If people are slowly becoming aware of the cruelty of fur, leather still has a good reputation of a noble and natural material that could last a life-time. But the leather industry, just like the fur one, is causing suffering to the animals. It is also very toxic for the environment as well as for human health. Here are 5 reasons to not wear leather.
1 – For the animals
The animals are the leather industry’s first victims. However, there is a frequent misconception on the fact that leather is just a byproduct of the meat industry, and therefore that leather is just a form of recycling. It is to be noted the animals that are killed for the leather are different from the ones killed for their meat, the leather industry is NOT about recycling. The reality is much more different: leather is rather the main « co-product » of the meat industry. For some animals like ostriches, leather is much more lucrative than the meat. Leather can also be considered as a totally different industry: animals are therefore only bred for their skin just like the ermine.
Either way, buying leather is supporting intensive farming. Leather is mainly produced in developing countries where animal protection laws are inexistent or at least not thoroughly applied. The conditions in which the animals are transported and slaugthered are extremely violent and include confinement, deprivation and mutilation.
Each year, 1 billion animals are raised and killed for their skins. Cows, pigs, goat or even dogs and cats: many species are affected. China is the largest leather exporter with cats and dogs leather being rather common. The products are then sold without any specification of the leather origins leaving the consumers with no clues of what they are buying.
2 – For the environment
Intensive farming is responsible of 18% of the total of the greenhouse gas emissions – more than the transport industry. It is also connected to deforestation: Greenpeace has conducted a three-year long study in 2009 showing that bovine breeding is responsible for 80% of the deforestation observed in the Amazonian forest in Brasil. Breeding also requires a high amount of water resources and is also responsible for soil pollution rejecting antibiotics, hormones and chemical products directly into the nature. The resources that are used to obtain 1kg of leather have 20 more times environmental effects than the one necessary to produce synthetic materials such as polyester.
Tanneries are also highly polluting: hazardous wastes direclty flow into rivers and contaminate water tables leading to important sanitary risks in regions of the world where are concentrated these taneries such as the neighbourhood of Hazaribagh in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh. The pollution of the Buriganga river that crosses the city is so high that no fishes nor no plants can live in there anymore.
3 – For the workers well-being
Leather tannery is a processus to avoid the skin to rot and to make it water resistant but it uses a lot of chemical products that are toxic for the people working in tanneries or in their close areas.
More than 80% of the leather is tanned using chromium leading to almost 16 millions of people exposed to the dangers of this product according to the NGO Pure Earth. 3 millions of people are affected by diseases linked to the presence of chromium in their daily environment. This chemical agent can damage our skin as well as our breathing system. Many studies have identified a link between cinus and lung cancers and the presence of chromium used in tanneries.
In developing countries many tanneries don’t provide any protection nor formations to work with chemical substances for the workers. In these tanneries, where no basic sanitary rule is followed, the workers’ life expectancy does not exceed 50 years old.
In Hazaribagh, the tanneries’ neighborhood of Dahka, 50 tonnes of chemical products are used every day in the skin tanning process. The inhabitants and the workers live surrounded by toxic material in a chromium-saturated environment that also contains mercury and arsenic. During the monsoon period, this toxic mixture flows into the river and put the population at risk. Today, Hazaribagh is considered as the most polluted place on Earth. This video tells the story of the Indians workers in the tanneries where most of the European leather production comes from.
4 – For more sustainable purchases
Leather is often tied to quality : the demand is currently still very high which encourages the industrials to produce more and cheaper. The leather quality that we encounter in middle to high street stores is poor while other alternatives that have the same appearance and even a greater quality than leather exist.
Furthermore, it is to be noted that the chemical component used in tanneries don’t disappear on their own and can often be encountered in the final product. The chromium for example is transforming into hexavalent chromium during the process, a very allergenic substance that can cause exzema. High quantity of hexavalent chrome is often detected in various leather items sold in Europe. Low bracket items are considered to be the ones with the higher dose of hexavalent chrome.
5 – To become a thoughtful consumer
Our everyday actions have an impact on our world. Choosing to not buy a product that feels far from our values is choosing to combat harmful practices.
It is possible today to choose alternative options to leather that respects the animals, the environment and the workers. The quality and the durability of these alternative materials are as good as the leather ones. Choosing to buy vegan shoes, conceived with respect is choosing to support ethical values and saying “no” to a harmful industry that causes suffering and pollution.
The vegan shoes Minuit sur Terre are designed without leather and without any products of animal origin. The materials used are solvent-free synthetic fibers that come from Italy. The inner lining is made of natural cereals fibers. All our shoes are produced in the Porto area in Portugal in a factory that respects the workers’ rights. Each pair of shoes Minuit sur Terre is ethical without making any compromises on the style ?
Emma and the Minuit sur Terre’s team
- Don’t hide from the truth, The Guardian
- Révélations choquantes sur l’industrie du cuir par Stella McCartney, Peta France
- Le cuir végétarien, Stellamccartney.com
- Ces substances que nous cache… le cuir, Consoglobe
- Dans l’enfer des tanneries au Bangladesh, Alain Lewkowicz, Santé & travail
- Bangladesh : Tanneries Harm Workers, Poison Communities, Human Rights Watch
- L’élevage accentue l’effet de serre et la déforestation, Viande.info
- L’industrie du cuir, Peta France
- Chaussures en cuir : l’affligeant quotidien des tanneurs indiens, UFC Que Choisir