“We should prevent unnecessary suffering and death.”
These seven words might just encapsulate the most widely shared value among humanity. Indeed, if we were to specify the meaning of the terms “being humane” and “being true to our humanity”, it seems undeniable that, at the very least, they entail acting in accordance with this core principle.
Yet what does it mean, in practical terms, to do so? What does it mean to put the precept “avoid causing unnecessary suffering and death” into practice?
This is by no means a trivial question to answer, one reason being that it is often unclear what might reasonably count as a necessary reason for causing suffering and death. Yet we nonetheless can provide at least some answers, as we clearly can point to cases, many cases in fact, where it is quite clear that our reasons for causing suffering and death cannot be deemed necessary. For if “a necessary reason for causing suffering and death” is to mean anything at all, it must, at the very least, exclude reasons such as mere pleasure, convenience, and fashion preferences. And yet in the vast majority of cases in which humanity inflicts suffering and death upon non-human animals, we do it for no higher reason than these.
This includes the suffering and death caused by the tannery (leather) industry. We do not strictly need to buy and wear leather, and certainly not at a level of necessity that can justify the infliction of suffering and death caused by the industry we would thereby support. This is quite counter-intuitive: we all accept that we should not cause unnecessary suffering and death, and yet most of us betray this core principle by supporting industries that do exactly that. A contradiction that reflects the fact that staying true to our own core principles often involves inconvenience.
At FoeLeather, we fully acknowledge this lamentable reality, and our prime commitment is to change it. We wish to be part of the already ongoing process of change toward a world where it is easier for all of us to live in accordance with our own core values. A world where acting according to our core values does not have to imply any compromise whatsoever. We wish to make it easy for everyone to take steps toward a kinder, more ethical world with less suffering. This is why we do what we do.
Magnus Vinding is the author of Effective Altruism: How Can We Best Help Others?