It is a curious double standard, when you consider how widely protested the fur trade is, that people talk about the issue of leather production almost always with a shrug. Considering both are the skin of an animal, it is certainly surprising that the fashion giants do not have picket lines against their leather shoes, handbags and accessories.
photo by Doug Draper
Perhaps it is how widespread the product is. Unlike fur, leather can be found in a wide variety of everyday products and it can be seemingly impossible to escape. Probably the main reason that leather is met with apathy is due to two misconceptions:
- Leather doesn’t entail the same cruelty that the fur trade does,
- The skin of animals is a by-product of meat production.
In this article we aim to show exactly why these commonly held beliefs are false, why we should start abstaining from using leather and exactly how we can go about this.
Not A By-Product
The first and most important point to make is that the vast majority of animals that are used for leather are killed for this reason. It is a very common idea that the tanning of the skin into leather is a useful and almost “environmentally friendly” afterthought, but this certainly isn’t the case.
If you consider the value of a cow, which is the animal that provides most of the leather produced around the world, the large majority of it lies within its skin. In fact, sometimes the leather of a cow can represent up to 10-15% of the value of the animals entire “value”.
Without demand for an animals skin their would be far less reason to raise and slaughter them
Keeping in mind the fact that it is the skin that is most important to the producers of leather, it is clear that the animals that are designated for this use do not have to be looked after in the same manner.
Having a stressed and underfed animal will seriously affect the quality of the meat but doesn’t at all affect the standard of leather that it will provide. This means that cows and other animals that are used in the industry suffer some of the most horrendous conditions.
The transportation of these animals to the leather processing locations is the most disturbing feature of the entire process. The journeys from the breeding grounds, which are usually based deep in deforested zones or even in places that prohibit the slaughter of cows such as India, are often long and arduous.
Whether the animals are transported by train packed into dank wagons or are made to walk hundreds of miles, it is guaranteed that many will die on the way. This is not a loss to the owner as the cow can still be stripped of its skin and be used for leather, so nothing is done to prevent this outcome. There have even been cases of workers using brutal beatings, breaking tails and rubbing chili into the eyes of the animals to get them moving if they have collapsed from exhaustion.
Even Ignoring The Animal’s Pain
Unfortunately there will be many that hear about these problems and think that the issue is largely localized. For the sake of argument let us put aside animal suffering for a moment. After the animals have been delivered to the leather manufacturers this is when the damage to the environment begins.
The vast majority of the tanneries are located in non-regulated countries, such as Bangladesh, and many fail to meet the standards set by the companies that buy from them. Chemicals are dumped in the local area and the communities that build up around these tanneries continually complain of multiple health problems.
In addition to the tanneries causing these horrible environmental problems, the areas where cows are bred are usually huge and deforested, which causes even more environmental problems.
After hearing the facts, many will agree that leather is highly damaging to both animal welfare and the environment, but will still ask the question: “But what else can we use?” The material is now so integral to our way of life that it can seem impossible to replace.
In today’s market there are a wider selection of alternatives than ever before. There are plenty of cruelty free options on the market and the list continues to grow. Our favorite, cork, is one of, if not the most environmentally friendly of the bunch. It's not only a recyclable material but the gathering of it is extremely friendly and keeps the forests healthy and strong.
It's time to boycott the leather industry and begin using the cruelty free and environmentally friendly options that we have available on the market today.
Come take a look at our cork products by visiting www.corature.com