6 Reasons to Not Wear Leather This Winter (or Ever)
Many animal lovers wouldn’t dream of wearing fur yet leather might still be a part of their lives. Who could blame them? From sofas to serving trays, shoes, belts and car seats, leather is just about everywhere.
It has a good reputation too. The ‘genuine leather’ label entices a sense of quality, a good investment, and we’re all looking for that. But behind that label are a few dirty little secrets that once exposed make for excellent reasons to walk right past them at the store and find a fabric alternative instead.
1. Leather is not just made from cows
You could be wearing dog or any other animal when you buy a leather product, even if the label explicitly and verbatim says it is made of something else.
“The Chinese fur and leather market is notorious for purposely mislabelling its products, and PETA Asia recently exposed a thriving dog leather industry, the skins from which are widely mislabelled and exported around the world,” explains Elisa Allen, Associate Director for PETA UK, which recently released an informational video about the subject. “Skin looks the same, regardless of the origin, and Chinese dog killers are not likely to advertise their skins honestly, so it’s impossible to tell if those leather gloves or wallets are made out of dog, cow, pig or goat skin.”
2. It’s one of the most toxic industries for the environment
When an animal dies, its skin, along with the rest of its body decomposes and putrefies. In order to turn that skin into a wearable leather that won’t rot a little every day, it takes chemicals — lots and lots of chemicals.
In fact, tanneries are listed in the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) “Superfund” list as one of the top polluting industries in desperate need of a greening overhaul. Formaldehyde, coal tar and cyanide are just a few of the ingredients that end up in the water supply and lungs of the workers at tanneries and the process also takes copious amounts of energy making it terrible for the environment overall.
3. No, you’re not stopping it from going to waste
Despite the popular misconception, leather isn’t a by-product. Animals used to make leather weren’t killed for meat first. For exotic varieties of leather, like ostrich, the demand for the skin comes first and the meat is a sold by-product.
For the more common cow leather, slaughterhouses aren’t picking the skin off bodies and reselling it to avoid waste. The profits from it are actually fueling the industry creating it.
“The multibillion-dollar meat industry profits from more than just animals’ flesh, and because the skin of each animal accounts for much of the animal’s commercial value, leather is a co-product of the meat industry,” says Allen. “This means that buying leather directly contributes to the suffering of animals on factory farms and slaughterhouses – the vast majority of animals slaughtered for their skin endure all the horrors of factory farming, including intense confinement, painful mutilations, deprivation and cruel treatment during transport and slaughter.”
4. Child labor is often used to produce it
Leather goods are made all over the world. They are made most cheaply in parts of the world where little oversight is required and workers’ well-being is not a priority.
In 2014, 30 children under 14-years-old were found to be employed at a leather bag factory in India. They were forced to work from 9am to 9pm every day and, according to the authorities, “were threatened that they would be beaten up if they tried to escape from the manufacturing units.”
In Pakistan, it is estimated 13 percent of children under 14-years-old work, and from that group, 9.3 percent are employed in the leather tanning or weaving industry.
5. There’s no such thing as “humane” leather
Just like you can’t really pin point what animal was used to make a leather jacket or hat, you can’t really trace where the leather comes from and, as a result, how the animal was treated before it was slaughtered for its skin.
“There are no current obligations on retailers to label a leather garment’s country or species of origin, making it impossible to trace an item’s origin with any accuracy,” explains Allen. “What’s more, skins move through international auction houses and are purchased and distributed to manufacturers around the world, and finished goods are often exported. Even if a garment’s label says that it was made in a European country, the animals were likely raised and slaughtered elsewhere – possibly on a farm in China, where there are no penalties for abusing animals.”
The “best” and softest leather also comes from baby cows who are prematurely extracted from their mothers’ wombs for veal, which is well-documented to cause mothering cows extreme pain and suffering.
6. There are beautiful and humane options out there!
Sure, once upon a time pleather was a horrific, shiny texture no one who didn’t belong on a performance stage would be caught wearing but technology has come a long way and now “faux” leather looks and feels just like the real thing.
Luxury brands like Stella McCartney only used synthetic materials and mainstream popular brands do too because it’s cheaper to produce and sell. Made with hemp, cotton, synthetic fibers or recycled rubber, there are a myriad of companies specializing in clothing and accessories made without harming a single animal.
As for the argument that synthetic products pollute the planet they’re supposed to be saving — yes, producing these “fake” leather goods is not a zero emission process. Making vegan alternatives does have an environmental impact but so does leather. The first is not harming animals in the process nor is it part of factory farming, one of the main causes of climate change. The same cannot be said of leather.
Photo Credit: ThinkStock