Ethical taxidermy is a good solution for people who are passionate about animals and conservation efforts. By sourcing sustainably sourced specimens, you ensure that this creature's entire body can be properly used and honored. One of the main objectives of ethical sourcing is to reduce unnecessary waste. So what is the supposed difference between ethical taxidermy and the old normal taxidermy? It all comes down, at least according to our New York taxidermist, to the origin of the animals.
And doing your taxidermy work yourself is the best way to make sure the animals have been “ethically sourced.” My mind was already moving forward, trying to figure out what “ethical source” could mean in this context. Perhaps collecting the corpses of animals that have been killed by cars and whose bodies would otherwise end up in a landfill or processing plant? Maybe use animals that have been hunted under a certain code of honor? Is ethically sourced taxidermy (acquired from dead animals, such as those run over) morally incorrect? I've recently thought about this after learning about Kat Von D's ethical taxidermy collection even though she's vegan, and I thought that while taxidermy may seem strange and creepy to a lot of people, is there something inherently wrong with it? I mean it's used for artistic purposes, and it can be used for educational purposes, maybe even to replace live animals in zoos. Although hunting and assembling animals for sport still exists, most taxidermy stores like ours maintain a desire for ethical sourcing. So what does “ethical source” really mean? I consider myself an ethical taxidermist, since I only use animals that have died from a natural cause or an accident.
All my specimens have been donated to me by family, friends, rescue centers or strangers who find me through my website or Twitter. The specimen is no longer alive, however, it shows the beauty of nature and wildlife, expressing the life of an animal or bird by preserving it. The bones and skulls of animals such as chickens, ducks, alligators and rabbits are a by-product of the agricultural industry, as well as of these cultural practices. It's the best place to meet other taxidermists and learn techniques through talks and demonstrations.
However, in modern paganism it is usually not OK to kill an animal just to use its parts in the ritual. The animals I work with may have been hit by a car, have flown through a window, or have died of old age or illness. The co-founder and creative director of the Museum of Morbid Anatomy, Joanna Ebenstein, co-wrote a book about the famous Victorian taxidermist Walter Potter and his work, and for her, being able to bring her painting “Kitten Wedding” to the museum was a dream come true. The latest wave of taxidermists, or at least, their most visible practitioners, also strongly biases women, drawing on a Victorian tradition while branching out into new territory.
This means that I never know what animals I am going to receive and in what state they will be found. There are also laws that protect certain species, which means that a taxidermist must obtain legal documentation to prove that they have died naturally. They are raised in cages, they live their whole lives in cages and they never see the light of day in line with the industrial production of agricultural animals and they are no different, ethically. It's possible that the skins were sent without any measurement and the taxidermist had probably never seen the animal in real life, so this is partly the reason most Victorian taxidermy looks a little strange.