The U.S. leather industry does a $1.5 billion business
tanning over 100 million animal skins! But, we rationalize; these cows
are destined for slaughter anyway, so why not use the skin? The truth
is, the worth of the animal is the worth of the whole animal, not just
the meat, and if we stopped using leather products, and gelatin, and
other animal by-products, the cost of meat would soar to an unattainable
level for most people, effectively crippling the beef industry. If you
stop wearing and using leather, you are doing your part to save animal
By now we are all well aware of the horrors of factory
farming: over-crowding, tight confinement, denial of basic needs,
castration without employing humane anesthetic agents, hot-iron
branding, tail-docking, de-horning, the list goes on and on and on.
Those of us who have switched to a vegetarian lifestyle
have the satisfaction of knowing that these animals are not suffering
for our benefit, but if you are still buying and wearing leather
products, you may have to re-visit your commitment to the animals.
Thankfully, red meat consumption has dropped
considerably since the health craze of the seventies (this new protein
craze notwithstanding), and now the profits from the blood industry have
become much more dependent on the sale of the animals "by-products". The
hides account for almost half of the total by-product of the value of
cattle. In addition to cows and calves, the skin of aborted calves and
lambs (which are turned into expensive and prestigious products), and
the skins of horses, sheep, lambs, goats, and pigs slaughtered for meat
are also tanned and sold as leather products. Baby goats are boiled
alive in the making of "kid gloves".
But other species are not safe just because they are not
considered "food animals". Some animals in the US, such as deer, sharks
and alligators are killed just for their skins. Animals killed outside
the US can include zebras, bison, water buffaloes, kangaroos, elephants,
eels, dolphins, seals, walruses, frogs, crocodiles and lizards.
Snakeskin comes from snakes skinned alive in the widespread belief that
the life-blood in the skin keeps the skin supple until tanning.
According to an article written by Todd Steiner and
published in the Earth Island Journal (Banned Sea Turtle Products Still
Exported From Mexico Summer 1994), "...thousands of endangered olive
Ridley sea turtles are captured and butchered illegally in Mexico solely
for their skins". Furthermore, up to 30 percent of imported crocodile
shoe leather and other wildlife items are made from endangered,
illegally poached animals.
People in the bloody business of leather making shout
from the rooftops that leather is "biodegradable", and maintain that
leather is "ecologically friendly" The truth is, the tanning process
(which involves the use of dangerous chemicals), negates the organic
collagen and protein; effectively stopping biodegradation. These
hazardous chemicals are formaldehyde, coal tar derivatives, oils, dyes,
and cyanide-based finishing compounds. Most leather production involves
chromium tanning, which is considered hazardous by the U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The slogan adopted by
vegetarians..."Better for the planet, better for the animals and better
for you".... can also be pressed into service as an argument against
using leather products. No surprises there!
A visit to the website of People for the Ethical
Treatment of Animals (PeTA) proved highly enlightening -- there are wide
and varied alternatives to animal skins. Some of them are cotton, linen,
rubber, ramie, canvas, and a whole range of synthetics. There are also
some new and exciting products on the market: Avia's Hydrolite and
Nike's (1-800-344-NIKE) Durabuck athletic and hiking shoes. This
innovative material is permeable and, according to industry sources
"will stretch around the foot with the same "give" as leather, provides
good support, and is machine washable". Furthermore, non-leather
alternative shoes and accessories are up to 75 percent less expensive
than animal leather. In May of 1990, Parents magazine conducted a poll.
An overwhelming majority of those polled, 69% admitted that they were
against killing animals for leather. What makes this poll so significant
is that the readers of PARENTS magazine are not, as a group,
"animal-rights people". They are decidedly mainstream people. These are
the people that can really make a difference if they add their
collective voice to the voices of animal advocates!
For all practical purposes, if you are an animal-rights
advocate, the wearing of leather shoes is an obvious liability. Many of
us has had the experience of being at an animal-rights demonstration
where detractors have shouted "Are those leather shoes you are wearing?"
This forces us to take the focus off the issue at hand for the moment
while we ruefully defend activists wearing leather. How about enjoying a
vegan meal while out to dinner with non-animal rights friends. Do we
really want to get sidetracked into a whole, inevitable discussion of
why we have leather products but won't eat meat? We don't bury the
corpses of dead animals in our bodies, why should we surround ourselves
with the sad remains of once beautiful, gentle, and sentient creatures?
We can all agree that fur is dead, that compassion is
the fashion and that vanity is not a good enough reason to wear fur.
With the new non-leather alternatives, we can state with conviction that
leather is dead, and that vanity is not a good enough reason to wear
leather and compassion really is he fashion for the new millennium.
For more information on non-leather alternatives, visit
Go on to The Ghost At The Foot of The Bed by Anonymous
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