Many non-human animals are used for different types of furniture. Leather materials are primarily made from cows, but is also made from the skins of “goats, lambs, sheep, pigs, and horses.” Exotic leathers are made from the skins of “water buffalos, bison, zebras, elephants, sharks, dolphins, frogs, turtles, crocodiles, lizards, snakes, boars, kangaroos, eels, seals and walruses” ("Truly Unethical," n.d.). Many people believe that leather is a byproduct of the meat industry, however farmers can make a larger profit from selling the skins than the meat of a farmed animals (Carter, 2008). Down feathers and fur are examples of other non-human animal products being used to create furniture. The TheaterSeatStore.com has an interesting list of how non-human animals are used for furniture. For example, they state, “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” ("Truly Unethical," n.d.). None of these farmed animals live an easy life and are subjected to unimaginable cruelties. However, there are many fabric alternatives when purchasing furniture - including faux leather, synthetic fabric, and recycled materials. You can also look for used furniture on many local resale websites and apps. I have bought several pieces of furniture from Craigslist, and most were in terrific condition. If you are currently looking for new furniture pieces or will be in the future, keep this in mind and see what animal-friendly options are available. Check local stores too. By buying local, you have a better chance of obtaining a piece of furniture that was crafted locally, the makers are being paid fairly, the item wasn’t shipped overseas, and it will most likely be better quality! These piece might be a little more expensive, however you will most likely not have to replace it anytime soon, and you may have the option of being able to contact the maker directly.
Rugs and carpet are also products in which to be aware of where they are being made and the materials that are being used. Child labor has been well documented in the rug and carpet industry. Craig Kielburger even discusses it in his book, Free the Children. He talks about children who are tied to carpet looms, and about their lives within the carpet industry (Kielburger, 1998, p. 7). Also, many non-human animal materials are used to weave the rugs, such as wool. Just like furniture, there are synthetic alternatives and products made without slave labor. GoodWeave is a non-profit that works towards ending child labor in the carpet industry. You can go on their website to find local retailers that sell rugs with their seal of approval.
Another area to be mindful of the type of materials used, who produced the product, and if it was created in an environmentally-friendly way is clothing. Fur, leather, down, wool, and even dyes are a few non-human animal-derived materials that are frequently found on the runway and in department stores. Dye can also have a harmful impact on the environment.
Pasado’s Safe Haven, a Washington state-based non-profit, has put together a detailed list of how non-human animals live while being farmed for either meat or clothing. They mention, “Animals on fur farms spend their entire lives confined to cramped, filthy wire cages. In an effort to avoid any “damage” to the fur pelt, farmers kill the animals by suffocating, gassing or poisoning them, or by inserting an electrified rod into their anuses and electrocuting them from the inside out. You may think that it’s only foxes and minks that endure this horrific treatment but many cats and dogs are also used for their skins and they suffer the same intense confinement and brutal killing methods as other animals used in the fur industry ("Animals Used," n.d.). They go on to talk about leather, wool, and down as well. I have suggested buying used products in several tips, but here is another tip where it can be mentioned.
You can have clothing swaps with friends, or find new-to-you clothing at resale shops. This not only saves you money, but it also reduced the number of materials that are used to make new items.
Shoes and footwear are also everyday items that can be easily made using slave labor, derived from non-human animals, and are not produced in an environmentally friendly fashion.
Many shoes, if not most, are made using a leather product, and the glue and rubber can be made using non-human animal ingredients as well. Plus not all shoe corporations have the best reputation for ethically produced shoes. It can be challenging to find shoes that are ethically produced, that do not break down easily, or are not extremely expensive. Do you have a favorite brand of shoes? Check with the manufacturer to see what type of material they use and how they were produced? Can you find that information? I currently wear Altra brand athletic shoes. They are farmed animal free, but I haven’t been able to discover how they are produced.
With all of these tips, the idea of most good has to be practiced. I try always to make the best decision possible that benefits non-human animals, fellow humans, and the environment. However, I know that it is not always possible to create a perfect balance. It is not out of the ordinary to find me in a store, on my cell phone, looking up and researching if a product, whatever it may be, was produced ethically. If there is a better decision to be made, then I always try to make it. But I also have to keep in mind my budget and the needs of my family. If all of this information is new to you, or even if it is a refresher, don’t beat yourself up about trying to make the perfect decision. Take in all of the facts, and the base your decisions on the most good (including the most good for yourself too).