By Paige Arden
One of the first things out of a person’s mouth when they argue in support of that new leather jacket they are sporting is that the leather used is simply a byproduct of the meat industry and that it is not harming the animals directly. If the animals are going to be killed for their meat, then there is no harm in making use of their hides. Why let it go to waste? It could almost be thought of as a type of recycling in that sense.
This mindset is one of the main problems with the leather industry today. The farmers that sell the hides of their animals are not thinking about recycling or using the scraps of what they already have. The leather industry is usually the constant where cattle slaughter is concerned. A farmer is not guaranteed to get good, profitable meat every time. They are, however, guaranteed a hefty sum for whatever leather can be sold from the cattle. With the leather industry worth somewhere around 100 billion USD per year, it is not hard to imagine the appeal to slaughter more cows and gain more profits. Support in any manner towards the leather industry will, for the most part, equal indirect support for the meat industry. One is rarely done without the other, and so it is important to understand what it is that you are participating in by purchasing leather.
The truth about the leather in our closets is that we often know little to nothing about it. For one thing, the majority of the world’s leather comes from developing countries that lack significant animal welfare laws. In India, PETA did an investigation that produced horrifying results. The workers investigated were found to be rubbing chilli peppers and tobacco into a cow’s eyes after breaking its tail, all in an attempt to force it to walk itself to the slaughterhouse after it collapsed from pure exhaustion. China, another large leather exporter, has equally frightening stories. The fact that leather is not often labelled means that it is hard to know where or what it was produced from. In China, animals such as dogs and cats are killed for their meat and hide. Unless the tag on the leather says specifically where and what it came from, the possibility that it was made from the animals many regard as pets will always be there.
Knowledge about the truth behind the leather industry will often cause people to change their minds and start buying vegan alternatives such as pleather. While this is better than the alternative of leather, there remain some stipulations. A fair amount of vegan leather is made from Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) plastic. This plastic is one of the ones that have the largest capacity to harm the environment. Greenpeace lists it as one of the worst plastics to be using.
With this, if vegan leather is something that interests you, it is important to look for eco-friendly alternatives. Being intentional in your choices and taking on the responsibility to ensure sustainability is something that everyone should at least consider. Pinatex, for example, is made from the leaf fibres of pineapple leaves, and can be found in some fashion labels replacing pleather.
Whatever it is that we choose to support should be a decision that is made consciously. Supporting the leather industry, no matter how harmless it may seem with respect to the recycling potential of it, means that the ethics of it need to be taken into consideration. Any support towards an industry that slaughters and exploits the rights of animals is support that could be put elsewhere, into an industry more eco-friendly, sustainable, and ethical.