Return Palm V leather covers

I bought a Palm Vx from Palm. I like it, except for one thing: it came with a leather cover.

I avoid using animal products, including leather. I would not be willing to kill a cow merely to use its skin. I think cows, and other non-human animals, have certain rights, including the right to not be killed for frivolous reasons. I don't think it is ethical for me to pay somebody else to do something I would not be willing to do myself. (I am also a vegetarian.)

Accordingly, I returned the leather cover to Palm. I sent a polite note explaining why I was returning it, and asking them to please use the cover on another Palm V. I also asked them to consider providing the Palm V without the leather cover in the future. I sent the note to Palm Computing, 5400 Bayfront Plaza, Santa Clara, CA 95054, USA.

I purchased a Palm V hard case to protect my Palm V.

I received a reply from a customer care representative at Palm. It said ``Thank you for your letter, explaining why you returned the leather cover that accompanied your Palm Vx handheld. We have forwarded your letter to our product marketing group and will recycle the leather cover as you requested.''

If you have purchased a Palm V, please consider returning the leather cover. For somebody who can afford a Palm handheld, it is a small cost to avoid the use of an unnecessary animal product. Thanks.

Note that the Palm V is no longer sold by Palm. I don't have any information on their newer models.

Since this touches on some potentially touchy subjects, I will preemptively answer some questions for people who happen to own Palm V handhelds, or who are considering purchasing them. If you have questions I don't touch on here, go ahead and e-mail them to me.

Aren't those cows going to be killed anyhow?

Yes, they probably are. But that does not mean that you need to participate. As Kant said, you should make ethical choices as though everybody made the same choice as you. If everybody chooses to avoid leather, then fewer cows will be killed.

Would this really make a difference?

Yes, if every new Palm V were sold without a leather cover, it would make a small difference. It can be worth doing something even if it has a small effect. It might not be worth doing something very difficult for a small effect. But returning the leather cover for a Palm V is pretty simple. It should only take a few minutes out of your life.

What if I can't afford to buy a hard case for my Palm V?

Then you should probably keep the leather cover. You should also consider why you have wasted your money on a fancy handheld computer instead of just using a pencil and paper.

Don't I need leather for some things?

I don't know. You may. Shoes are a commmon example--there are non-leather shoes available, for example from The Vegetarian Site, but I'm not going to claim that they are just as good as leather shoes. In any case, I'm not asking you to give up all leather. I'm asking you to give up the leather cover to your Palm V.

Can I survive without eating meat?

Yes, you can. But in any case I'm not asking you to give up meat. I'm asking you to give up the leather cover to your Palm V.

Do non-human animals really have rights?

Many countries have laws protecting non-human animals from excessive cruelty. So it follows that in many countries non-human animals do have some rights. Of course, non-human animals do not generally have the legal right to not be killed for frivolous reasons. However, you should consider what motivation would be strong enough for you to kill a cow yourself. Would you do it just for the leather cover to your Palm V? I know that some people would answer yes to this question. Don't worry about those people. Think about your own answer.

Nature is cruel. For example, wolves would eat cows if we didn't protect them, wouldn't they?

That is true. However, wolves wouldn't kill cows in order to get covers for the Palm V handhelds. Also, we are capable of making moral choices which wolves are almost certainly incapable of making, and it is unreasonable for us to blame wolves for not doing something they are incapable of doing. Finally, wolves would eat humans if they could--it's certainly happened in the past, and may still occasionally happen today--but that doesn't mean that it is OK for us to kill humans for their skin.

Why do you keep saying non-human animals? Why not just say animals?

Actually, I often do just say animals. Here I'm stressing the point that humans are animals too. There are significant differences between humans and other animals, but there are also significant similarities.

Aren't you assuming that the theory of evolution is true? Isn't it just a theory?

Yes, evolution is just a theory, just like gravity. In science, the word ``theory'' refers to a complete system of knowledge. A theory may be true or false. A theory which has a great deal of external support, such as the theory of evolution, or the theory of gravity, is generally considered to be a good approximation of reality. For more on this topic, see, for example, this note on evolution vs. creationism.

Ian Lance Taylor /