Producing only electric vehicles and with the majority of its facilities powered by renewable electricity harvested from photovoltaic solar panels or wind energy, Tesla Motors [NASDAQ:TSLA] is unarguably the greenest, cleanest automaker in the world.
From its high-performance Model S electric sedan to its all-new range of Tesla Energy products and its open-source electric vehicle patent giveaway, Tesla — and its quick-minded, super-intelligent CEO Elon Musk — have a clearly defined end game of eliminating global fossil fuel use and minimising the catastrophic effects of manmade global warming before it’s too late. Indeed, from creation to decommission, Tesla vehicles are engineered to be as recyclable as possible too, with a large portion of Tesla’s upcoming Gigafactory devoted to battery recycling and reuse.
But at Tesla’s Annual Shareholder Meeting at the Palo Alto Computer Museum in California yesterday, Tesla was called out by two stockholders — a husband and wife from Texas — for its use of animal leather in its luxury vehicles, a practice which many see as both unethical and environmentally irresponsible.
In keeping with official practice, both stockholders were given 3-minutes to make their case to the board and fellow stockholders for Tesla to cease using animal-dervied interiors in its vehicles before their proposals were put to a general vote. While we won’t hear the results of the vote for a few more days, Tesla’s board went on the record to vote against both proposals, one which focused on environmental reasons and one which focused on ethical reasons for dumping the use of real leather.
In both cases, petitioners used Elon Musk’s own logic to argue their case.
First came Mr. Mark Peters from Hurst, Texas. Holder of 1,450 Tesla Shares, Mr. Peters argued that Tesla’s continued use of animal-derived materials in the interior of its cars was counterintuitive and against Elon Musk’s own logic.
“We’re in a life boat earth with water up to our kneecaps and rising. Tesla has invented an awesome bailing bucket but upwards of 90% of those buckets are having holes drilled in them”Mark Peters, Tesla Shareholder.
“Despite tremendous odds, Tesla has created a brand that is changing the course of history, and as both shareholders and owners, we are very, very pleased,” he said of his involvement with Tesla.
Referring to Elon Musk calling the dumping of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere the “dumbest experiment ever” he continued, making his case for the use of alternative interiors in all Tesla cars. With animal agriculture accounting for more greenhouse gas emissions than transportation, it was only logical for Tesla to cease using leather in its cars, he said.
“Mr. Musk has previously used a life boat metaphor to describe this situation and I’ll go ahead and borrow it here,” he said. “We’re in a life boat earth with water up to our kneecaps and rising. Tesla has invented as awesome bailing bucket but upwards of 90% of those buckets are having holes drilled in them, so every time they are used, water pours back into our lifeboat.”
“I suspect that the vast majority of our customers and even our shareholders have no idea the greatest source of greenhouse gases is actually animal agriculture, producing more greenhouse gases than all transportation combined as Elon reported back in 2006,” he continued. “Bill Gates noted a more recent analysis in 2013 estimated that livestock produces nearly 51% of the world’s greenhouse gases, 51%. Tesla exists to create sustainable transport and which is why this is inconsistent to offer leather.”
Noting that Tesla does not offer a full leather equivalent to its cars, Mr. Peters said it was a ‘conflict of logic’ that Tesla was still using leather in its vehicles, chiding the company for making a half-dozen options including next-generation seats, interior premium lighting and trunk lighting only available to customers ordering leather trim in their vehicles. Pointing out that other luxury brands like Mercedes Benz already use faux-leather alternatives — which many reviewers have said are as good as cow hide — Mr. Peters proposed that Tesla reduce the use of animal-sourced materials by 5 percent in 2016, 30 percent in 2017 and 60 percent in 2018, reaching complete elimination of animal-sourced materials in Tesla cars by 2019.
He also called on Tesla to cease the practice of ‘penalising customers’ who chose non-animal, fabric interiors for their cars.
Following on from Mr. Peters came his wife, Ms. Elizabeth Farrell Peters. Picking up from where Mr. Peters left off, Ms. Peters argued for the ethical reasons why Tesla should cease using animal interiors in its cars, citing her own experiences in ordering their first Tesla Model S and her first-hand experience of industrial-scale animal farming.
“My first Tesla was an anniversary gift and it was fully vegan,” she said. “I was quite pleased that Tesla had accommodated the request but later found out that my husband had to go through extreme measure to get a fully-vegan Tesla.”
“I was very surprised by this because I thought Tesla was such an enviornmentally-aware company,” she continued.
Talking about her childhood growing up on a veal farm, Ms. Peters talked of the ‘grim existence’ that the animals she knew were ‘shipped to their death.’
“There is no reverence for life, or compassion for the sentient beings that they are,” she said. “Tesla has two choices. Tesla can continue to fill cars with the skins of sentient beings that suffer unspeakable horror while adding massive amounts of greenhouse gasses to the air — according to the UN and other sources. This is a fundamental truth of using animal skins.”
The alternative, she said, was to use one of the many synthetic leather alternatives as used by BMW, Lexus, Infiniti, Mercedes-Benz and others.
“[They] are cruelty free, have wonderful reviews, last the long time, come in multiple colors and have — and involve far less greenhouse gases.” she said. “Mr. Musk, given the potential risk to our planet, please review the facts and stop forcing the ordering of leather. Please adopt environmentally friendly interiors; our planet doesn’t have decades to spare. Thank you.”
While the outcome of both votes won’t be known for a few days, Tesla’s Board made an official recommendation to its stakeholders that they vote against both proposals in its proxy materials associated with the Annual General Meeting.
It reads as follows:
The Board of Directors has considered these proposals, each of which relates to a similar subject matter, and has determined that neither is in the best interests of the Company or its stockholders.
Tesla’s mission when it was created more than a decade ago was the same as it is today: to accelerate the advent of sustainable transport by bringing compelling and increasingly affordable electric cars to market. This is why we are building the Gigafactory, expanding our production capacity at the Tesla Factory, and developing new electric vehicles.
Achieving this mission requires that we prioritize our efforts. In some cases, this means using existing materials to meet consumer expectations, where exploring alternatives would impede or delay us. Ultimately, by focusing on our mission, we believe we will create the most possible good.
T HE B OARD OF D IRECTORS R ECOMMENDS A V OTE AGAINST EACH OF P ROPOSAL T HREE AND
P ROPOSAL F OUR .
Here at Transport Evolved, we’ve test-driven many vehicles in our time fitted with both leather and faux-leather trim, and we’ve got to admit that it’s tough these days to tell the difference.
Like organic leather, faux-leather seats can provide the same finish and function, offer cooling and heating capabilities, and have similar durability. From an ethical standpoint, we’d like to see at least the option given for Tesla customers to make their own choices, just as other luxury marques already do.
But we’d like to hear your opinion on these two proposals. Would you support such a measure? Do you think Tesla should lead by example, or is it simply a distraction?
And if you are a Tesla shareholder, which way did you vote and why?
Leave your thoughts in the Comments below.
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