The auto industry is buzzing about the new 2012 Mercedes CLS. Among its many luxurious features is a leather interior that Mercedes boasts requires four animals to create.
I don’t know about you, but to me four dead animals means a quality product! With that kind of marketing you can bet that I will be the first in line at the Mercedes dealership trying to get financed for a new CLS!
In an era when what were once fringe beliefs like veganism and animal rights are becoming more and more mainstream, when even omnivores are speaking out against fur and whaling, it demonstrates how completely out of touch a company can become when they market exclusively to the extremely wealthy.
There is a correlation between wealth and the exploitation of animals, between luxury and one’s inclination toward kindness.
There is of course a long cultural tradition of animals being used as symbols of prestige and wealth; the best example is wearing fur, which is still viewed as a sign of wealth. While factory-farming and subsidies have created an artificially low price for meat making it affordable by almost anyone, there was a time in recent human history when eating meat was exclusively reserved for the rich.
This helps to explain a cultural obsession with “luxurifying” brands and products by the inclusion of dead animals. Celebrities still flaunt their furs, upscale breweries package their beer bottles inside taxidermied squirrels, and Mercedes boldly quantifies the dead animals required to produce the interior of its new luxury car.
Luxury is defined almost entirely by wastefulness. By wasting, one can demonstrate a lack of concern for frugality, cost, or consequence. This is why meat is a luxury item no matter how cheaply it can be produced. The water, food, time, and land required to produce meat is astronomically higher than that required to produce vegetables, fruits or grains.
When we as a society begin to lose some of our concern with opulence and indulgence we can begin to see the irreversible damage we’re doing not just to ourselves, but to the animals and the planet. When we start to see animals and the planet as living entities and not exploitable commodities we will stop treating them as status symbols to kill, eat, wear, and line our cars.
Photo: Tim Dobbelaere