Various human acts have been causing the degradation of the environment, especially the wildlife, for ages. The degree of the humans’ influence upon the environment makes human disregard the top issue of the environment’ survival and development. Different dimensions of environment are subjected to continuous threat of elimination due to human influence. Using animals’ skin for clothing is one of the crucial environmental problems of modern mankind. There have been constant calls by governments and non-governmental organizations to people all over the world, aimed at stopping usage of animals’ skins for clothing. The campaign for environmental conservation has reached a point where the campaigners have to use incentives to lure people into environmental conservation. Something that should be done out of one’s free will has become so rare that those that wish it to be done have to give the doers a reward for doing so. This objective is achieved through launching different types of awards that are awarded to people, who make their contribution into the preservation of the environment. For instance, the Nobel peace prize was once given to Wangari Maathai of Kenya to recognize her efforts, aimed at the distribution of environmental conservation.
The main reason that may have caused the problem is the lack of respect for wildlife among humans. Many animals have fallen victims to the predicament. Many species in the world are facing the danger of becoming extinct due to human encroachment into their habitat and, conversely, interrupting their way of life. As a result of this, these species have become endangered. The lack of ethical conduct towards the environment has resulted in the fact that the governments had to launch special sancturies to protect the wildlife
Using animals’ skin is considered unbearable agony and pain an animal can ever experience. Farmers, who keep animals at their farms tend to use both cruelest and cheapest ways of killing animals. These ways often include using gas, poison, and electrocution. Animals suffer from blood loss, shock, and dehydration for days due to these cruel acts. In Canada, big numbers of black bears are being killed, so that in the future their skins can be used as ceremonial hats for the Queen to wear. On the other hand, in the case of snakes, their bodies are being torn down, while they are still alive, because there is a common belief that the skin will be better and flexible if it is cut during the snake’s life. Apart from cruelty and shocking infringement of animals’ rights, important consequences of using animals’ skins are concerned with the preservation of species in the wildlife. For example, in Australia, millions of kangaroos are being slaughtered to use their skins as a primary material in soccer shoes.
For the elephants and rhinos, the tusks from these animals are highly valued and, therefore, the animals are killed for their tusks. The same has led to the start of public campaigns, aimed at the protection of these animals. It is expected that no elephants or white rhinos will be preserved in the wildlife, if protection measures are not successful. If people had had some sense of ethical responsibility, they would have elaborated the effective ways to protect animals from cruel treatment and elimination. As for me, the lack of concern for the wildlife is what makes people prefer glamour to protection of animals’ rights. Unfortunately, there are people, who would like to wear an ornament made from an elephant’s tusk and a shoe made from white rhino hide, regardless of the ways materials for these things are being derived. The lack of common understanding of the issue by lots of other people, who may not be personally interested in usage of animals’ skins for clothing, leads to the fact that intentional killings of animals are not being prevented.
Similar position is expressed by Jack Turner in his book “The Abstract Wild”. Apart from radically disapproving cruel treatment of animals (e.g., usage of their skins for clothing), the authors includes a number of specific concerns related to the labour of all the people, who deal with protection of the environment. Discussing a wide range of environmental issues and human responses to them the author argues that human try to make everything understandable and comfortable for humans, instead of concentrating on preserving the ways things are in the wildlife. In other words, Jack Turner thinks that it is important not to intervene in the nature in any way, and to preserve not things, but processes as they appear in the nature. Furthermore, the author of the book claims that humans need to stop to view forests and animals as sources of income instead of considering them parts of the ecosystem; this view makes people think that everything can be restored after human interventions, if investments are enough. The lack of respect to wilderness leads to the fact that humans do not consider possible consequences of their actions, when making use of natural resources, including animals.
The philosophical position, developed by Jack Turner, can be formulated in a short motto like “allow the Nature to be”. This position can be substantiated by the referral to several arguments. Firstly, humans need to remember that the Nature possesses primary position in the universe, and human beings are dependent on the nature. It is important to remember that particularly Nature provides humans with them with an opportunity to exist by granting them air to breathe, fruits and vegetables to eat and natural materials for housing. In this regard one needs to be ware about the existence of certain natural balance that is traditionally being destroyed by human beings. Killing of particular type of animals leads not only to the extinguishment of these species, but the breakdown of food chains and destruction of other species. It is important to understand that the extinguishment of a particular part of the food chain can exert significant impact not only on the preservation of this chain, but safety of people, as wild animals may try to attack humans in case of lack of food.
