Leather? Vegan? Hypocrite? Realist?

My first blog after the end of the 737 streak

Leather seems to be everywhere these days.

Leather seems to be everywhere these days.

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.

Just another form of exploitation of other "Earthlings" for our pleasure.

Just another form of exploiting other “Earthlings” for the pleasure and entertainment of humans

Personally, I think that all of our industries built on the exploitation of animals are disgusting and would like to see all of them go away—even horse racing. But, I am also a realist and realize that they won’t all be going away anytime soon.

And, as a realist, I must package my message so that it will not only reach the non-vegan masses—but that it will also influence millions of them to move toward more plant-based eating. If I come out against horse-racing, hardly anyone would ever listen to me—about anything.

I mentioned a 4Leaf business model that’s in the works. We must develop healthful products that are attractive to a large percentage of the population. Once we reach them with our products, we can gradually and gently educate them relative to the staggering consequences of our food choices all over the planet. I truly believe that there’s never been anything more important in the history of the world. “No less than our future as a species hangs in the balance.” —T. Colin Campbell, PhD. From my earlier blog:

It’s all about marketing. If we want to change the world by moving people toward a diet-style of mostly plants, we’d better figure out an attractive way to package our product. We decided that we need a POSITIVE  and attractive way to define a healthful diet. We also want it to be flexible, simple, delicious, inexpensive and easy—with no calorie counting, etc. That’s why we came up with 4Leaf for Life.

As you know, I sometimes describe myself as an activist, blogger, speaker and author. I am also a businessman. And, like John Mackey at Whole Foods Market, our business has to make money if it is to survive and grow. That doesn’t mean that we will compromise our core beliefs—but it does mean that we will strive to produce health-promoting products that will appeal to most of the carnivores out there. How will we do that? Stay tuned.

Thank you very much for your comment and your note, Linda. We’re on the same page. By the way, my current car has leather seats and my living room furniture is mostly leather (from the old Ralph Lauren offices in NYC–where I once worked). I also have some leather shoes and jackets.

My Sperry boat shoes---with zero animal products.

My Sperry boat shoes—with zero animal products.

I am not going to throw all that stuff out (that would be wasteful), but—because of what I have learned from you—I will be buying much less leather in the future.

FYI, my last pair of boat shoes were 100% man-made fiber—as is the ski jacket that I am wearing at this moment as I type this blog.

Sincerely, be well and continue to be considerate of all creatures, Jim

PS: Anyone know what they do with all those chicken feathers—from the nine billion dead chickens a year in just the United States? I bet they don’t just throw them away.

Other blogs dealing with animal rights. I notice that I have published 29 other blogs that relate to the “exploitation of animals” topic. Here are a few of them; you can find the rest under the “Suffering of Animals” category in the upper right column.

Handy 4-piece take-charge-of-your-health kit—from Amazon.com

Want to find out how healthy your family is eating? Take our free 4Leaf Diagnostic Survey. It takes less than five minutes and you can score it yourself. After taking the survey, please give me your feedback as it will be helpful in the development of our future 4Leaf app for smartphones. Send feedback to jmorrishicks@me.com

International. We’re now reaching people in over 100 countries. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter or get blog notices by “following” us in the top of the right-hand column. For occasional updates, join our periodic mailing list.

To order more of my favorite books—visit our online BookStore now

J. Morris Hicks, working daily to promote health, hope and harmony on planet Earth.

For help in your own quest to take charge of your health, you might find some useful information at our 4Leaf page or some great recipes at Lisa’s 4Leaf Kitchen.

Got a question? Let me hear from you at jmorrishicks@me.com. Or give me a call on my cell at 917-399-9700.

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

About J. Morris Hicks

A former strategic management consultant and senior corporate executive with Ralph Lauren in New York, J. Morris Hicks has always focused on the "big picture" when analyzing any issue. In 2002, after becoming curious about our "optimal diet," he began a study of what we eat from a global perspective ---- discovering many startling issues and opportunities along the way. In addition to an MBA and a BS in Industrial Engineering, he holds a certificate in plant-based nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies, where he has also been a member of the board of directors since 2012. Having concluded that our food choices hold the key to the sustainability of our civilization, he has made this his #1 priority---exploring all avenues for influencing humans everywhere to move back to the natural plant-based diet for our species.
This entry was posted in Activism & Leadership, Suffering of Animals, Vegan or vegetarian?. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Leather? Vegan? Hypocrite? Realist?

  1. Marr Nealon says:

    The leather industry is a HUGE part of animal agriculture, a big part of their profit margin, not at ALL just a by product. I am sorry I missed the original post and grateful that Linda brought this to your attention. Jim, there are just as many shoe & clothing alternatives as there are meat & dairy alternatives. Buying “less” rather than “none” means the point hasn’t fully gotten thru. I will look for a video clip to post, more education is needed. The cruelty to these animals is horrific, and the pollution to the environment is completely poisonous. Cancer levels in people living near tanneries is very high. It’s a matter of consistency. When we poison the air & water, we poison ourselves, since those are our most basic needs in life. Thus it does affect our health.

    As a 28 year vegan, every day of my life, before I make any purchase, I check to make sure it’s cruelty-free. It’s really not that hard. We have an abundance of choices these days.

    As to not wasting items one already has, I would choose to donate them to charity, then they’re not wasted. To continue to wear them weakens one’s message of overall consciousness & demonstrates a lack of understanding of the whole picture.

    Health is NOT only about what we eat. It’s also about what we breathe, drink, do, think.


  2. Lonnie Wall says:

    JIM –
    We are so very, very appreciative of your extensive, diligent work in research and writing this blog, and your book. The “Leather – Meat” issue is an interesting one, which I had not thought about. I believe you are doing a fantastic job, focusing on the health of humans, animals, and the planet on which we live. Your focus is the vital issue. The other matters, such as leather, will take care of themselves – in due time.
    Thank you very much for all of your work in behalf of all of us.
    ~ Lonnie

    • Linda says:

      Leather will “take care of itself” sooner if the demand for it declines. And, as I said, buying leather helps keep beef prices lower, which means people buy and eat more of it than they would otherwise. It’s all connected. And Jim, thank you for listening.

  3. billkranker says:


    Because oif your recommendation a while back I watched the movie “Earthlings”. I am not sure if you remember this but In one of the scenes of the movie it showed some men in India I believe that were leading a group of cows to be killed for use in leather production (and presumably for meat as well ??) and because the cows were so weak they kept sitting down on the trail. So the men were putting hot peppers in the eyes of the cows to motivate them in some way to keep moving. Not sure how putting pepper in the cows eye accomplishes their goal but they seemed to think it was working. To me this was just so cruel that it did get me to rethink purchasing leather goods. I think that often once you see what happens behind the curtain in the animal related businesses it will make you rethink why we are doing what we are doing. Contrast this with vegetables and produce for the most part and you do not see this level of immoral behavior. Just a thought. Regarding my own purchases of leather goods I am in line with you in that I have a leather coutch and shoes. In my car I have cloth because I like it better in that case. In the future I will be investgating alternate products for purchase.

    Hope you have a great day!!


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