As my previous outcome I created in Material and Emotion Values was replaced around the use of cow leather as a by-product, for this project I have been interested in another animal whose 'old' and young are only seen as material: sheep. Mutton, lamb, wool, sheepskin, fleece are all 'by-products' of sheep and their babies.
So why cork? Cork is a material I have wanted to work with for a while but it also has an interesting narrative to it. Cork is comes from a cork tree but instead of cutting down the tree, the cork is instead stripped for harvesting. I really enjoy this narrative in comparison to the animal-by product industry and it reminded me of the plant-alternative to shearing. This is often a question I get asked – is wool vegan? No, it isn’t. Veganism is about avoiding animal by products and as wool is a by-product of the sheep, it is not vegan. However, I don’t subscribe to this belief purely on the technicality. The wool industry is successful and with success comes demand. With demand comes the need for mass production. Shearers are often paid on commission: meaning the more shearing they do, the more money they will make. Animal welfare is not essential for a woolley scarf – all they need is the material – not necessary a happy sheep. Unlike a sheep, cork trees are not sentient (meaning they ‘feel’ no nerves etc.) and harvested with the intension to keep the tree alive and healthy.
The harvesting process of cork is a reminder of the care and welfare that our animals should be receiving. There are many vegan, and even ecological materials that can replace wool (bamboo, hemp etc.) but I am not so much trying to replicate the material, as I explained. My issue and the reason I do not contribute to the animal-by product industry is the cruelty, lack of humanity and welfare it encourages. In 2017, we have plenty of alternative options than an animals suffering. And so by choosing a plant-based harvesting process that is similar to sheep shearing, or even 'skinning' but with the welfare of the tree at the forefront. If we could give animals the same care, consideration and spare their lives, as we do the cork tree, I think we are one step closer to regaining our compassion.
Cork, 1. (2017). Harvesting Cork Is as Natural as Shearing Sheep. [online] 100% Cork | Produced by Nature. Preferred by Winemakers. Available at: http://100percentcork.org/harvesting-cork-natural-shearing-sheep/ [Accessed 19 Jun. 2017].
Lambshoppe.com. (2017). Sheep Shearing. [online] Available at: http://lambshoppe.com/sheep-shearing/ [Accessed 19 Jun. 2017].
Malin, J. (2017). The World's Oldest, Largest Cork Tree - The Whistler Tree. [online] VinePair. Available at: https://vinepair.com/wine-blog/worlds-oldest-largest-cork-tree-the-whistler-tree/ [Accessed 20 Jun. 2017].
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