By Lisa Franzetta
For several years now, I've spent a good deal of time caged and nearly nude, my body painted like a tiger or other exotic animal. It's not what I imagined I'd end up doing when I was a student at Brown University, but I'm an animal rights activist, and if there is one thing I've learned, it's that baring a little skin certainly shines the spotlight on animal issues.
Lately, however, the public and the media have been focusing on the wrong kind of skin. For nearly a month, the skins of animals like crocodiles from Africa and colorful snakes from South America have been splashed across the fall fashion pages of newspapers and magazines. It's as though some designers, forced to accept the fact that the public has turned away from the gruesome fur industry, can't let go of death, as though they have to find new ways to kill and exploit for their creations.
This ugly skins campaign means that animals are hauled out of their own home territories and murdered. Anyone who chooses to drape their bodies with the skins of butchered animals should be aware that they are contributing to an ugly business that is largely unregulated by any authority.
Reptiles and many other exotic animals are not protected by any "humane slaughter" laws, and people who are willing to raise and slaughter them or hunt, kill and skin them for profit care nothing for what these animals endure on their way to becoming a jacket, belt, bag or pair of shoes. Snakes and lizards are often skinned alive, as though they had no feelings at all because, if you think about it, who can be bothered to render them unconscious first? Ostriches are actually live-plucked of their feathers before they are slaughtered. The farmers pull their wonderful plumage out with pliers.
On a recent national radio program, a hunter described various ways that alligators are caught and killed right here in the good ol' USA. One method was to cast a huge grappling hook into the animals'skin and then "[play] the alligator like you would a fish." Once the alligator is bound with ropes to the boat, the hunter hacks at the animal's spinal cord with an ax.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals sent an investigator to work at a Florida alligator farm. There, he found animals living on top of each other on concrete slabs in half-sunken sheds, trying to stay alive in the foul, feces- and urine-contaminated water. The place reeked of the rancid meat fed to the alligators. Our investigator documented workers'smashing the baby 'gators over the head with baseball bats to kill them and slicing through their spinal cords with steel chisels and hammers. Some alligators remained conscious for up to two hours.
This is not "cool" – this is ugliness and misery. Consumers, I hope, will not be swayed by the hype. None of us needs to wear death to look good. We are all sisters and brothers under the skin.
Lisa Franzetta is a campaign coordinator for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
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