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Legislation to Protect Canned Hunting Facilities Proposed in Indiana

John Stehn/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

John Stehn/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Legislation has been proposed in Indiana that would protect that state’s captive deer hunting industry, including the so-called “deer farmers” who breed the victims. In its latest form, proposed Indiana Senate Bill No. 487 “provides for the licensing and operation of cervidae hunting preserves on which legally farm raised and released cervidae are hunted.”

According to an April 8 article in The Indianapolis Star, the Indiana “House natural resources committee added language to SB 487 that grandfathers in Indiana’s existing high-fence hunting facilities, which have been in a legal dispute with the DNR for eight years over whether they can legally operate.”

An April 1 story in The Indianapolis Star indicates that proponents of the amended legislation believe it “would create jobs and guarantee the state’s nearly 400 deer farmers would have a place to sell their animals.”

Obviously, Indiana’s deer farmers are worried about how they’d survive were the state to ban the operation of these execution grounds.

Fortunately for them, I have a suggestion: They should breed and raise inbred humans and sell them for scientific experimentation. There are plenty of inbred Hoosiers to start with and the demand for their spawn would be huge. Inbred-human farmers could supply research subjects to laboratories around the world and make a lot of money doing so.

I also have a suggestion for those who own and operate Indiana’s captive-hunting facilities: They ought to turn their properties into members-only man caves that serve strychnine and host pay-to-play paintball tournaments whose winners receive the losers’ severed heads as trophies.

Death of Bullfighter Patricia McCormick is Overdue

Upon learning of the long-overdue death of Missouri-born bullfighter Patricia McCormick, I worked diligently to perfect my sewing skills, hopeful that her family would consider donating her ugly carcass to a magic-based reality TV show I’d quickly conceived.

In an obituary that appeared in Texas Monthly (and in a slightly different form in The New York Times), Texas-based writer Bryan Mealer explained that McCormick’s “love of the sport came during a vacation to Mexico City when she was seven years old” after which “she staged mock bullfights in her yard using neighborhood kids.”

If only the aspiring terrorist had stuck to torturing her consenting peers.

McCormick lived longer than many of us would have liked. The Daily Telegraph (London) reported that after she was gored during a bullfight in Ciudad Acuña, McCormick “received a letter that read: ‘I’m sorry the bull didn’t kill you.'”

I, too, am sorry.

Mealer’s Texas Monthly piece tells us that “McCormick had her bullfighting debut on September 9, 1951, in Juárez. According to the Big Spring Daily Herald, a bull trampled her twice and tossed her on its horns before she managed to plunge the estoque between its shoulders. … Reporters also noted that after killing the animal, McCormick, her clothes streaked in its blood, knelt down and caressed its head.”

Needless to say, news of the twisted psychopath’s natural death was somewhat bittersweet.

Before reading that her shriveled remains would be cremated, I tried unsuccessfully to convince McCormick’s relatives and officials in Del Rio, Texas, to send me her lifeless corpse. My plan, I explained, was “to stuff … (and) turn the deceased into a life-size voodoo doll.”

There was no doubt in my mind that at least one forward-thinking Hollywood producer would see the value of a magic-based reality TV show in which I’d regularly bleed McCormick’s loathsome memory.

In a pitch letter I’d started drafting, I promised that “with enough practice, I’ll eventually be able to use my life-size Patricia McCormick voodoo doll to slaughter the world’s most popular matadors on their own killing floors” and promoted my widely shared desire to “let the barbarians who cheer them on watch their murderous heroes get brutally tortured and slain by the badass measures of karma they’d so shamelessly tempted.”

And for those who might be outraged by what they perceive as a savage blood sport, I suggested “marketing the show as an unprecedented glimpse into a misunderstood cultural tradition.”

Dead Hunters Museum Theater Planned for Chicago

photo(69)FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Chicago – April 1, 2013

Contact: Monty Gelstein
monty.gelstein@gmail.com

Dead Hunters Museum Theater Planned for Chicago

Chicago’s burgeoning Logan Square neighborhood is expected to become something of a mecca for those involved in the anti-hunting movement, when the nation’s first cultural organization dedicated to celebrating the deaths of so-called “sportsmen” opens its doors a year from now.

