Debate and Discussion

Genetically Modified Shagreen - Cool or Cruel?
Faliat at 1:48PM, June 2, 2012
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There's a company in Thailand with a history of using stingray leather for shoes that I recently saw in an article on the Escapist:
http://www.escapistmagazine.com/news/view/117585-Get-Custom-Shoes-Made-From-Genetically-Engineered-Stingrays
 
Each shoe is made from an eight month old animal with specific genetic traits put into the embryo prior to hatching.  This isn't for two shoes, this is for ONE. Each pair is made from two rays.
 
My mum used to have a shagreen watch strap a few years ago. It has an interesting texture to it. Bumpy but not rough. It also lasted her a long time before she lost it.
It's typically used on sword hilts in eastern countries. I have no problems with that.
 
I think the idea is interesting and I believe it would need some support due to the amazing wizardry involved. The kind of things predicted in the gene science books I read as a kid. 
 In the future this could also be applied to household pets like dogs. snakes, cats or rabbits. Hell, we already have glow in the dark cats resistant to FIV (The cat version of HIV). Imagine if they also had the markings of big cats based on your own personal choices?
 
The issue I have with this, however, is the fact that it's only one ray per shoe.  If it was one ray for two shoes it wouldn't be so bad, but to be honest, it feels a bit sad knowing that you're picking the colours and patterns on an animal just to have it killed for HALF of the product. I'd rather own it live but according to the site it would stress the ray out before it could get to you.
 
Anybody else got opinions on this?

Call that jumped up metal rod a knife?
Watch mine go straight through a kevlar table, and if it dunt do the same to a certain gaixan's skull in my immediate vicinity after, I GET A F*****G REFUND! BUKKO, AH?!

- Rekkiy (NerveWire)
last edited on June 2, 2012 1:49PM
El Cid at 7:17PM, June 2, 2012
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Can't it be both cool and cruel? Diabolical though it may be, I'm pretty stoked that we're able to do stuff like this! Too bad I don't have a few thousand dollars to throw away on new kicks!
 
It doesn't really bother me how many animals it takes to make a pair of shoes; it's still pretty stupid. But if people are willing to pay that much for dead fish, then somebody's gonna be more than happy to provide it to them. I don't really get all morally worked up over animals. They're our food. And since these are some kind of Frankenfish monsters they're growing for the sole purpose (pun!) of making them into footwear, I'm double indifferent.
ozoneocean at 5:15AM, June 3, 2012
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It's ethically problematic. We're human, we consider ourselves top off the foodchain and more intelligent and superior than any other animal.
Fair enough, but with that superiority comes empathy, compassion, responsibility.
We're not stupid dog-eat-dog subsistence omnivores the way El Cid seems to suggest. I respect El Cid massively as a comic maker and member of DD, I think he's a truly awesome individual the way he organises projects and things and keeps them going. But philosophically I could not be more at odds with him.
 
Generally with gene science there are a lot of hard questions to be asked. At the universities where ALL of this science is is conceived people are required to submit their studies to ethics committees for approval.
These sorts of shitty little businesses that make use of that science generally do so unethically, totally subverting the goals of the people who pioneered the procedures, which is morally quite unpleasant.
 
As for the shoes themselves, from a simple aesthetic point of view it's really quite horrific:
Spending all that money, time, manpower as well as the lives of two whole animals on THOSE? Crappy, ugly, poorly designed, styless sneakers?
It's like using platinum to make a Toyota Carola. …or buying a Porsche 4WD: a badge of someone totally lacking style, taste, distinction, or intelligence :)
 
Faliat at 11:39AM, June 3, 2012
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There's already human skin grown for cosmetics testing using stem cells, why can't we do that? It could probably be grown bigger and more efficiently… Of course it could cost more, but the kind of people wanting to buy those shoes wouldn't mind paying another grand or so.

Call that jumped up metal rod a knife?
Watch mine go straight through a kevlar table, and if it dunt do the same to a certain gaixan's skull in my immediate vicinity after, I GET A F*****G REFUND! BUKKO, AH?!

- Rekkiy (NerveWire)
El Cid at 3:17PM, June 3, 2012
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The really sad part, is that it would probably cost LESS, a lot less, to do it all synthetically like that. But then nobody would want them. I think the main draw of something like this is as a talking point. People want to be able to say their footwear was made out of custom bio-engineered stingrays. It's not something you see everyday!
Faliat at 8:28PM, June 3, 2012
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I said that it COULD cost less. But that was mostly due to the extra research and man hours required to harvest and grow something from ray stem cells.
 
Also, which of these sentences sounds cooler:
1. My shoes are made from leather where the cow was modified to have silver skin.
2. My shoes are made from the result of modifying cow stem cells to only grow the skin.

Call that jumped up metal rod a knife?
Watch mine go straight through a kevlar table, and if it dunt do the same to a certain gaixan's skull in my immediate vicinity after, I GET A F*****G REFUND! BUKKO, AH?!

- Rekkiy (NerveWire)
El Cid at 6:34AM, June 4, 2012
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They both sound pretty dorky!
 
But the idea of there even being a super cow with silver skin just reeks of awesome. I figure it'd be a lot like fur for most people; a loit of people wouldn't be caught dead in faux fur (though of course there are always people who prefer the fake stuff because fur is murder to them).
Faliat at 7:37AM, June 4, 2012
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The whole idea of wearing genetically modified ray skin for shoes is already weird enough.
 
