Will this really save a cow's life?

Mercedes to offer leather free cars

PETA claims that “this means thousands of cows will be spared”, but does the demand for leather increase the number of cows killed? I always thought that leather was a by-product of the beef and dairy industry, but maybe I’m wrong.

Is leather from beef and dairy cows adequate for seats in a Mercedes, or are there cattle raised strictly for leather?

I don’t know where Mercedes sources their leather, but i remember when i was younger and a real car nut reading about the Connolly leather used by (IIRC) Rolls Royce, Aston Martin, and other upmarket car makers. That leather definitely did not come from your regular beef and dairy cows.

Cattle raised for the highest-quality leather are generally raised specifically for that purpose (i’m sure that their meat get used, but it’s not the main use for the animal), and are kept in surroundings most conducive to the production of good leather. For example, no barbed wire to puncture the skin and mark the leather, and the cattle are dehorned so they don’t gouge each other (admittedly, many beef cattle are dehorned for the same reason).

Remember that this is my memory of an article i read over a decade ago. Whether all of that still holds true or not, i don’t really know.

Just wanted to add:

If i had the moeny for a Mercedes, i’d be perfectly happy with nice cloth seats. I’ve never been a huge fan of leather seats, for reasons that have nothing to do with my vegetariansim. I just don’t like the feel very much.

Depends on what you mean by “spared”, I suppose. Animals which are raised for harvesting leather will be slaughtered for it - after all, breeders want to recoup their investment. However, if the demand for leather drops, then possibly fewer animals will be bred, unless demand for leather simply increases in some other area. In any case, the leather used for Mercedes interiors has to be a drop in the bucket in the overall consumption of leather, so I can’t see it as any great victory on PETA’s behalf.

I suspect that this will backfire on the leftist crowd. Decreased demand means lower price in the same supply, which means that leather will be cheaper… yay, Mercedes!

I can’t see that this will save the life of a single cow.

Even assuming that the cattle providing the leather for Mercedes interior are raised specifically for having nice, unblemished hides (I’d like to see a cite for this, btw. I don’t see how it would be more economical to spend more on raising the cattle rather than simply screening the hides of ordinary beef animals and taking the best ones, but I suppose it’s possible.) the prime determinant in how many cattle are raised is beef consumption. If significantly fewer primarily-leather cows are raised, their meat would be removed from the supply, and the market would demand a roughly equal number of primarily-meat cows to return the beef supply to equilibrium. Total number of cows remains near constant.

“Leftist”? How does being against cruelty to animals (as overboard/extremist/loony as PETA may be) equate to socialist politics? :dubious:

Just a nitpick.

I would tend to disagree. To simplify the example, let’s assume that instead of a mere decrease of demand for leather, the deman dissapear completely (leather is banned altogether for some reason).

The cost of rasing a cow being the same, since the farmers can’t sell leather anymore, they’ll have to raise the price of meat to compensate.

You’re assuming that the demand for meat is constant. But it is only if the price stays the same. If it increases, as it will be the case when the farmers won’t be able to sell leather, the demand for meat will decrease and less cows will be raised.

However, and I think it’s an important point, it won’t save the life of any cow, since they won’t be raised at the first place. An unborn cow isn’t a saved cow.

It won’t save the life of a cow, but I think it’ll prevent the slaughter of a cow.

As pointed out, cattle growers get profit from all the parts of the animal–skin, meat, fur, bones, hooves, etc. The more total profit they get per cow, the likelier they are to expand their operation, which means breeding and slaughtering more cows. The less total profit they get per cow, the less likely they are to expand that operation.

Yes, this might drive down the cost of leather. If it does, that’ll mean farmers are making less profit on raising cattle for slaughter, which means they’re less likely to do so.

PETA’s argument is, in this case, sound.



Not only do i agree with LHoD and clairobscur’s arguments, but your own position takes this single PETA argument in isolation.

With a group like PETA, which is campaigning on a variety of issues, their position on the use of leather needs to be considered as part of their overall philosophy. Not only are they trying to reduce the use of leather, they are also trying to reduce the amount of meat consumed. Your argument assumes that demand for beef remains constant, but presumably the folks at PETA would argue that this demand, too, can and should be reduced.

