Since I was small, I’ve had a bit of a weird conflict in my interests. I love animals, but I also like dead stuff. Not gross dead stuff, but taxidermy, skulls, leather, etc.
I think I was about 15 when I decided to go vegetarian. We’d had too many “farm animal” type pets, and I don’t see why I should take offense at people eating animals such as horses and dogs, but not have any issues with pigs and chickens being eaten.
And it felt weird to me to say that I collect skulls, or I like to use leather in my crafts, even though the skulls I collect are those I find in the woods, and if I use actual leather, it is something that is going to be thrown away, that I have salvaged the leather from.
For example, I just helped my Dad pick up a set of furniture that a tenant left out on the curb (despite knowing that the garbage truck won’t pick it up). We brought it home, because we didn’t have time to take it to the dump, and the plan was to take it when we had time.
But I have started demolishing them (they’re old, they sat out in the rain, and the loveseat at least is missing feet, so they’re really not usable). There’s a couch, loveseat, and chair, which are all leather. So I have been out there with tools and a couple of garbage cans, taking them apart.
It’s shocking what little garbage there is in something that you’re throwing away. From the chair, which was pretty sizable, I got less than half a can of garbage.
I’m keeping the leather for craft projects, mostly renaissance fair costume type things. You’ll probably be seeing some of those over the summer.
The cushions from the back and seats will go through the wash, then be covered with fabric and become beds for my dogs (something I’ve been wanting to do, but fiberfill is expensive…).
The big bolts that hold everything together will go in my Dad’s stash of bolts and whatnot, ready to be used in anything that needs them.
And the wood, which makes up the bulk of the pieces, will fuel a few campfires over the next couple of weeks.
Oh, and the feet from the chair will go on the legs of a desk I want to build, using the top of a demolished dresser that had also been sitting in the rain with the other furniture.
It’s kind of like the Native Americans using the whole buffalo.
But it has been a little bit weird, having leather hanging from the clothesline, and dangling from a card table in the living room, where I put the pieces that wouldn’t fit on the clothesline. I keep wondering what would happen if someone comes over, who knows that I am a vegetarian, and sees the leather hanging to dry.
Most people think it’s an either/or.
Either you’re a vegetarian, and you have nothing to do with dead animals of any kind, or you eat meat.
My view of it though, is that I am giving new purpose to the leather, beyond simply going and rotting in the landfill because it is still part of the couch.
It’s the same with the wood from the frame. Yes, burning doesn’t seem so much like repurposing, but it will bring warmth and a pleasant evening, and that seems better than rotting in a landfill. Most of it isn’t of a quality that can be used for building projects or anything, so it will be a campfire.
One of the things I like the best about social media (like most people, I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with it) is that I see people who are like me. I was super relieved when I saw people on Instagram who are like me. They are vegetarians (or vegans), who love animals. All of their pieces are ethically sourced, and many of them are from roadkill, or animals who have died naturally. They respect the animal by making jewelry or decorations out of the bones or fur.
This is often referred to as “vulture culture”, and looks at the beauty in death and bodies, and respects the animal from whom the bones or skin came.
I don’t worship the animal, or pray to them or anything like that. I know some people do, but that’s not what I do. But it’s like when I bury one of my pets. I want to be kind and respectful to their body, even though they’re not inside anymore. I feel the same way about animals I find out in the woods.
And, yes, I have the hides of two of my horses who have died. We wrapped the horses in blankets after skinning them (I had to have my Dad do that…I couldn’t actually stick the knife in), and buried them. Some people have issues with that, but I don’t see it being that much different than keeping someone’s ashes on your mantle. Or having their ashes turned into a diamond you’ll wear in a necklace.
Even though I am content with being the weird one (got used to it growing up), it was nice to learn that there is a community of people like me. People who are perfectly sensible people who simply see the beauty in animals, and that it doesn’t end in death.