Leather - Can We Do Without It?
A typical morning for most people consists of getting out of bed and getting dressed. The clothing that we choose to wear shows the outside world who we are, how we feel, what we are doing, and potentially our opinion about the world around us. We buy clothes with many different intentions in mind, ranging from dressing appropriately for a job or social outing, to making a political or environmental statement. One fabric that many people choose to buy and wear, despite its controversial nature, is leather.
What is leather?
Leather is a material we wear/use in objects such as belts, bags, skirts, shoes, etc. and is found in everyday products like furniture and car interiors. It is made from animal skin, most commonly cattle, but it can also be made from pigs, goats, sheep and exotic animals such as alligators, ostriches, kangaroos, and even dogs and cats. After the skin is removed from the animal, it must go through multiple stages of tampering in order to prepare it for use. Since the beginning of time, humans have been using the skins of animals as a way to keep themselves clothed and protected. The question to ask ourselves is, even though leather has a long-standing history, does this mean we should continue to be using it today?
Leather might look good on you, but not on the planet!
When people think about clothes, they don’t usually think about the impact these clothes have on environment. There is no debate that the fashion industry has a very negative effect on the planet and leather is no exception.
Let’s begin with the animal itself. The cattle raised in order to create leather require large amounts of pastureland, food, water, and fossil fuels. Most of these animals are on factory farms, which produce 130 times as much excrement as the entire human population. This greatly affects our water systems. According to PETA: “Leather has the greatest impact on eutrophication, a serious ecological problem in which runoff waste creates an overgrowth of plant life in water systems, which suffocates animals by depleting oxygen levels in the water and is the leading cause of hypoxic zones, also known as dead zones.”
Next, let’s talk about the actual creation of leather. The production of leather requires a lot of energy and chemicals such as formaldehyde, mineral salts, coal-tar derivatives, and some cyanide-based oils, dyes, and finishes. On top of all of that, a large amount of leather in the U.S. contains chromium which is considered hazardous by the EPA. And let’s not forget about the fossil fuels that are consumed in livestock production. Cow-derived leather has almost three times the negative environmental impact as its synthetic counterparts, including polyurethane leather. Leather is not the best choice for our planet, and we should reconsider when thinking about purchasing it.
Skin on skin
In addition to the damage leather production does to the environment, the chemicals that are used in producing it are actually capable of harming our health. One Green Planet talks about the term “offgassing” which is, “the evaporation of volatile chemicals in non-metallic materials at normal atmospheric pressure. This means that building materials can release chemicals into the air through evaporation.” Do you want to be inhaling those toxic gasses, or having them come into contact with your skin? Probably not.
Skin looks better on the animals it came from
Most of the population associates leather with cattle, but as we mentioned earlier, it can come from many different types of animals. The sad truth is that most people see leather and don’t associate it directly with an animal at all, when in actuality a life was taken for that leather to exist. Since most of these animals are factory farmed, they are treated very poorly with overcrowding and deprivation as well as castration, branding, tail-docking, and dehorning— all without painkillers. They endure all of this pain, only to have their life stripped away from them. Many people make the argument that they were going to die for meat production anyway, so what’s the harm in using the leather too? However, according to PETA, “Buying leather directly contributes to factory farms and slaughterhouses because skin is the most economically important co-product of the meat industry.” This goes to show that leather is a serious issue that we can’t ignore. By choosing leather, we are giving the leather industry the ability to stay in business. Taking an animal’s life for our own selfish gain is inhumane and there are better alternatives.
The change begins with us and by making conscious decisions to choose more environmentally- friendly alternatives. Some examples of better alternatives are cotton, corduroy, linen, denim, or even microfiber blends (make sure they don’t contain any animal byproducts). Not only will better clothing choices help our planet, but we are also valuing an innocent animal’s life over a lifestyle purchase. Luckily, there are some brands who have recently chosen to go fur-free like Versace and Kate Spade, and many brands that are completely animal-free.
Here are some 100% vegan brands that you should purchase from instead:
WAWWA: This brand doesn’t believe that anyone should suffer when making clothing. They are also certified by PETA as being vegan.
Vaute: Their mission is to take animals out of the fashion equation, by providing something even better – innovative, high-tech, sustainable textiles made with love.
Wully Outerwear: This ethical lifestyle brand designs and manufactures premium outerwear. They were, “born from a love of wildlife and a vision of vegan outerwear, we strive to make the highest-quality jackets available worldwide, while leaving behind positive social impact along the way.”
Saved Kisses: They made sure that no animals were harmed in the making of these clothing items. This brand prides themselves on no cheap labor, no harsh chemicals or dyes, recycled materials, it is made in the USA, and it feels good to wear.
MioMojo: This brand believes that they should not only create beautiful clothing, but also have an impact on animals lives, the local community, and the rest of the world.
Tree Tribe: They focus on using eco-friendly (and vegan!) materials to create nature inspired apparel.
Vegetaryn: Also don’t forget about us ;) We are 100% vegan & cruelty (of all kinds) free.
By choosing vegan clothing, we are helping our planet while fighting against animal cruelty. With the amount of alternatives available, there really is no need to purchase leather products. Clothing says so much about who we are as people, and by choosing leather-free alternatives it shows that we truly care about the well-being and health of our planet and its inhabitants. Let’s do our best to help keep animal abuse and environmental damage out of our wardrobes and let’s STOP CHOOSING LEATHER!
**Be sure to get tickets to the Seed X Eat Drink Vegan FASHION + ART SHOW at the Roxy Theater on Wednesday, 5/23/18! Tickets include food from Plant Food for People, cocktails by Jason Eisner with GT's Kombucha. LIMITED AVAILABILITY.