Umm…well. Maybe. Maybe. I’m not so sure, though.

First, the price of the hide is a truly miniscule portion of the price of the animal. Beef price fluctuations from day to day are vastly greater than the value of the hide. So any effect is going to be extremely minimal to begin with.

Second, farmers can’t “raise the price of meat”, unless we’re in some fantasy world, or you’re talking about extremely low volume farmgate sales. Nearly all beef is sold at auction to packing plants. Farmers take what they get. The only time they set the price is if they have a couple animals custom slaughtered and sell the meat to acquaintances, but this is (1) necessarily low volume, and (2) irrelevant to the price of meat generally, because by cutting out distributors and retailers, the farmer gets a much higher price and the consumer gets a much lower price than the going rates.

In the real world, at auction, the price is dictated largely by the volume of cattle available as compared to the slaughter capacity of packing plants. Eventual retail price of beef is almost completely unrelated to the live price. For example, because of the American import ban on Canadian beef due to the BSE scare, the price of beef on the hoof has fallen dramatically, from 20-30% in the case of prime finished steers to 50-90% in the case of cows (i.e., culled milkers and beef breeders). According to conventional economic theory, this should have resulted in a lower retail price and greater demand, but that hasn’t happened. The retail price of beef hasn’t budged. The slaughterhouses, obviously, have been making out extremely well in Canada recently. Because there is relatively little competition between packers, they have the ability to set prices that have no particular relation to their inputs. Farmers, on the other hand, take whatever price they’re given, until the margin becomes simply too thin to stay in business, and they go under. In real life, most farmers stay in business even after the margin is too thin, and get by with off-farm income.

So what happens if the packing plants can’t sell as many hides to tanners as they used to? Not much. Their margins get a bit thinner. The retail price won’t change, because the packers don’t want to impact their volume. If corporate profitability demands it, they’ll bid lower at auction, and the farmer’s margins will take a tiny little hit (say, $2/head - last price I heard for a hide was $8), and life will go on completely unchanged. $2/head is nothing. Less than nothing.

So, I stand by my assertion that Mercedes buying less or no leather will not save the life of a single cow.

As Gorsnak said, leather is just a minor blip in the overall beef industry. However…

If, by some twist of fate, the whole world suddenly gave up eating beef and wearing leather, almost all of the world’s cattle would be killed. The reason is simple. Cattle eat a lot of grain, and, if there were no profit in cattle, nobody would let them eat all that grain. Farming is a business, and nobody can afford to give away grain for no profit.

I am totally opposed to cruelty to animals of any kind or age.
Animals raised for food, leather, eggs, KFC, or any other useful purpose.
Killing them, of course, must be in a quick, painless, and effective way.

As opposed to the current system whereby they live out their lives and die of old age?

I agree with you, that the end of the beef industry would entail mass slaughter. However, it would mean that no more cows would be bred to the slaughter. It is the slaughter of the future cattle that would be prevented.

Whether we have a moral imperative to prevent such a slaughter is of course beyond the bounds of General Questions.


No matter how hard PETA tries, all cows born will eventually die. That’s just the way it works.

I like cows. They’re cute and fuzzy. And they taste great w/ ketchup :smiley:

However, i do agree, that there’s a big difference between a milli-second death and Joe Farmer taking an hour to accomplish the same thing.

Being from the Dairy State, just want to point out:

cow: female
bull: male
steer: male, castrated before maturity
cattle: all of the above collectively

And not being from a dairy state, I want to point out:

Cow, definition 3: A domesticated bovine of either sex or any age.


Another triumph for ignorance.

Hoozah! :smiley:

:rolleyes:. Your ignorance just got fought; suck it up!

Yes, within specific fields (heh), words are often used in a sense different from how they’re used among the general populace. That doesn’t mean that the technician’s definition of the word is better than the general populace’s definition; it simply means that the technician has a need for a certain definition.

Some technicians like to put on airs of superiority related to their terms of the trade. That’s absurd, and betrays a fundamental lack of understanding of how language operates.

Suck it up, Walloon!