Most people who refuse to purchase and wear leather do so because of compassion for animals, myself included. As a lifelong vegetarian I cannot justify wearing leather, it just isn’t right. Of course there is an argument that “the animal is going to be slaughtered anyway, so why not use it’s skin?” which is true to a point – the leather and meat industries do go hand in hand, with skin sales an important income for slaughterhouses. Breeding cattle solely for skin is unusual (but not unheard of) because who could justify throwing away the meat? Even dairy cattle are ultimately slaughtered for their skin – such is the demand for leather.
The general conception is that skin, whether it be leather or fur, is synonymous with quality and luxury. Take this from the description of a Bentley Motors “Mulsanne” Interior Specification – “The attention to detail on show is befitting of a flagship Bentley. Take the sumptuous leather, hand picked from herds in cooler climates where the lack of insects means blemish-free hides. Soft and supple, they are then tanned in a traditional process, originally used during the construction of fine furniture pieces that optimizes their natural aroma.”
Yet there is myth and ignorance surrounding its production. Most leather in the UK is made from the skins of cattle, calves, sheep, lambs, goats and pigs. The younger the animal at the time of slaughter, the smoother and finer the grain structure and the less likelihood of damage due to scratches, parasite damage, ringworm, dung contamination, improper flaying or inadequate salting. The skin of a female is usually finer grained than that of a male and has a looser fibre structure giving a softer, stretchier leather. Although the UK has some animal welfare practices in place, we shouldn’t delude ourselves that animals reared and slaughtered here feel no stress, panic or even pain. Would you spend the day in a slaughterhouse and witness what happens there? As with most of us, the answer is most probably not, yet generally speaking we stick our heads in the sand and only see the finished item – the steak on our plate or the jacket in our wardrobe. The situation abroad is even worse – India is one of the world’s leading exporters of leather, yet with virtually no animal welfare regulations in place, what really happens to the “sacred cow” does not make for good reading. Should you really want to know how it is however, visit peta.org and see for yourselves.
Leather & the Environment
The amount of waste and pollution generated by the leather manufacturing industry is phenomenal and wreaks havoc on the environment. The stench from a tannery is overwhelming. Not only do they pollute the air however, they also pollute the rest of the environment with the use of a multitude of harsh toxic chemicals. One estimate puts the potential cost of an effluent treatment plant in a tannery at 30% of the total outlay proving just how much of a major problem it is. The Indian leather tanneries around the Ganges (of which there are literally tens of thousands) have been cited for dumping toxic metals such as chromium into the river. All waste that contains chromium is considered hazardous. Tannery effluent also contains large amounts of other pollutants, such as protein, hair, salt, lime, sludge, sulphides and acids. Groundwater near tanneries has been found to contain highly elevated levels of lead, cyanide and formaldehyde.
The leather industry also uses a tremendous amount of energy. In fact on the basis of quantity of energy consumed per unit produced, the leather-manufacturing industry would be categorised alongside the paper, steel, cement and petroleum manufacturing industries as a gross consumer of energy.
So is it worth it? Really worth it? Is the quest for perceived luxury and quality really so important in that NOTHING is considered inappropriate? In these times of heightened environmental awareness I would hope that there is a gradual move away from the use of any animal for it’s skin, but I feel we have a long way to go. Thankfully there is some hope on the horizon – quality vegan leathers, made from vegetable and plant-based materials are starting to be used in the manufacture of clothing and footwear. It has to be the way forward, as surely our fragile planet cannot sustain much more.
Article source: https://EzineArticles.com/expert/Sue_Havenhand/1986788