If you’re like me, you’ve sworn off fur because you know about the gruesome ways in which animals suffer for fur fashions; But, (dare I venture) is it not wardrobe hypocrisy to purchase leather and not fur? The social norm seems to have made one acceptable and the other a taboo, resulting in leather being a fabric that people really don’t think much about. But if all animals are equal, then who’s looking out for our cows?
Leather used in fashion is often misconstrued as a by-product of the meat industry, which in the minds of many, makes it OK. However, leather is the most important co-product of the meat industry – infact it’s often the most expensive part of the cow in many circumstances – which means that buying leather goods directly contributes to the horrors of intensive factory farming. The biggest problem we have with leather is the sheer quantity in which we’re consuming it. Take the leather handbag for instance – once held as a fashionable heirloom to pass down to future generations – is no longer a bag for life but more-likely a throw-away trend used for a couple of nights out and then habitually disposed of. Leather goods have become a cash cow for both luxury and high-street brands. My aim in writing this post isn’t to tell you what and what not to wear, but to give you the facts so that when we’re headed till bout we can make a more informed decision about leather.
For me, I view my wardrobe completely differently now to how I used to, and the rows of barely worn leather heels quietly haunt me into making more efficient decisions when I get to the till. So the big question, should we change our carnivorous closet cravings?
REAL LEATHER – MY THREE MAIN CONCERNS
NO.1 – PROTECTING THE ANIMALS
Unfortunately there’s no getting around the fact that in order to make a shiny new pair of shoes an animal has to suffer in the process. You simply cannot purchase a pair of leather soles, a supple suede jacket or a butter soft calf skin handbag without this result. In the U.S most animals whose skins are turned into leather suffer extreme crowding, confinement, deprivation, castration, branding, tail docking and dehorning, all without any pain-killers (as the PETA un-earthed). A staggering 290m cows are killed every year from a herd of 1bn for their skins. Projections tell is that in order to keep us in wallets, handbags, belts and shoes, the industry will need to increase that to 430m cows annually by 2025, a 48% increase. To be this seems like an unnecessary death toll. No matter what we convince ourselves, leather is the product of a cruel industry, and with so many synthetic materials available today is there really a need for leather at all? Certainly not on such an extreme scale.
NO.2 – SAVING THE ECO-SYSTEMS
It’s of no surprise that the environmental impact of rearing 1bn cattle a year is rather substantial. Researchers used satellite imagery to show how the Brazilian cattle industry (with around 200m head of cattle) were responsible for 14% of the world’s annual deforestation. 70% of the amazon forest is currently being used for pastures. This ruins soil quality, accelerates climate change and drastically interferes with it as a habitat for other animals. The cow’s contribution to climate change is colossal. Contrary to common belief, agriculture emits more greenhouse gas then the whole of the transportation sector. It is responsible for 18% of the worlds green-house gasses. To put it simply, I was stunned when I read that a kilogram of beef is responsible for the equivalent Carbon Dioxide emitted by the average European car every 250 kilometres. Who’d have thought that our friendly farmhouse cow would grow-up to become more polluting then our petrol drinking cars?
NO.3 – TOXIC WASTE POLLUTING THE WATER SYSTEMS
The third concern with leather is the toxic waste emitted during the tanning process. All hides go through a tannery in order to preserve their skins from decomposing in our closets, and in major industrial production regions tanneries dump this toxic chemical waste into nearby rivers and water sources. Waste water that is unleashed into the environment has huge consequences. Not only does it kill fish and plant life in surrounding areas, but it causes nerve damage, birth defects and respirational health problems to the people that live and work in the area. Victims of the tanneries and are exposed to highly toxic chemicals, which doctors suggest won’t allow them to live past 50.
FACTS DIGESTED, IT’S NOT ALL DOOM & GLOOM
It’s near impossible to know where the leather used to make one particular pair of shoes, bag or belt has come from. Items usually come with a “Made In” label, but this contains no information about where the fabrics were originally sourced, only where the item was made. This makes it very difficult to track leather production. However, there’s been a huge rise in the number of vegan brands available as people have slowly un-earthed the truth about the leather, fur and exotic skin industries. Three I metioned in this post that I’d suggest checking out are; La Bante London, Matt & Nat, Denise Robool.
I hope you found this post informative 🙂 If you enjoyed it you might also like “My 4-Step Guide To Shopping Vegan On The Highstreet”.