According to The Daily Maul’s David Brensilver, a planned Dead Hunters Museum Theater will feature, among other conventional and interactive exhibits, “live reenactments of spectacular predator-on-hunter attacks.”

Brensilver, who’ll curate the museum’s collections and oversee its programs, said the long-overdue establishment of the organization has been made possible by a generous gift from philanthropist and self-described “successful-animal-on-human-attack connoisseur” Monty Gelstein.

Reached at Chicago’s timelessly splendid Drake Hotel, Gelstein said the Dead Hunters Museum Theater will be located “in a former public-library building whose doors were closed years ago, when the culturally incurious stopped reading.”

In addition to footing an estimated $66 million renovation bill, Gelstein said he’s endowed the nonprofit Dead Hunters Museum Theater with “the funds required to operate and maintain the organization for generations to come.”

Brensilver plans to hold auditions in Chicago this summer for a full-time Dead Hunters Theater cast, whose members will be expected to perform a vast repertoire based on commentaries published at The Daily Maul.

“I’m looking for like-minded actors, performers who’ll be comfortable playing a variety of species including the drooling-class knuckle-draggers who’ll meet their much-deserved ends, over and over again, in our schadenfreude-jones-fixing reenactments,” Brensilver said.

The museum’s exhibits will showcase dead hunters’ remains, autopsy reports and photographs, and information about each remarkable animal who dispatched his or her savage, would-be murderer.

The Dead Hunters Museum Theater, which Brensilver said will be free and open to subscribers of The Daily Maul, will also house a gift shop and a vegan restaurant, the proceeds from which will be donated to a nationwide campaign to take private hunting grounds by eminent domain.

“Our goal is to protect other species from bloodlust-full humans, while luxuriating in the removal from this planet of a portion of the drooling-class,” Brensilver said.

Actors and actresses interested in auditioning for full-time positions with the Dead Hunters Museum Theater should apply in the comments section below.

Video Shows Slaughterhouse Worker Shooting Horse

I have a problem with people who claim that they can’t stomach images of animals being slaughtered.

In my October 12, 2012, commentary, “Exposed: Animal Cruelty at an Idaho Dairy Farm,” I wrote: “To he who lacks the courage to engage his conscience – I say: Your avoidance is contemptible.”

Most of that avoidance is exercised when horrifying images find their way into news reports, as has video of a man in New Mexico shooting an otherwise healthy-looking horse in the head.

On Saturday, the Los Angeles TimesJohn Glionna reported that “the clip, posted on YouTube, shows an employee of a southeastern New Mexico slaughterhouse – a business that is seeking federal approval to slaughter horses – shooting a colt between the eyes with a .45-caliber handgun after he taunts activists who have opposed reintroducing horse slaughter in the U.S.”

Like many other news stations, the Albuquerque, New Mexico-based CBS affiliate KRQE “blurred” the portion of the video (included above) that shows the horse’s brutal execution.

By shielding their viewers in this way, media outlets are protecting institutions that would prefer to keep hidden the brutality that feeds their bottom lines.

So-called “ag-gag” legislation and the sinister Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act and state adaptations thereof represent the extent to which captains of murderous industry – with the eager help of the sycophantic power brokers who do their bidding – will go to keep the killing floors open for business.

The more evolved among us must challenge others to not only watch videos like the one included above, but to look carefully at the many sickening images that have been made available by those who’ve gone undercover to document the ongoing holocaust.

It is worth asking: Would the holocaust continue if slaughterhouse operators were forced to install webcams on the killing floors?

Dance of the Fur Trapper, Or, No Leg to Stand On

Illustration by Alfred Edmund Brehm (1829-84)

Illustration by Alfred Edmund Brehm (1829-84)

SOMEWHERE IN CENTRAL PENNSYLVANIA, IN THE NOT-TOO-DISTANT FUTURE — State law-enforcement officials have charged a drug-addicted vagrant with the brutal murder of a local fur trapper.

Responding to an anonymously placed telephone call, police say they found 26-year-old Jim Pat Stuasy “rummaging through a dead man’s belongings” on a piece of heavily wooded private property in central Pennsylvania.

