/* Milonic DHTML Website Navigation Menu Version 5, license number 187760 Written by Andy Woolley - Copyright 2003 (c) Milonic Solutions Limited. All Rights Reserved. Please visit http://www.milonic.com/ for more information. */

 

 

Search

 

 

 

עברית

 

عربي

 

Leather


FACTSHEET

 

 

 
 

Overview

Fur

Leather

Reptile Skin

Wool

Down & Feathers

Silk

The Byproduct Myth

Alternatives

 

 


Beef Cattle

Dairy Cows

Veal Calves

Pigs

Ostriches

Animal Agriculture: Selected Bibliography

 

 


Cattle Mutilation

Dying to Get
Dressed Up

How Long
Animals Live

Slaughterhouse: Photos

Slaughterhouse: Process

Wildlife Body Parts, Fur, & Leather

Wildlife "Cuisine"

 

 

 

Economics

Animal Sources

Cats and Dogs

Deer and Kangaroos

Sea Turtles

India

The Tanning Industry

 

Delicate baby shoes, made from skins of cats stolen in a Philippine suburb, processed in a German tannery, hand-stitched in a Hong Kong sweatshop, and sold in a French boutique.

 

Your watchband (snakeskin from India), your new pair of Adidas (kangaroo hide from Australia), your cordovan loafers (horsehide from Belgium), the cover of the book on your desk (sheepskin from England), the wallet in your purse (ostrich hide from South Africa), the cigar case on your desk (sharkskin from Panama), and the upholstery on your easy chair (cowhide from India) — leather is everywhere.

 

Economics

The export of processed leather by itself is a 60 billion dollar international industry derived from factory farming, hunting, trapping, fishing, poaching of endangered species, rounding up stray domestic animals, stealing pets, and collecting animals downed in transport or from illness. With so much value built in, the leather market effectively underwrites associated businesses, from slaughterhouses to tanneries to manufacturers, in a vast supply chain. All of this is fueled by consumer choice that is tradition-bound and fashion-driven, perpetuating inherent cruelty.

 

The hide amounts to 5560 percent of the commercial value of a slaughtered cow, which means that the meat industry is dependent on the sale of skins. By contributing so substantially to the overall worth of slaughtered animals, the leather market subsidizes the meat industry and protects it during periods of financial pressure. At the same time, since the broad meat/fur/leather industry has become industrialized and internationalized, tight integration ensures high, as well as expanding, profits. The growing participation of producers in many third-world countries provides cheap labor and guarantees protection from competition. By keeping costs low, profits can remain stable or even grow. UN agencies like ITO (the International Trade Centre), UNCTAD (the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development), and WTO (the World Trade Organization) strongly promote component industries, like tanneries, as suitable low cost-of-entry engines for economic growth in developing countries such as Ethiopia.

 

Animal Sources

Traditionally, leather products are made from the skins of cattle, sheep, goats, and pigs — the victims of intensive factory farming. These animals lead miserable lives, first in pens or feedlots, then during crowded transport, and finally at the slaughterhouse. They all die feeling terror and great pain. Their skins will be flayed (ripped form their bodies) before their carcasses are hung to cure. Horses, camels, and llamas are also killed and butchered, their skins sent on for finishing. Other species generally thought of as wildlife, like deer, buffaloes, and alligators, are farmed specifically for their skins. A great premium is set on leather from unusual sources; therefore, hunters, fishermen, and poachers target wild boars, kangaroos, elephants, seals, sharks, dolphins, eels, turtles, crocodiles, snakes, as well as cats and dogs. In Israel, among other animals, crocodiles and ostriches are farmed.

 

Top

 

 

Cats and Dogs

People outside of Asia are disgusted and outraged to learn that thousands of cats and dogs die every day for the skin trade. In the Philippines and Thailand, cats are collected and hanged, while dogs are snared, slashed, and then bled to death. Observers report that frequently the animals are still alive during the skinning process. Their hides are commonly used for drumheads, gloves, handbags, shoes, slippers, dolls, orthopedic products, wraps for arthritis, and chewy dog toys.

 

Deer and Kangaroos

Deer in the U.S. and kangaroos in Australia are so abundant that they are considered pests by suburban gardeners and farmers. Shooting them is also popular entertainment for hunters. In the U.S., the Department of Environmental Conservation tracks the wild deer population on the state level, while the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service supervises National Parks. These agencies take responsibility for maintaining a sufficient number of wild animals to satisfy hunters and are the direct cause of overpopulation. Hunting and culling periods are designated under a local licensing system (each state has a Department of Fish and Wildlife that administers hunting licenses). Deer are also factory farmed, much the same way as sheep and goats, on large private holdings. Deerskin is used in a wide variety of garments where lightness and suppleness is valued (shirts, dresses, gloves, wallets, hats, slippers, baby booties). It is considered among the strongest leathers and is therefore selected for making outerwear, wallets, handbags, and sandals. Hunters and government marksmen kill millions of deer every year, while an additional 3050 thousand are slaughtered on farms.

 

In Australia kangaroos are considered a nuisance but also a great source of profit. For over 20 years (19741995) the killing of kangaroos was indirectly limited by an import ban from the U.S.; however, since the ban was lifted the numbers have steadily expanded yearly. With a current quota of 7.5 million, this is a legal slaughter of wildlife for commercial purposes. Typically, kangaroos are shot in the countryside at night, under spotlights, by hunters aiming at their heads. Many wounded escape and die slowly and painfully. The very young are pulled from the pouches of their mothers and stomped or beaten to death with a pipe. Kangaroo hide is popular for sporting equipment like golf bags and shoes, especially sneakers made by Italian and American manufacturers. With demand for kangaroo products so high and the constraints on harvesting the animals so few, many people are afraid that the species will be in danger of extinction.

