A Leather-Free Fashion Industry

It was last week, when I stumbled upon some insanely cheap Zara shoes. Why do their shoes look so fantastic… The pair of shoes I looked at seem to fit very tight, like socks, but the material they are made from are quite depressing: practically the whole shoe is made from fake leather, except for the insole, which is made from goat leather.

Why, oh why would you put leather insoles into a non-leather shoe?!

Okay, aside from the fact that we don’t know a single thing about the quality of the other materials used for this shoe (like polyurethane, polyester and thermoplastic polyurethane), isn’t it a shame to put leather into a non-leather shoe? Is this piece of leather supposed to put some idea of quality into the customer’s mind? Or is this goat leather just so ridiculously cheap that Zara doesn’t give a…? One thing is for sure: Zara, you fail at producing vegan shoes.

Another example is a Mango leather coat with faux fur. Wait a minute. Faux fur stitched on leather? Who would produce such a contradiction? It doesn’t make sense and guess what, it is wrong. Mango is unable to deliver true information concerning their products. On the Mango.uk site the same jacket is described as “fur leather coat”, which makes more sense to me.

Apart from the fact that fashion houses mix up information about materials on their websites, have you ever thought about the possibility that they generally can’t know for certain if a leather product marked with a “cow leather” stamp, is really made out of cow leather and not from a dog’s skin? The truth is: they cannot know for sure, because their production houses receive the leather from a muddled net of suppliers.³

There is no law and no constitution checking the authenticity of the leather skin. It indicates that you, as the customer, may end up wearing real leather, even if your product is declared as fake leather.

So I tried to research this leather & fake leather situation.
Roughly 90 percent of the worldwide shoe production takes place in Asia. Especially Bangladesh is the castle of leather tanneries, where ‘holy’ cows (illegally imported from India) are oftentimes slaughtered on the street in the middle of the night. Afterwards the cowhides are processed in tanneries, where the workers (many of them children) come in contact with toxic chemicals¹. These chemicals, like Chrome salts, are not only damaging the health of the workers, they also pollute the surrounding waterways. It’s unbelievable that this situation in Asia is not on the news every day. Oh, maybe I found out why: Bangladesh’s leather industry is worth a billion dollars a year.²

A child jumps on the waste products that are used to make poultry feed as she plays in a tannery at Hazaribagh in Dhaka October 9, 2012. Courtesy of REUTERS/Andrew Biraj

Unfortunately I could not find any numbers according to the killing of goats for the leather industry, but it is a fact that 75+ million fur-bearing animals are killed for the fur industry every year. On top of these 75+ million we have to add 1 billion rabbits, which are also killed for their fur.³

There is no difference between the fur and the leather industry. Both industries are as cruel as the other one. You may did not know, but cats and dogs are killed for their skin too. If you buy a leather product made in China, you can easily end up wearing the skin of a dog or a cat, because the leather industry in China is not very tidy when it comes to labelling their leather. Maybe you never read “cat leather” or “dog leather” for the fact that nobody would buy a shoe made from a skin which could be from your own pet. Unfortunately those leather types are often used to produce women’s fashion gloves, shoes and many more products that are exported around the world.⁴

Would you wear your pet’s skin? I believe the answer is: no, never!

How come we know all the facts, but most of us end up buying the bad products over and over again? How come we are able to receive the shocking information, but we are not able to stop buying the product at the end of the cruelty-line? How come we live in such a fast-paced world, where social media gives us the chance to share information all around the world, still so many of us just don’t (want to) care?

Here are the last facts in this article, that might change your mind about buying leather products in the future:

  1. Currently 290 million cows are killed every year globally approaching an even more shocking 1 billion.⁵
  2. In order to provide the consumption madness, the industry needs to slaughter 430 million cows annually by 2025.⁵
  3. A “Made in Italy” or “Italian Leather” stamp only means that the product is finished in Italy, the leather could be imported from elsewhere.⁵ It is the same problematic when it comes to the authenticity of the stamp at all. It can be a cat’s, dog’s, goat’s or cow’s skin, even if the product is described to be fake leather.
  4. “Unbeknownst to most, the majority of fur-trimmed items (even pet toys and trinkets) labeled as ‘faux fur’ or ‘synthetic’ is likely real fur, mostly from cats or dogs. It is estimated that more than 10 million dogs and 4 million cats are murdered each year for their fur and meat in China, where there are no governing laws to protect animals.”³

Properly speaking: You don’t have to be vegan to care for this planet. It is unlikely that consumers all over the world will stop buying leather products, stop eating meat and stop drinking milk altogether to minimize the demand. But the consumers can make their buying decision more sustainable by transforming their spending behaviour to a minimum.

Do not forget: we, the consumers, regulate the market. We have the influence to change the industry. Ending this article, I want to quote Jason Baker, Peta’s Vice President and founder of the Indian branch:

“Simply put, there is no such thing as humane leather. No matter where it comes from, leather is the product of a cruel industry. And with so many synthetic materials available today, there’s no need to wear leather at all.”

Don’t you agree? Let me know what you think: is a leather-free fashion industry realizable, or rather a necessity? What is your approach to live in a world without cruelty?


¹ reuters.comnews.vice.com, ³ Cryoftheinnocent.com, ⁴ petaasia.com, ⁵ The Guardian

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