“The suspect was stretched-out on crystal meth in a cabin owned by Tom Rennsam, whose mutilated corpse lay just outside,” a police spokesperson said.

The state medical examiner’s report indicates that Rennsam, a lifelong fur trapper, was missing his left foot, “which appears to have been removed premortem.”

Police say Stuasy was “thoroughly soaked in the victim’s blood” when they arrived at the scene, and that Rennsam’s “severed appendage was not recovered.”

“We believe that the suspect stumbled upon the deceased, who was caught in one of his own leghold traps,” the police spokesperson said. “The evidence suggests that the deceased was separated from his appendage during the incident and then bludgeoned to death.”

Stuasy’s public defender, Lonny Bladuck, claims that his client “was preyed upon and framed by a ghoulish animal advocate named Monty Gelstein, whom federal authorities have been chasing for years.”

According to Bladuck, Stuasy was “lured to the crime scene by the promise of more crystal methamphetamine than he could ever smoke” and “forced to watch Mr. Gelstein place Mr. Rennsam in the leghold trap, saw off his left foot, make him dance on his remaining leg to Richard Strauss’ Burleske, and destroy him with several ax-handle blows to the temples.”

Proof of his theory, Bladuck says, was found in Mr. Rennsam’s shirt pocket, in the form of his will, which names Gelstein as the sole beneficiary of the deceased’s property.

“Given that Messrs. Rennsam and Gelstein couldn’t possibly have been friends, and that – rather conveniently – the deceased had no living relatives, I think that document tells us exactly what happened here,” Bladuck said with visible frustration.

Police, though, say there’s no evidence whatsoever that Gelstein was anywhere near the crime scene at the time of the murder.

“As much as some of us would like to believe the suspect, we just can’t tie Mr. Gelstein to the crime,” the police spokesperson said.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, an FBI investigator who’s been trying for months to pin a number of animal-advocacy-related murders on Gelstein told The Daily Maul that he “absolutely believes Mr. Stuasy” and plans to “search high and low for Mr. Rennsam’s foot,” which police assume was taken by any one of many species who call central Pennsylvania home.

“I don’t believe that for a goddamned second,” the FBI investigator said. “Monty Gelstein kept the deceased’s foot as a trophy, the sick bastard. I’m sure of it.”

Reached by telephone at the Château Schadenfreude, in the French Alps, where he’s making preparations for a June 26 event called the Karmic Balance Festival, Gelstein told The Daily Maul that Stuasy and Bladuck “don’t have a leg to stand on,” and that he plans to use the property Rennsam bequeathed to him to “add a measure of karma to the balance.”

Reality TV Show to Document Human-Hunting Contest

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CHÂTEAU SCHADENFREUDE – March 19, 2013

Contact: Monty Gelstein
monty.gelstein@gmail.com

Reality TV Show to Document Human-Hunting Contest

The Daily Maul has partnered with animal advocate and philanthropist Monty Gelstein and Schadenfreude-Fantasy Productions to produce a reality TV show called Cull of the Subhumans, which will document a 16-week human-hunting contest.

“We’re catering to a massive demographic that is saddened and enraged by the proliferation of television programs whose aim is to glorify man’s desire to take the lives of other species,” Norman Szantrough-Brichtahlt, the production company’s programming director, said. “We’ve already received a tremendous response from potential advertisers whose target audiences are haunted by the global wildlife holocaust.”

The Daily Maul’s David Brensilver said the series will have a significant interactive component.

“Animal advocates all over the world will be able to participate online by culling an initial field of 64 to 16 locked-and-loaded competitors,” Brensilver said.

Each week, one contestant will be successfully harvested until only one remains. The surviving hunter will be given a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to face off, unarmed, against a predator he identified during the application process as his “dream trophy.”

“The ‘dream trophy,’ in this case, will be the ‘winning’ hunter’s head, which will be auctioned off for charity,” Szantrough-Brichtahlt said.

Reached at the Château Schadenfreude, in the French Alps, where he’s preparing for the inaugural Karmic Balance Festival, Gelstein said he conceived the reality TV series after reading a column by Richard Simms.

