The whole Lady Gaga meat dress thing has so repulsed me that I want to purge my whole closet of leather. I haven’t bought leather in ages. It’s all from my pre-vegan days, except for a few items that were gifts from well meaning  but uninformed friends. My thinking was, “Animals died for this. Throwing it away means they died for nothing. I will just use it until it wears out and then replace it with a vegan alternative.” Additionally, I felt that it was environmentally irresponsible to throw away usable items and add them to a landfill.

Lady Gaga’s meat dress at the VMAs helped me realize that leather is the same as fur is the same as meat from an ethical standpoint. So now my dilemma is what to do with these things. Donate, discard? Probably donate. Many needy folks could probably benefit from the shoes and belts that now feel like carcasses in my closet. When I was a vegetarian I justified owning leather by telling myself and others that leather was a byproduct of the meat industry. I now know this not to be entirely true. Leather supports the meat and dairy industries by giving them another income stream. Without leather (and enormous government subsidies) it is doubtful that animal agriculture could go on in it’s present form. Animal products would cost significantly more and less people would be using them as a result.

I have many friends and family members who are okay with leather still, even though they eat a vegan diet. It was a process for me. The veil of self deception falls away quickly for some and more slowly for others. Many of them are just interested in eating a vegan diet to improve their health, which it does, but I’ve also noticed that it tends to open their hearts. There are many former fur fans among them. I doubt that will buy fur again. They will probably say they have enough already, but I think the truth is that none of us wants to see what we do as cruel. We want to believe that we are good people and acknowledging that we are involved in torture and animal cruelty is just too much harmonic dissonance. Admitting we were part of that says something about who we are that is hard to face. It says that we contributed to animal suffering. Even admitting that animals suffer is hard for some. Although you can bet that if someone kicked their dog they’d be furious.

Most people consider themselves kind. Hunters love their dogs. Lady Gaga wants to be socially conscious judging be her interviews. Our culture deceives us, and we deceive ourselves. I know animals feel. When one of my pet chickens was being chased by a dog she changed course the moment she saw me and leaped into my arms. She was trembling and tucked her head tightly under my elbow. I chased off the dog and comforted her. The complex thinking required for her to know that I would protect her and her obvious desire to be comforted afterwards is something most KFC customers would never imagine their Double Down sandwiches capable of. This shouldn’t be a surprise though, because the complex thinking required for people to understand what we are doing to animals is something that many of us are still struggling with.