I'm a faux fur wearer but I also wear leather. It just makes more sense to me to have the skin as a byproduct rather than the single reason for killing animals. I don't think the rest of the rays would be used for food or other reasons due to the possible risks tweaking their DNA would have if consumed not being tested as far as I know. 
 
I've also got some swatches of some crazy real-looking faux fur that I got for an art project. I don't expect us to all be using it in the future due to the aforementioned growing skin and fur from stem cells, but it proves not all faux fur looks crappy compared to the genuine article.
 There was a wide campaign here a few years ago that made it hard to buy real fur clothing from your average clothing shop in order to stamp out it's use in fashion. Now that's not the case. And I really, REALLY don't like that considering that fur from various sources is grouped together by colour rather than country or farm. No matter how ethical one farm is, another one will be less so and they'll both have their product used to make the same coat.
Admittedly, the rays seem to be treated in a more ethical manner than mink and dog are in Chinese fur farms. And since this is the only place I know of that does this kind of thing with the dna tweaking, you're less likely to have a more brutal and cheaper-quality company mixing their stuff in, too.

Call that jumped up metal rod a knife?
Watch mine go straight through a kevlar table, and if it dunt do the same to a certain gaixan's skull in my immediate vicinity after, I GET A F*****G REFUND! BUKKO, AH?!

- Rekkiy (NerveWire)
last edited on June 4, 2012 7:47AM
bravo1102 at 5:17AM, June 6, 2012
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I'm with Oz on this one.  Just another case of sickening excess in the name of fashion.  Like slaughtering buffalo for their tongue, or beaver hats and so on.

Let's use genetics to recreate the Dodo bird, I hear their eggs were really, really tasty.
KomradeDave at 10:13AM, June 11, 2012
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I think the science behind it is cool.  I think it's incredible that we have come so far that we can actually tweak animals in the lab as opposed to doing slowly by selectively breeding over generations.  The science, cool as it may be, has it's own ethical complications.  These complications are magnified by the fact that these animals are being designed, raised, and killed for their skins alone.
I have absolutely no problem with science being used to design an animal with specific traits, even if those traits had something as meaningless as fashion for their ultimate goal.  My problem is with the waste of it all.
I hunt, I have since I was little.  We use everything from the animals we can, even down to selling the bones and skins to local artists and taxidermists.  Everything that can be used gets used.  To me, this whole stingray operation sounds a lot like the weekend warrior outdoorsman that pumps an elk full of lead so he can cut its head off to hang it on the wall, leaving the body in the woods (a man-decapitated carcass is a pretty chilling thing to come upon in the woods, and is still more common than I would like).
Also, I'm no fashion guy, but these shoes seriously look terrible.
Handshakes and mustaches are the only ways to know how much you can truly trust a man.
El Cid at 7:35AM, June 12, 2012
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The thing is though that, from what I understand, they're not going out and catching stingrays in the wild and making them into ugly shoes. They're growing these things in a fish tank somewhere. So there really isn't a waste or ecological impact consideration to worry about. The issue, I think, is primarily ethical. It's a question of whether or not it's right to create an animal for the sole purpose of harvesting its skin.
 
(and of course, you know where I stand on that; it's no different than raising giant livestock to make into Big Macs in my opinion)
KomradeDave at 8:13AM, June 12, 2012
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But it is still wasteful, even if they are being grown in the lab.  It takes resources to raise any animal.  Energy, water, and food are the minimum costs no matter what you're raising. All of those resources go into making a whole animal, and unless they are growing just the skin, they are wasting the animal, and therefore the resources.
A steer raised to become a Big Mac isn't really the same thing, the hide gets made into leather, the bones and organs are slurried into things like pet food.  Ignoring the animal cruelty concerns that many have about the beef industry, one has to admit it is fairly efficient and does a good job of putting to work every usuable piece of the carcass.
Handshakes and mustaches are the only ways to know how much you can truly trust a man.
El Cid at 8:49AM, June 12, 2012
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You should be very cautious about getting into the business of telling people what is and is not an acceptable efficiency level. For example, many people would argue with you that you can feed over a dozen times as many people per acre if you grew corn instead of raising cattle, and you don't need me to point out to you what kind of policy implications can be made when that kind of thinking is taken to its extremes. It's their company. I'm not worried about whether they use an inefficient process, and I'm certainly not going to invest any moral indignation into the matter!
KomradeDave at 10:03AM, June 12, 2012
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The efficiency argument for farmland allocation is a good one, the real difference here is that I'm in no way saying these shagreen folks should stop what their doing in favor of something that will make more shoes.  My point is that they are creating and raising an entire animal for one purpose, and completely discarding everything else of value.  I'm not telling you to be outraged, or to seek to change company policy.  All I'm saying is the project seems wasteful to me.  Especially because they are such ugly, ugly shoes.
Handshakes and mustaches are the only ways to know how much you can truly trust a man.
El Cid at 7:39PM, June 12, 2012
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They really are ugly shoes!
Faliat at 5:39PM, June 18, 2012
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The design in the escapist article is horrible, but I admit some of the designs on the site can look good. And who's to say other types of kicks won't become more available if these ones sell?
 
Some of them sure look pimptastic enough already without being dress-shoes…

Call that jumped up metal rod a knife?
Watch mine go straight through a kevlar table, and if it dunt do the same to a certain gaixan's skull in my immediate vicinity after, I GET A F*****G REFUND! BUKKO, AH?!

- Rekkiy (NerveWire)
last edited on June 18, 2012 5:40PM

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