In his piece, which was published by Nooga.com under the headline “The ‘real’ reason we hunt not an option on survey,” Simms wrote: “A recent survey … by HunterSurvey.com quantified the reasons that American sportsmen like to hunt. Sadly, the survey left out a critical option … I remain convinced that a key reason many, or most, hunters hunt is that they like to kill stuff. … The thrill of the hunt and the kill are nothing to be ashamed of.”

“What could be more thrilling for such proud, bloodlust-full savages than a chance to show America who’s the most macho of them all, and who’s the most fearless?” Gelstein asked, rhetorically. “Everybody wants his 15 minutes these days, and the Neanderthals among us are no less narcissistic.”

Cull of the Subhumans will take place in an undisclosed location, on a piece of property that Gelstein *recently acquired from a since-deceased fur trapper.

The Daily Maul and Schadenfreude-Fantasy Productions are entertaining offers from a host of cable networks, each of which is hoping to carry the series. Brensilver said 20 percent of advertising revenues will be donated to animal-advocacy and anti-hunting organizations.

Filming for Cull of the Subhumans is expected to begin in the fall. Hunters who are interested in competing should apply in the comments section below.

* A story about Monty Gelstein’s recent property acquisition will be published on Thursday, March 21, at TheDailyMaul.com.

Host of TV Hunting Show Murdered in Montana

“We are gathered here today to celebrate the death and disparage the life of Gregory Rodriguez, a bloodlust-full serial killer whose savage exploits long delighted the drooling class. …”

“You’re not actually going to say that, are you?” an anonymous voice asked from somewhere in the balcony.

“Well someone’s at the wrong memorial service,” I said, encouraging laughter among the congregants at my Washington, D.C.-based church, Karmic Balance Ministries. “This service,” I continued in a serious tone, “is offered in memory of the victims of Mr. Rodriguez’s shameful killing sprees.”

I’d gone off-script, and that was OK.

Ad-libbing like a chatty stoner, I explained to any newcomers that “just as Mr. Rodriguez reveled in the brutal murder of other species, we are brought together today to luxuriate in his equally violent end.”

I offered a toast – one of many – to the measure of karma that had been added to the balance.

Twelve-hundred miles away, in a godforsaken place called Richmond, Texas, a different set of humans gathered at what the Sugar Land Sun (Houston Community Newspapers) had promised would be “a celebration of Gregory Rodriguez’s life.”

Rodriguez, a hunting enthusiast who encouraged and enabled savagery through his Sportsman Channel TV show, A Rifleman’s Journal, and through his bloodthirst-satisfaction concern, Global Adventure Outfitters, was allegedly executed last week by an otherwise unimportant psychopath named Wayne Bengtson, who apparently didn’t like the fact that his wife – whom he viciously assaulted for her part – was entertaining the popular Neanderthal.

“Subsequently, Bengtson was found in his house of an apparent self inflicted gunshot wound to the head,” according to the Sugar Land Sun report, which tells us, quoting language on the Global Adventure Outfitters website, that the loathsome Rodriguez had “taken 140 species of big game” before being slaughtered.

“Our rejoicing is tempered only by the fact that Mr. Rodriguez’s terrorist organization will continue to feed the deranged addictions of cretinous evildoers,” I instructed the enlightened churchgoers before me. “Still, let us remind those who celebrate after visiting death on other species that we have gathered here today with no blood on our hands.”

Lion Attack Kills Animal-Park Intern, Or, The Lion Who Died Again

What do I think of the so-called lion “attack” that killed Dianna Hanson at a wildlife prison in Dunlap, California?

I think about the lion, Cous Cous, whose life was essentially taken the moment he was locked in a cage for the convenience of those who enjoyed “admiring” him through the bars of his jail cell.

With wild under lock and key, prison warden Dale Anderson sold captivity as one and the same, the price of admission a callous desire to experience a measure of manufactured control.

Comandante Anderson expected Cous Cous to play but not act the part of wild beast, lest that control be lost, which it so quickly was when Ms. Hanson made an attempt to exercise hers.

And for introducing Ms. Hanson to the limits of man’s manufactured control – for daring once more to be wild – Cous Cous was brutally executed by a trigger-happy, jackbooted thug.

While others seek comfort in the answers to all the wrong questions, I’ll mourn the loss of the lion who died again.

