Updated: Jan 13
I have been incorporating taxidermy and bone elements into my art since 2011. In that time, I have been confronted about the subject of ethics in every possible fashion. Though some are more productive than others in their approach and interest, one thing is constant: It seems as though the true, underlying question is about the ethics of my work and trying to determine whether or not my ethics match your own while delving into the world of taxidermy.
I can tell you that this is a very tricky subject that both taxidermy hobbyists and professionals deal with as ethics vary with each client on a personal level. I admit it is very frustrating myself to see vendors on Etsy and elsewhere creating access to clearly illegal or otherwise mistreated taxidermy remains and selling them to others without their knowledge. For that I can respect the desire to explore this subject more than I can express. So in this blog, I will certainly try to outline some of the basics.
The birds or other remains that I work with are either by-products from cat kills and roadkill, or come from small, local farms or purchased through trusted small businesses who have access to captive 'natural-death' taxidermy. Since I struggle with keeping my sources secure and have worked hard to establish my relationships with them I cannot give out my sources directly, which I am sure readers can understand and respect.
I've dealt with farms that support small, home grown businesses like mine. They farm for meat, which some may see as murder. I see it as a waste to have these farmers toss these beautiful specimens of nature such as wings, feet and heads in the trash, so I choose to take them in.
Some are casualties of aviaries and non-chain local pet shops whos ethics I have examined and trust. While I know that these sources may match my ethics, to some, the thought of any animal in a cage under any circumstances doesn't sit well. You may be inclined to feel that finding a naturally deceased wild creature may be a notably ethical way to go. The thing to consider is when you find something dead in the wild, the ethics can't really be examined in their entirety, so even the ethics surrounding finding a 'naturally deceased' carcass in the wild does not mean that the creature did not suffer while in life or leading up to it's current state. As someone who deals with kitty casualties quite often, sometimes that's just a natural cycle of life and death.
If you're interested in delving deeper into the term 'ethical taxidermy' and what it means to you, I recommend giving this blog a visit: mickeyalicekwapis.com/blog/ethicaltaxidermy Mickey is a Chicago-based taxidermist that has been in the industry a very long time and has seen it all. I highly recommend giving her website a visit, and of course, subscribe and support if you can Venmo @mickeyalice.
Her sentence sums it up pretty well: "...The problem with labels like “ethical” is that there is no authority in place to hold taxidermists accountable for moral conduct. There is a broad range of opinions on what constitutes “ethical taxidermy” and what doesn’t. I have my own opinions, as someone who has been a part of this industry for a handful of years, and I will share it further down the line."
To keep it short and sweet, ethics are different for everyone on a personal level.
I think the bigger more fundamental question is what ethics hold value to you? What energies do you invite into your space and why? How do you know where the boundaries of your ethical umbrella lie? All very personal and fundamental criticisms to consider when taking in your first, third even your thousandth curiosity or oddity, and one that I am constantly asking myself as an artist who delves into working with once-living creatures. To learn about my own personal ethics, please visit my FAQ or feel free to contact me directly. I would be more than happy to answer any further questions you may have. Of course, as always, Stay Curious.