Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Are animals part of "the environment"?

At Mother Jones, Kate Sheppard discusses the "eco-friendly" nature of fake leather versus real leather,

"thinking about whether fur, or for that matter, any other animal-derived material used for clothing, is inherently a bad environmental choice."

Plenty of commenters to the article brought up the obvious animal rights part of the discussion (Sheppard barely hinted at it), but I think Sheppard's language is typical of a seeming blind spot shared by a lot of environmentalist writers. Sheppard can write an article exploring whether using animal products can be "environmentally friendly," because she basically doesn't consider animals part of the environment.

This is that blind spot. I heard a colleague once say at a presentation that when we talk about the environment, we usually think of something green. Sheppard, like some other environmentalist writers, seems to view the environment as something green and blue that needs to be saved for humankind's pleasure and usage, and the sentient animals are just objects that happen to live in the environment, evidently not part of the ethical consideration about what needs to be saved, protected, and preserved.

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