Swiss Officials Kill Country’s Lone Bear in Brutal Preemptive Strike

Photo by Lox

Photo by Lox

Swiss officials last month assassinated a brown bear who they determined posed a threat to the country’s human population. The preemptive strike was carried out on Tuesday, February 19, after the 2-year-old creature – insensitively identified by authorities as “M13” – had the audacity to stretch his legs after a period of hibernation and look around for a bite to eat.

A United Press International report indicated that the bear “followed a 14-year-old girl through part of the Swiss city of Poschiavo,” a secluded valley town near the Italian border.

The lede of an Agence France-Presse report explained that “Switzerland’s only recorded wild bear has been culled after fears that it could pose a threat to humans, the authorities announced.”

According to that Agence-France-Presse article, “the animal … had repeatedly headed into inhabited areas to look for food and had even taken to following people. In November 2012, the bear had already been considered problematic and placed on a behaviour-watch list, a step away from a cull order.”

And a Reuters story quoted local wildlife authorities as saying, “the bear’s behaviour couldn’t be changed.”

If there is a species whose behavior needs to change, it is ours.

In April 2006, the Swiss Broadcasting Corporation reported on an effort by governmental officials to design “a strategy document to coordinate the peaceful co-existence of bears and humans.”

That 2006 Swiss Broadcasting Corporation report indicated that “Peppino Beffa, head of the Swiss Sheep Farmers Association, said there was simply no room for bears in heavily populated areas of the country.”

Apparently, there was not room for even one bear in a relatively remote part of Switzerland.

After ordering the 2-year-old bear’s assassination last month, Switzerland’s Federal Office for the Environment issued an infuriating statement that, as CNN reported, read, in part: “The bear M13 had certainly never showed any aggression toward man, but the risk that an accident might happen and that people might be badly injured or killed had become intolerable.”

What is “intolerable” is the obnoxious expectation that other species live by our mercilessly inhospitable rules.

In this case, the 2-year-old bear failed to obey the rules of peaceful coexistence when he dared to wander out of local residents’ nightmares and onto their streets.

What Swiss wildlife authorities (I hold my nose as I use that description) need to understand, if they’re at all capable, is that “the peaceful co-existence of bears and humans” will require the latter species to change its behavior.

Unfortunately, thanks to the above-mentioned wildlife “authorities,” there are currently no more bears in Switzerland with whom the country’s human residents can even attempt to peacefully coexist.

Vegan Fashion House Vaute Couture Shows There is “No Excuse Left to Wear Animals”

VAUTE- New York Fashion Week Solo Debut from Leanne Mai-ly Hilgart on Vimeo.

In a January 31 blog post, Vaute Couture owner and designer Leanne Mai-ly Hilgart announced that she’d be presenting her “first solo show at New York Fashion Week, as the first all vegan label to show at” the high-profile event. Following her success at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week, I reached out to Hilgart, via Facebook message, to learn more about her Brooklyn, New York-based company and the ethics on which her brand is based. What follows are the interview questions I sent Hilgart and her thoughtful responses thereto.

DB: Prior to joining Ford Models you were a college student pursuing a career in education. Given that teaching is part of your brand, what is your approach to cultivating new customers who might not have previously been part of your audience or thoughtful in terms of what they wear?

Leanne Mai-ly Hilgart. Photo by Dominic Neitz

Leanne Mai-ly Hilgart. Photo by Dominic Neitz

LH: Everyone has their own voice as an activist, and I realized that mine was to bring anyone who had raised a level of connection with animals on any level to reach greater levels of awareness to first the issues that face all animals of that species, and then to issues reaching all animals. For example, in college when I started the animal-rights group, I invited anyone who missed their companion dog or cat from home to join us in spending time with the homeless animals at the city shelter. Afterward over hot cocoa (in the winter we’d play in the snow with the dogs – the best time ever), we’d discuss the greater issues of overpopulation, relating it to the dogs and cats they were getting to know, and then from there, I’d invite them to assist in the Howard Lyman event I was putting together on campus, or the circus protest. Similarly, with Vaute Couture, I focus on two things: creating a welcome, warm environment where a connection to animals or the earth can be expanded upon and … creating fashion that is the next level of innovation in fabrics, so that even the girl who doesn’t allow themselves to care initially can fall in love with our pieces. And when that happens, and they learn that they are made without animal fibers, then I hope that they can start thinking of themselves as someone who would live a kinder lifestyle in little ways, and gradually over time gain confidence in their own purposeful participation with the world. I think more than anything, everyone has a kind heart, but they need to unlearn that they should not care or that it is silly, naive, or fruitless to care. This is the biggest thing I hope to teach.