Secondly, breakdown of natural balance and destruction of particular species leads to significant state expenditures. The emergence of threat of endangerment of particular species calls forth governmental efforts, concerned with creating artificial conditions for species’ conservation, hiring necessary staff and so on. At the same time, as it was pointed out by Jack Turner (1996) in his book “The Abstract Wild”, all these measures are usually more helpful in conserving things, rather than natural processes. The thing that was really new for me in Turner’s book concerned the way ecological issues are dealt with. According to the opinion of J. Turner (1996), humans use anthropocentric way of approaching environmental issues, and it is wiser of humans not to lead to necessity of adopting special measures on preserving animals, and concentrate on non-interference into natural processes that take place, regardless of humans’ facilitation (ch.3).
Thirdly, the issue needs to be considered in the light of the emergence of animals’ rights trend. The way the state protects its most vulnerable inhabitants, including the animals is often considered to be the indicator of the state’s adherence to the principle of humanity. In this regard it is necessary to mention that the first ideas on moral status of animals and protection of their rights were expressed centuries ago by world’s most famous philosophers from Ancient Greece and Rome. Since that time, philosophers and lawyers from all over the world have developed concepts of fair treatment of animals and non-violence in relation to them. As the idea of animals’ rights is popular around the globe, and scandalous cases of violent treatment of animals become subjected to sharp criticism, it is safer for governments to adhere to the protection of animals’ rights, than to create basis for spoiling their reputation.
While above-mentioned position is actively supported by many representatives of both governmental and non-governmental sector, counterarguments are still being developed by the proponents of using animals’ skins for clothing. The first argument that can be raised in this regard is that humans require animals’ skins for being protected against cold weather. Natural fur is considered to be one of best things to wear, when it is cold, and opponents of refusal from its usage, claim that fake fur and other available alternatives are not as good as natural fur is. This argument can be supported by the statement that human beings have been using fur for ages in order to get protected from freezing, therefore, there is no need to refuse from this tradition. Secondly, adherents of using animals’ skins often claim that killing an animal (like rabbit, beaver or raccoon) for a skin cannot be viewed as a waste, because in the wildlife these animals often become victims of wild animals, such as bears or tigers. Thirdly, proponents of using animals’ skins also argue that, in many cases, usage of an animal’s skin is accompanied by the utilization of their meat. As human’s need to kill animals for meat is justifiable by the referral to the fact that humans use animals’ meat for food, usage of skins also needs to be acceptable, when accompanying utilization of meat.
Despite the fact that these counterarguments concerning the unacceptability of using animals’ skin for clothing may seem to be convincing and reasonable, all of them remain unethical. Let us proceed with discussing appropriateness of each of the above-mentioned counterarguments.
It is true that people may use skins of animals for clothing. However, it is still true that people cannot use natural animals’ skins for clothing. Artificial fur can be utilized in order to prevent humans from cold, along with natural materials, such as wool that are obtained from animals, but do not require them being killed. While someone may claim that it is natural for humans to use skins of animals for clothing as humans did so for long times, it is necessary to claim that the referral to long-term tradition of doing something cannot be viewed a valid argument. If something was always done, it does not mean that this was not a mistake. For instance, for a long time people tended to consider women inferior and not provide them with many rights man had, and nowadays it is evident that inequality of women was one of the mankind’s mistakes. Other relevant examples may include exploitation of child labour, slavery, executions etc.
The argument related to the fact that killing animals cannot be viewed as waste, because small animals will be killed by more powerful ones, is also an unethical one. While the nature provided for the creation of ecological systems and multi-level food chains, killing of one animal by another one in natural circumstances does not destroy the initial environmental balance. Nature itself knows which animals can be killed by other animals, and how to maintain the natural balance of species in the wildlife. At the same time, this naturally designed system does not have the option of considering human intervention into this system. Therefore, it is unacceptable for humans to pretend that a killing of an animal to get its skin, committed by a human, is equal to the killing of an animal, committed by another anima. Current state of the wildlife testifies to the fact that ever growing human interference into the wildlife, destroys primary balance, and it is not acceptable for humans to continue current practices, as they lead to the demolishment of natural wealth. Finally, it is also not ethical to utilize wild animals in order to get meat, and the goal of animals’ killing does have to play the primary role in deciding on the degree to which the killing is acceptable.
The analysis of the acceptability of killing animals for their skins shows that there are no ethical arguments that can be used to substantiate ethical nature of humans’ killing animals to get their skins. Preservation of natural processes and balance (especially in terms of food chains), as well as minimizing expenditure, necessary for the preservation of this balance, require humans’ refusing from utilization of animals’ skins, and transferring to the usage of artificial fur to get protected from cold weather.
Media, N. (2013). Wangari Maathai - Biographical. Retrieved 05 May 2014, from NobelPrize.org: http://www.nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/2004/maathai-bio.html
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (2013). Animal Abused and Killed for Their Skins. Retrieved 05 May 2014, from http://www.peta.org/issues/animals-used-for-clothing/animals-used-clothing-factsheets/leather-animals-abused-killed-skins/
Turner, J. (1996). The abstract wild. Phoenix: University of Arizona Press