to whether we must eat the animal killed for our consumption, or whether we choose to opt for another option whereby no animal was killed in the making of our food.
Much of the home theater seating offered in our store is covered in top-grain leather, which is a standard upholstery choice for high-end furniture. Apart from this and other industry standard practices, we do not condone the other techniques referenced in this article. Our large selection of theater seats also come in a variety of fabric and synthetic coverings for those who are opposed to animal-based materials.
by: Bruce Tucker