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Can Leather Be Ethical – and What’s the Alternative?

Published by Matthijs Berg on

Article written by A. Ireland, Immaculate Vegan

What do celebrities Natalie Portman, Emma Watson and Miley Cyrus have in common? All have been seen wearing items that – to the untrained eye – might look like they’re constructed from animal leather, but are actually made using cutting-edge vegan leathers that are beating animal leather on performance, sustainability and fashion credentials.

Leather is sometimes described as a by-product of the meat industry, but the reality is very different. It contributes a significant portion of revenues for animal farmers, and in some cases outweighs the revenues generated from the meat (for example in ostrich farming, where the skin is worth four times the meat’s value).

It’s certainly a lucrative industry, worth around $400 billion, with over one billion animals killed every year just for leather. Many species are bred and hunted for their skins, including sheep, lambs, goats, pigs, zebras, bison, kangaroos, elephants, crocodiles, alligators, ostriches, lizards and snakes. But the most used and abused animal is the cow, with 290m currently killed every year for their skins, estimated to grow to 430m by 2025.

The numbers sound pretty scary, and it’s clearly a grim picture for all the animals involved – but what’s the real impact of leather production to people and the environment, and is there a more up-to-date and fashionable choice to be made now?

Where does leather come from?
We buy leather products – bags, shoes, wallets, jackets – without knowing where the skin came from; or anything about how the animals were kept and killed; or how the people involved in their production were treated.

Your beautiful (and expensive) butter-soft leather bag may come with a lovely ‘Italian leather’ tag, but all that means is that the bag was finished in Italy – the skin could have been imported from anywhere. In fact, nearly half of the global leather trade is carried out in developing countries, including China, Brazil and India, where animal rights are almost non-existent, and leather-workers suffer daily exposure to a toxic stew of life-shortening chemicals. Suddenly leather doesn’t sound so sexy.

Read the full article via Immaculate Vegan

Ireland, A. (z.d.). Can Leather Be Ethical – and What’s the Alternative? Geraadpleegd op 17 mei 2020, van https://immaculatevegan.com/blogs/features/can-leather-be-ethical