Leather: Wear Your Own Skin

Contrary to popular belief, leather is often not a by-product of the food agriculture industry. Each year over one billion animals worldwide are slaughtered for their skins by the leather industry. Many animals are bred in factory farms for their skins, while others are hunted in the wild.

The leather industry itself is inherently cruel. Those animals raised in factory farms experience the same conditions as animals raised for meat – overcrowding, mutilation without pain relief, and an inability to carry out natural behaviours. Some animals in the wild are skinned alive, while others have their throats slit while conscious.

Leather is generally not labelled unless it is a so-called ‘exotic’ skin, such as crocodile. Animals whose skins are made into leather include: cattle including Slink (unborn calves), sheep, goats, pigs (including Peccary – wild pig from Central and South America), elephants, seal, ostrich, frogs, shark, fish, camels, cats, dogs, lizards, snakes, eel (known as Silk Of The Ocean), dolphins, kangaroos, cane toads, horses, stingray (Shagreen), sea turtles (neck and flippers), zebras, mules, donkeys, possum, alligator, crocodile, buffalo (bison), deer, elk, wallaby, walrus, emu and chicken.

Leather goods are everywhere, from boots, wallets, and handbags, to drum heads, dog leads and car seats.

Leather Farms
    Leather is believed to account for around half the meat industry’s value. Some companies chose to skin animals alive, as they believe it increases the suppleness of the leather – leaving the animal to suffer alive for up to four days.
      Animals who are bred and raised in horrific factory farm conditions for meat and leather suffer an immense amount of pain, both physically and mentally. Living in confined conditions inhibits their ability to display natural behaviours.
        When you buy suede you are supporting the cruel veal industry. When you buy leather you are frequently wearing a dairy cow whose brutalised body could no longer produce enough milk to satisfy her owner. When you buy crocodile or alligator skin, you’re wearing the skin of a baby animal that has been beaten with hammers, and had their skin ripped off all while remaining conscious for up to two hours after they’ve been skinned.
          There is nothing glamorous about this industry.
              In Australia kangaroos are hunted for their skin as well as their meat. The collateral damage of the kangaroo industry – the killing of joeys – is one of our country’s most shameful secrets. Joeys are bludgeoned to death because their small bodies are of no use to the $270 million industry.
                On continents such as Africa, wild animals are hunted for their skins. This includes zebras and elephants, who are also killed for their valuable ivory tusks. In the ocean, dolphins, seals and turtles are just some of the creatures hunted for their skins.
                  Snakes and lizards are often skinned alive because this is believed to make their skin more supple.
                    The Environment
                      Leather is far from being environmentally friendly, as the skin is a treated with a hazardous chemical concoction, in tanneries. Were it not treated, your car seats, lounge suite, shoes and coats would rot underneath you as any dead skin does. Untreated toxic chemicals used in tanning run into waterways, entering water supplies. The air becomes heavily polluted by tanneries burning residuals (hair etc). Tanneries consume massive levels of water. The film “Hell For Leather” (2008) exposes toxicity from the 100 tanneries in the Hazaribagh area of Dhaka being comparable with Chernobyl’s toxicity levels. National Geographic says “[the] modern leather shoemaking processes damage the environment – your shoe left a toxic footprint in its country of origin.” Leather is also an energy-intensive industry. Karachi, Pakistanhas been described as a brown toxic wasteland laced with arsenic and chromium percolating, bubbling and spitting its way into the ocean. Some workers tan the hides with caustic chemicals, other stand and work barefoot in the waste without any protective equipment. Tamil NaduIndia has been devastated by leather tanneries.
                        Human Health
                          Finished leather has been processed by using toxins including:
                          • cyanide-based oils, which causes heart and brain damage;
                          • chromium, which causes lung cancer, ulcers, holes in the nasal septum;
                          • arsenic, which is a deadly poison leading to lung cancer and death;
                          • lead, where high levels can cause death;
                          • formaldehyde, a probable human carcinogen.
                          Workers and residents in areas that have tanneries often have high levels of cancers including leukaemia and diseases like cholera caused by contamination.
                            Colombian leather tanning industry workers are paid low wages and work long hours and many of its workers are children as young as 5. Child workers in the leather industry are exposed to numerous health hazards. Among those already listed are burns, intoxication, fumigation, injuries, fractures and amputations (some lose their hands and fingers working with machines), and vision impairment.
                              Japanese workers hundreds of years ago called Burkumin, worked in this field and they were society’s outcasts. In India it is often The Untouchables doing this work. Leather production in the U.S. is a multi billion dollar industry. Ethiopia, Mexico, China, Brazil, India, Pakistan and Germany are also high producers of leather.