DB: While working with Ford Models, did you have a say about which designs and garments you’d model? Do you work with vegan models? And which cosmetics lines/products do you use when presenting your collections?

LH: My agents definitely knew that I was vegan and respected that. I could tell them what I didn’t want to audition for or jobs I wouldn’t take. I try to work with as many vegan models as I can – it’s much easier in New York City than it was in Chicago, and most of our editorial models are vegan. We work with a few cosmetics companies for shoots and shows who use only vegan and cruelty-free makeup when working with us, like Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics, Christopher Drummond Beauty, and DeVita.

The Vaute Couture show during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week. Photo by Joshua Katcher

The Vaute Couture show during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week. Photo by Joshua Katcher

DB: Your primary motivation for launching Vaute Couture was to communicate, through your work, that there is “no excuse left to wear animals,” according to language on your website. The same argument has been made with regard to eating animals. In your experience, what motivates the unconvinced to wear the body parts of slain animals? And what roles do convenience and peer pressure play in the decisions people make about the fashions they wear?

LH: I don’t think anything motivates the unconvinced to wear animals or eat animals. I think they are unknowing participants in a large profit-minded machine that doesn’t care about animals, and that they either … don’t know yet about how animal fibers are made and/or … that what they wear and purchase even makes a difference. Most people I meet don’t even consider what they wear to be even a moral question (unless it’s something as obvious as fur), until I pose it to them. It seems that art and business (of which fashion is both) often believe they are exempt from ethics, when to me, business is the most important arena for ethics, because it has the ability to create so much good or so much bad through every aspect of the production process as well as their interaction with society.

DB: I’ve read that fur is once again popular among fashion designers. If this is the case, is its popularity rooted in the same kind of defiant attitude we see in our politics?

LH: I think fur is popular among designers (though the numbers show, thankfully, that it is actually on the decline for the actual sales of fur, according to the Humane Society of the United States), because the fur industry is spending a lot of money to make it appear popular and cool by buying designers and magazines. Also, I often wonder if by knowing that lives had to die for a material like fur, that it makes fur feel more valuable to them, like by wearing or designing with it they are saying they must be pretty important to have something that cost 40 lives … I think there’s an elitism inherent there that some designers value because it makes them feel more important, whether they consciously realize it or not. I think the defiance is interesting, too – because yes, for someone to choose to do something that they know others might see as “wrong” such as designing with fur is … to say, “I don’t care, this is my art!” and to suggest they are on a higher realm of intelligence because they put their art above doing something they might see as “nice.” But what I find so laughable is that in the end, they are just doing exactly what the fur industry wants them to do, and by designing with fur, they are not being defiant in any way, they are being the biggest followers of all and playing the pawn for the fur industry.

DB: Celebrity seems to drive the success of many fashion designers. Even if fur is enjoying a renewed popularity, are you optimistic that we’ll eventually reach a tipping point with regard to celebrity-driven consumer ethics?

Leanne Mai-ly Hilgart (left) backstage during her show at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week. Photo by Gregory Vaughan

Leanne Mai-ly Hilgart (left) backstage during her show at Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week. Photo by Gregory Vaughan

LH: I think there’s a split going on, where some celebrities are recognizing that the megaphone of their stardom can be used for good, and they are being even more careful about how they live and what they promote, so that they can be doing even more good in the world by setting a good example. And then of course, there are those who focus on elitism and want to appear the most luxurious and have the most rare expensive things, and in fashion those things sometimes are animal fibers (like elephant-skin shoes). But, really, the fabrics that are on the cutting edge – the 3D printed fabrics, the high-tech materials, those are nearly all vegan and those are the future. So as we start to see more innovation in fabrics and materials, hopefully we will start to see that become the new symbol of elite status in fashion even for the second set of celebrities.

