Leather is one of the most commonly used animal fibers, whether it be for clothing or accessories. Although it is a timeless and durable material, its manufacture has negative effects on people, animals and the environment.
Impact on animals
There are many victims of the leather industry. This includes cows, crocodiles, kangaroos, seals, horses, cats and dogs. As there is no legal requirement to label leather products, it can be difficult for a consumer to determine which type of animal it has come from and where they were raised, let alone how the animal was treated.
Besides having to face the stress of slaughter eventually, animals used for leather are also routinely subjected to painful procedures such as de-horning and branding, all without any pain relief.
Many ‘bobby calves’, unwanted products of the dairy industry, are slaughtered within a few days of their lives, and their skins used to make leather accessories for the fashion industry.
Leather is often not just a ‘by-product’ of the meat and dairy industries. It itself is quite profitable, which may drive demand for more animals to be raised and killed.
Impact on people & the environment
Tanning is used to prevent removed animal skin from decomposing. But did you know that the tanning of leather involves the use of large amounts of chemicals? And some countries don’t have adequate laws for the disposal of chemicals. Consequently, people who live or work near/at tanneries commonly suffer from illnesses including skin conditions and respiratory problems. With the potential to cause pollution to air, soil and water, these chemicals are also bad for the environment.
With more and more people becoming aware of the damaging effect of leather production, demand for ethical alternatives is growing. Alternatives range from the familiar polyurethane (PU), to interesting and innovative ‘leathers’ such as those made from pineapple leaf fibers (Pinatex), leaf, cork and even mushroom (MuSkin)!
Some brands and stores that offer leather-free goods:
- Urban Originals: Has a range of bags and wallets
- Vegan style: (Melbourne)
- Vegan wares: (Melbourne)
- Velvety: Online store offering a range of accessories made from innovative leather alternatives