Monday, October 22, 2007


A prominent Vancouver designer, Patricia Gray, whose posts I generally love, has had a couple of recent posts showing beautiful photographs of dramatically beautiful rooms featuring insanely beautiful zebra rugs and other zebra objets. In most cases, the zebras in question were the real McCoy (aka: dead).

Feeling impertinent (and a little shocked and disgusted actually), I asked Patricia whether or not these animals are endangered. Today she kindly informed me they are not. Thank heaven.

Still, I feel kind of creeped-out thinking about pretty little zebras giving their humble lives for my decorating pleasure. But high-powered designers (and likely the kind of people who hire them) probably don't give much thought to this. After all, what is a zebra but a dumb animal who was fool enough to get himself shot so we could decorate our living rooms? More and more high-level consumers seem to have a frontier attitude, that all animals (oh, and natural resources) are for their consumption...

While consuming animals for food is one thing, killing them for beauty is another. Even a pair of shoes is a more compelling reason for killing an animal than to use it as a floor decoration.

I will admit that I have a chip on my shoulder about this, for some reason. I think it's because I love horses. And little zebras are equus too! And I will not hide the fact that I am a card-carrying hypocrite (which is even more alarming, to myself). I eat meat (after 15 years of being a vegetarian) and I wear leather. I do refuse to eat lamb and wear lambskin (they are just too little and helpless and the way they are raised is horrible).

I know I'm raising difficult ethical questions. Shame on me. We're all here for fun, right? No, we are all thinking adults, I hope. But where does one draw the line? Is it okay to kill a cow (I think they are lovely too, and when I see one of those slaughter trucks go by I feel so sad) or a salmon, but not a zebra? I don't know the answer either. There is a lot of gray. I just know I won't be buying a real zebra rug any time soon. And I'm going to give more thought to leather goods. With all the alternative fabrics and fibres, surely there is something kinder to these gentle animals even if they are "cultivated for our consumption". Something to think about, isn't it?

I did write (respectfully) to Patricia and she took the time to post back, which I appreciate. I didn't tell her quite honestly how gut-wrenching her post was, for me, and how it made me feel sad. I didn't think it was fair to pick on her on her own (generally lovely) blog, and I don't think the issue even occurred to her. It is easy not to even think of that. Anyway I don't think Patricia reads my blog, so it really doesn't matter if I tell you how I really feel here. Which is mostly confused about my own values and a little repelled at how cold our society has become. But at least I am conscious.

And I prefer my zebras to be. I know, pictures of babies are wholesale unfair. :)


  1. Wellll, Terri, that is one compelling post. I agree with's difficult to imagine such a beautiful creature being destroyed for decorative purposes. We can justify our carnivorous ways; we are, after all, carnivores, but can we justify the sacrifice for our fashion sense? You're's just not so clear anymore.

    Thank you so much for visiting my blog and leaving me with vivid and interesting comments. I always enjoy reading what you have to say.

  2. I have to agree with you. There is something as unsettling about seeing zebra hides (used to up the wow factor of our homes) as their is driving behind a pick-up truck with a dead, beautiful deer slung in the back. There has to be a line drawn in the sand somewhere when it comes to this use of animal hides, antlers, coral, etc, that we see in the decorating and design mags. Sure we can be ridiculed for our hypocrisy as we eat meat, but does it have to build on one another? Can we not just find something offensive and decide, maybe it shouldn't be put out there for frivolous public consumption? It's kind of like watching a sheep be looks like it hurts, it leaves bloody nicks all over the animal, and there is real physical restraint of the animal employed during the process. Sure, a wool sweater is the result, but it is so ugly to is painful to watch.

    Thanks for the great comment you left on my blog today. I love your candor and insights. Sometimes I struggle with having such a light-hearted blog, as I have a lot of opinions on larger topics. I feel like sometimes I have a lot to say, and no one to say it to. I should probably start a personal blog, but who has the time? Blogging has already added a level of stress to my life as it is. It is fun, but sometimes it is just one more thing to do at the end of the day...

    Glad you're back,

  3. Hi Terri, I'm slowly coming out of the darkness. I personally don't wear fur coats or buy real animal decor items (unless it was found after the animal had died). I do however buy leather and eat meat, so I am a contradiction too. With all the alternative fabrics and fibers out there one doesn't really need to kill a zebra to get a great rug or wall hanging. However, to each is own and I can't expect someone to have the same beliefs as me.

  4. Oh, your zebra pictures are adorable. I love them. I would never want a zebra rug. Never. I do know what you mean about the contradictions. Hmmm. Stuff to ponder for sure. You are a thinker, you are!

  5. Hi Terri
    Well your post is food for thought. What I know is that the vast majority of the "zebra rugs" that we are seeing are cow hides that have been imprinted with zebra stripes. I have been toying with the possibility of using the real zebra hides in my decoration, but find that I don't want to. I find that the cow hides are much "friendlier" (for want of a better term). I have also used animal prints in wool carpets, fabrics and other decorative items as a way of paying homage to these wonderful animals. Thanks for your sensitivity and insightfullness on this issue.

  6. PS
    Your pictures are wonderful!!!!

  7. The zebra pictures are beautiful, I must admit I won't be having a zebra rug.

    The shop is going slowly but it is early days yet and the family are all good, thanks for asking.

    Racheal x

  8. I love your zebras ' pictures lovely

  9. Couldn't agree more. I remember as a little girl, my father watching (ugh) Wildlife Kingdom, or something like that. Oh, how I would cry, literally. I would beg him, "please, can we watch something else?!!" He would just tell me how "natural" it was in the wild for the animals to be hunted.

    Well, yes, in the wild. He was right. Still, I couldn't watch it then. Can't bear to watch it or even hear about it now. Not to say I bend a deaf ear; as far as "consumption" goes.

    It may sound old fashioned; however, God pretty much spelled it out for us on what we were to use for food, clothing and shelter. Not necessarily, the decor of the shelter. Pretty compelling difference, though.

  10. ah terri, another great post. we stayed at a lodge a year or so ago with deer heads, and stuffed animals all over - it was creepy to me, and sad. i didn't like it at all. so while i'd never decorate with animal skins, i find myself hypocritical in eating meat and wearing leather; surely these animals are treated poorly and if i were to live by my ideals fully, i wouldn't want to eat meat. the mind is willing, but the flesh is weak?

  11. Here is a great alternative to a real zebra rug - cruelty free Jonathan Adler wool zebra rug! It comes in some cool colors, too.

  12. Anonymous9:33 pm

    I found your blog after reading Patricia Grey's post on zebra hide rugs. I, too, am disgusted by those rugs (even if it's a zebra pattern on a cow hide...) - why would anyone want to have a head, mane, and tail as part of their rug like a trophy. Just seems so frivolous and unnecessary given all of the great fabric alternatives.
    But then again, I am a horse lover, too! I'm lucky enough to have seen these animals in the wild on two safaris and have patted one in person (you might be interested to know it had really long eyelashes!). Thanks for your great post with a conscience!

  13. Maria5:28 pm

    I am an interior designer and have struggled with this same dilemma. However, I recently purchased a zebra rug for myself after I found out that the hide came from a government controlled program where they humanely kill the animals that are sick etc. to encourage propogation of the species. So...I figured, it was going to die anyway. I have the same heart for animals though, and I would completely understand if one of my clients would not want to own something like this. Thanks for your kindness towards our furry friends and for your interesting post.