DB: In addition to producing garments made exclusively from vegan materials, your website indicates that the Vaute Couture “line is also made of recyclable and recycled fibers, and produced locally in NYC’s garment district.” Is it by design that this ethical and responsible approach challenges, explicitly, the notion that coveted fashions need to be derived from “rare” or “exotic” materials – including those derived from animals?

LH: Well, our fabrics actually are rare. … They are at the cutting edge of sustainability and weatherproof innovation, and are often custom made for my line, taking months to produce.

DB: Why do you think fashions made from fur elicit a more visceral reaction from many people than clothes made from leather and other animal-derived materials?

LH: It’s interesting, because wool is actually just as, if not more cruel, than fur. Sheep raised for wool are first of all slaughtered after they are done being “productive,” oftentimes at the end of a grueling cruel live-export journey. But it’s during their lives that they endure a cruel factory-farmed existence, with repeated careless shearing that slices slabs of skin off on a regular basis. And so, an animal whose fiber is repeatedly taken from them while they’re alive is often enduring even more cruelty altogether than one killed for their fur at the end, because in addition to being killed, they endure this terribly cruel process over and over until they are slaughtered in the end. Most people don’t think about this. The problem isn’t if the cruelty is necessary – certainly, it is not the intention of a factory farm to be cruel. But, it is the intention of a factory farm to be efficient and to be as productive as possible, and the well-being of animals involved only get in the way of the bottom line, resulting in incredibly cruel living conditions, production conditions, and painful slaughter. This is why animals don’t belong in business; their needs and well-being aren’t part of the equation. But none of this is obvious to the public. Most people think that sheep get a haircut and that’s what wool is. So, unless it’s for fur – where we can so clearly see that an animal died for someone to wear their skin, there isn’t the same kind of reaction. And for leather, I’m not sure, but I think perhaps because people have desensitized themselves to eating meat, and since leather comes from cows, they tell themselves, “If we are OK with one we must be OK with the other.” People are funny, myself included, with what stories we tell ourselves, the blanks we fill in. It’s interesting to stop and ask yourself, “Why do I think this?” because often the answer isn’t there. I ask myself that a lot, until I really look at what has brought me to that conclusion.

DB: Talk about the “special programs” page of your website, through which you’re planning to offer discounts to “students, teachers, (and) nonprofits,” fundraising partnerships, and other opportunities.

LH: Yes! I love to work with nonprofits, and I used to be a teacher and a student – I know that it doesn’t leave a lot of income to be creating a wardrobe with, so I’m creating some programs and discounts just for them. I can’t say much else until they’re fully fleshed out, but I’m working on it now, so please stay tuned!

DB: Your website encourages visitors to “love our hood” and recommends vegan-friendly neighborhood businesses. How important to your store’s continued success and growth – and to any vegan-focused start-up – is a local community of like-minded entrepreneurs?

LH: I’m lucky that Williamsburg (Brooklyn), the neighborhood my flagship store is in, is super vegan friendly and I love suggesting lovely places for visitors to go nearby to support some really amazing people! I don’t really know these people personally very well, but I do have many friends in the vegan community who have dedicated themselves to spreading awareness for animals and making it easier to live compassionately, and yes, this has made all the difference in my life. There’s a great blog post from Seth Godin where he says, “The easiest way to thrive as an outlier … is to avoid being one. At least among your most treasured peers. Surround yourself with people in at least as much of a hurry, at least as inquisitive, at least as focused as you are. Surround yourself by people who encourage and experience productive failure, and who are driven to make a difference. What’s contagious: standards, ethics, culture, expectations and most of all, the bar for achievement.” And I completely agree. It is incredibly nourishing to talk to people who get it who are also taking risks and putting their all in, to spread awareness for animals. It doesn’t mean you need to only have vegan entrepreneur friends (and that would be counterproductive because then how would you spread awareness to anyone else, as well as learn new perspectives?) but to have a few people who get you, in all the different ways you are truly you, is a beautiful thing.

Learn more about Leanne Mai-ly Hilgart and Vaute Couture at vautecouture.com.