 

Top

 

 

 

Sea Turtles

Along the coasts of the South China Sea and the Bay of Thailand, poachers illegally capture and violently kill sea turtles for their shells, their flesh, and for the leather produced from their necks and flippers. Although protected under CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species), investigators are reporting that 250 tons of turtle are being smuggled annually from Cambodia and Vietnam on to vibrant markets from China to Japan. As a result of this extensive commercial exploitation, Olive Ridley turtles, in particular, are rapidly disappearing from areas where formerly they were abundant. Turtle leather is valued for its strength and is used to make gloves, purses, and footwear.

 

Turtles are long-lived animals and, after many years when they reach maturity, they return to the same beaches where they were hatched to dig nests and lay eggs. They are easy prey on the exposed sand, and often are killed and butchered before they can lay their eggs. In addition, turtles, returning to their home base to nest after many years, often discover a very changed environment along the waterfront where human development has had an impact. Under those circumstances, confused turtles lose their bearings and travel inland where they die. Similarly, in the eastern Mediterranean, the population of turtles has radically diminished over the past century. Biologists at the Israeli Sea Turtle Rescue Center in Mikhmoret have documented the hopeless situation of turtles as they return to their birthplace decades after hatching. A program is now in place to rescue and treat injured turtles, and to develop a core breeding group.

 

Israeli scientists rescue sea turtles

Indian villagers work to save Olive Ridley turtles

 

 

India

Leather is one of the most important export markets for India, where more than 24 million cattle, 46 million goats, and 16 million pigs are killed annually in the 3,600 legally operating slaughterhouses. In addition, there are 10 times as many unlicensed operations. Abattoirs that kill cows and buffaloes are banned in all Indian states except Kerala and West Bengal; therefore the animals are forced to walk hundreds of miles to their deaths or are transported in outmoded vehicles where they often die from accidentally goring or trampling one another. Hindus are forbidden to slaughter cows giving milk but can use the hide of one that dies of natural causes, while Muslims are not allowed to skin animals that have died naturally. Frequently their legs are broken so they can be declared fit for slaughter. In the past decade, India has been under scrutiny for the serious pollution generated by tanneries. Now, European and American manufacturers are canceling orders for leather because of the widespread violation of animal welfare laws and the obvious cruelty in the slaughter and leather industries.

 

The situation is no better for the alligators and lizards being farmed in appalling conditions and often skinned while still alive. Throughout southern India, peasant women traditionally gather snakes to milk for anti-venom serum (there are 52 different poisonous species, and all are collected). These tribal women now supply the huge demand for snakeskin in a flourishing illegal trade, with cobras and ratsnakes (as well as monitor lizards) the main victims. After capture they are skinned alive. Reptile skins are clandestinely shipped through Bangalore and then to Singapore, where they make their way into the East Asian markets. Snake and lizard skin is used for items like belts, shoes, trim, and even trendy colorful whips. Lower grade Indian leather is used in great quantity for competitively priced products, in every category, from clothing to saddlery.

  

Top

 

 

The Tanning Industry

Tanning prevents the natural decomposition of animal skins, providing suppleness, color, and a finished surface in preparation for commercial manufacturing into leather goods. At the slaughterhouse, the hides are superficially cleaned of hair and flesh, and then dried and preserved in a pre-tanning operation producing raw hides. At the tannery, more than 60% of hides are treated through a chemical-based process using chromium, in a series of soaking and rinsing procedures. Finally, the skins undergo finishing where they get their final dyeing and surface treatment. During this long procedure, the skins are transferred from vat to vat, soaked in chemical agents, and rinsed in water and chemical solutions. (Oak bark tanning, which is used on a more limited basis, doesn't preserve leather as well, but is less damaging.)

 

Chromium sulfate is the most dangerous ingredient used, but many other chemicals are required, including: alcohol, coal tar, degreasing agents, dyes, emulsifiers, formaldehyde, formic acid, lead, lime, resin blenders, sodium chloride, sodium sulfate, sulfuric acid, waxes, and zinc. (In all, 250 different toxic chemicals and heavy metals are used.) Tanning leads inevitably to the production of waste, occurring as wastewater, solid material, volatile compounds, and gases discharged into the air. This environmental impact is well documented and the subject of serious concern. In addition to being a hazard in the workplace, the pollution contaminates ground water, nearby lakes, and rivers, seriously affecting humans and wildlife. The effluents clog sewers and are brought into irrigation systems where they affect soil productivity and fertility. High incidences of lung cancer, leukemia, and ulcers are reported among factory workers and in the local population. In most western industrialized countries, government scrutiny ensures that contaminants are ameliorated through sophisticated treatment facilities, but this is far from true among cottage tanners in underdeveloped countries like Bangladesh, where tanning is frequently adjacent to poverty-stricken population centers and no pollution control abatement exists. Even with environmental protection standards in place, India suffers scandalous levels of toxic hazards because of tanning. Examples like this are significant because, with lower labor costs and less demanding environmental restrictions, developing countries have competed successfully with developed countries for more than 60% of world leather production.

 


 

Giorgio Armani may recommend wrapping your body in other animals' skins as the latest fashion statement, but a growing number of consumers, as well as many designers, see this as repugnant.

 

According to the International Trade Centre, Israeli exports of raw hides, finished leather, and leather products were valued at over 11 million dollars (US$). Internationally, 10 million metric tons of leather are produced every year, and for every ounce there is a superior alternative — whether for shoelaces or industrial gaskets, jackets or upholstery, footwear or book covers.

 

Leather is never indispensable.

 

Top