Wearing leather has become a hot topic in recent years, with the rise of animal-rights groups pointing out how skinning an animal for the skin is a cruel and unnecessary way to be fashion forward. This has paved the way for vegan-friendly fabrics, such as leather which is made from kelp or bark. Where people stand on wearing leather often depends on their stance on towards eating meat – vegans and vegetarians are much more likely to support the wearing of faux leather. However, more and more carnivores are taking this stance too.
Many people argue that wearing animal hides isn’t cruel as the animals are being slaughtered for their meat anyway. However this isn’t entirely accurate as most farmers sell their animal hides for a much higher profit than the meat. Looking at it this way, one could argue that by buying animal hides you are just supporting the meat industry. Farmers are out to make money, just like everyone else and by selling cow hide (the animal from which we get most of our leather) they stand to make a lot of profit.
Recently, there has been more of a call for more exotic types of leather – people want new and different things and cow hide leather has become very common. In South Africa, ostrich farmers are selling their skins for hides and the meat is only sold as an afterthought. This means that the bird was killed for the primary purpose of producing leather, meaning if it wasn’t for the high demand of ostrich-leather these ostriches would not have been killed.
A worrying fact about non-vegan leather is that the softest, and often considered the most luxurious and expensive of the leathers is that which comes from young animals. Even more disturbing than this is that sometimes these animals are cut from the womb prematurely, just to be used for their hides. This is worrying because there is a status connected with purchasing expensive leather items – people are often more concerned with how they are perceived by their peers than concerned about the welfare of animals who sometimes don’t even get to take their first breath before being killed for their skin.
Leather is also having an impact on the environment. The process of tanning is incredibly toxic, and means that carcinogenic products can be pumped into the water systems and into the atmosphere. Although tanning factories in the United States and Europe are forbidden from producing leather this way, a lot of them are still using this method. This rule doesn’t apply to Asia, in particular China – where most of the world’s leather goods are manufactured. This is creating a huge problem for the environment, but people are reluctant to switch due to the speed at which this process takes.
These are all good points to consider when thinking about purchasing vegan leather or suede. The impact on the environment is just one of the disturbing facts about leather. This is without even taking into consideration the amount of harm millions of animals go through daily just so humans can wear nice clothes.