I have a dirty little secret: I still (on occasion) wear products made with leather. Though I’ve been vegetarian for 17 years – and vegan for many of those 17 years – I still own a few items that are made out of leather. There aren’t any motorcycle jackets or leather chaps hanging in my closet, but I do have a few shoes, belts, and bags made from leather. Fortunately, I am such a cheapskate I can guarantee what few leather items I own were either a gift, a hand-me-down, or purchased many many years ago. (I still wear a leather belt I purchased 10 years ago. . . but still, I am so ashamed!) And . . . after doing a bit of research for this post, I can promise you that I will not purchase another item made with leather again.
I wouldn’t dream of eating animals, much less factory-farmed animals, so why would it be acceptable to wear their flesh? After all, PETA tells us that, “In the U.S., many of the millions of cows and other animals who are killed for their skin endure the horrors of factory farming—extreme crowding and deprivation as well as castration, branding, tail-docking, and dehorning—all without any painkillers. At slaughterhouses, animals routinely have their throats cut and are skinned and dismembered while they are still conscious.”
I make sure to not support CAFOs by purchasing meat, but by purchasing leather products, I’m indirectly supporting an industry that made over 1.5 billion dollars a year by slaughtering and skinning 100 million animals. Unfortunately, it’s not just your average dairy cow that’s being killed for their leather. The Vegetarian & Vegan Foundation tells us that,“Ponies, zebras, dolphins, turtles, alligators, crocodile, toads, ostriches, kangaroos, lizards, snakes, salmon, seals, dogs, foxes, unborn calves still in their mother’s uterus. . . . Even dog leather is sold worldwide labelled as cow skin, and in Thailand more than 500 dogs are violently slaughtered every week.”
Last week we discussed how the fur industry is harmful for the environment, and the leather industry is no better. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH states that substances used in the tanning process are, “readily absorbed through the skin and are known to be toxic to the liver. . . [and] also known to cause skin problems and alcohol intolerance.” CAFOs produce more toxic run-off and nitrate pollutants than any other industry in the United States. By wearing leather I am supporting an industry that pollutes over 100,000 square miles of groundwater.
I can pledge to you right here and right now that I will no longer purchase any products made with leather. There are so many great shops and product lines made with environmentally friendly products that don’t harm our animal friends, why on earth would I consider anything else? So, my fellow pleather fans, do you have any snazzy websites or product lines I should check out for some great vegan finds? Do you have any tips on how to break it to your Mom that you don’t want her 50-year-old full length suede jacket? Are there any local DC based shops that feature vegan clothing? Post a comment over here at Redefining Eco and let us know!