Animals As Commodities | How We Exploit Them for More Than Food

Why no wool? Stop the silk? Lay off leather? Forget the feather? Forgo the fur? Down with…down?

Are They Commodities? | Exploiting Animals for More Than Food

It is important to consider the above questions where they are concerned. The use of animals as commodities extends further than what we choose to put in our mouths.

Wool, silk, leather, feather, suede, fur, ivory, down are just some examples of the many ways animals are unnecessarily exploited for human benefit. Humans do not require these ‘products’ and in fact, have a variety of cruelty free substitutes to choose from.

Some of these products need less of an explanation as to why they are unethical. For example, leather, suede, fur, are literally the skin off an animal’s back. Imagine inserting an electric rod into the anus of your beloved pet then proceeding to skin it, and wearing it out on a Friday night. Alternatively, you can do without the killing part and jump straight to the skinning if you’re short on time?

To some, that may seem a little passive aggressive however the unfortunate reality is exactly that. What some animals go through to provide us with ‘products’ is truly abhorrent, yet we view companion animals such as cats and dogs in a rather different light – we wouldn’t dream of exploiting them in this way.

Speciesism has led society to value certain life forms more than others.

So, here’s the low-‘down’ – The stuffing of some quilts, pillows, jackets etc are the feathers from baby geese or ducks which have been ripped from their necks. ‘Down’ is just euphemism which enables companies market their product and create a disconnect between the consumer and the way the item is produced. ‘Stolen Baby Goose Feathers!’ doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.

‘Unfertilized Chicken Menstruation’ anyone? How about some ‘Bovine Maternal Secretions?’

Euphemisms. We use them a lot.

On average, it takes the feathers from 75 or more birds to stuff one average duvet.

Feathers are the same to birds; they are the animal’s natural protection and warmth layer. When humans take their feathers, they are either taken after the bird is slaughtered for food by submerging the skin in boiling water (so that the feathers are easier to pluck), or ripped from their skin while they are live and conscious – struggling against a human captor, or the down is ‘gathered’ from their skin with a harsh, comb-like tool.

None of these methods are ethical or necessary, but luckily there are an array of synthetic options out there which offer just as much warmth and comfort. Most of the time, they come with a lower price tag too.

Wool is also used in clothing, bedding, soft furnishing, etc but many people don’t understand why it’s unethical.


Sheep used for wool, particularly merino sheep, are selectively bred to grow excessive amounts of wool than what is natural. Typically, a sheep would grow just enough wool to keep them warm however farmed sheep grow way more wool than they can handle so that the surplus can be used for humans.

Furthermore, when a sheep’s coat gets excessively huge, farmers need to prevent flies laying their eggs within it. To do this, farmers will perform a procedure called mulesing without anesthesia; a process where the skin on the backs of lambs and around their tails are sliced back. This might sound necessary in order to avoid maggot infestation however it could simply be avoided by not intentionally breeding excessively wooly sheep.

Lambs and sheep are also castrated, scored with hot metal rods, have their tails docked and holes punched into their soft, sensitive ears often without pain relief. On top of this, sheep are roughly sheared and sold for slaughter when wool production declines. The wool industry exploits sheep, is unnecessary and therefore inhumane.

Silk production is a lesser known industry. It profits from the products from the bodies of silkworms. A cocoon is made by a silkworm containing pupae then the cocoon, where the silk comes from, is boiled and thus the pupae are killed for silk.

To make one pound of silk, an average of 2500 caterpillar pupae are killed and it is estimated that 10 billion cocoons containing pupae are required as a minimum for the silk industry annually; 10 billion pupae are killed for silk every year…. Seems like a lot?

Unfortunately, these are only a few of the many ways in which human greed and speciesism has led to the exploitation and cruel treatment of other living beings. We exploit animals for our pleasure in many other ways, including for entertainment like horse racing, circuses, aquariums and zoos.

Please think twice about what a product is made from and how it got there, or whether an your entertainment comes at the cost of another living being’s welfare.

Do you want to be part of the fuel that keeps these industries thriving?