Every year, the global leather industry slaughters more than a billion animals, cows, sheep, pigs, reptiles and exotic animals. Around 80 per cent of skins are produced in developing countries.
Most of our leather comes from India and China, as well as other countries that either have no animal welfare laws or have laws that go largely or completely unenforced. In fact most of our clothes today are made far away, where material is easy to obtain and the labour is cheap.
human rights & health
Most tanneries are now located overseas due to their dangerous chemicals and toxic water run off.
Toxic chemicals and gases in tanning factories cause serious respiratory diseases and cancers. 90 per cent of workers at a tanning factory in Bangladesh will die before they're 50, and many of them are children.
Toxic groundwater near tanneries also causes dangerous health impacts for locals, who could experience 50 per cent increased probability of cancer.
The leather industry creates a vastly inefficient use of water from feeding and watering the cows to treating and tanning the leather.
Tanning of skin into leather requires an almost continuous flow of water. On average, one cow hide will provide 18 pairs of leather shoes and each pair of shoes is accountable for the use of over 1.4 million litres of water.
Discharging toxic waste water filled with chemicals, heavy metals and solid waste like hairs and flesh from the cow are huge pollutants to our limited water sources.
Tanning is a process for animal skins that prevents them from rotting. The process is one of the top ten most toxic industries in the world because of the dangerous chemicals involved.
Because leather production has been found to be so unsafe, most processing is now done overseas in countries like India, China, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Vietnam, Mexico and Brazil, where regulations are weak.
Waste water and solid wastes (such as hair and flesh) from tanneries are often dumped into rivers or fields, leading to seriously toxic and enduring water and soil pollution.
A billion animals are slaughtered annually for the leather industry. One billion. And in some countries like China, where animal rights lag behind, the difference between cow leather, and other animals like dogs, for example, is very difficult to discern.
So a proportion of our leather contains stray animals considered street pests like dogs.
Avoid buying leather. There is really no ethical, sustainable or safe methods and brands.
Though there are lots of vegan brands offering alternatives.
WHAT CAN WE DO?
Avoiding leather is really the only way to avoid extreme animal cruelty, the dangers of environmental pollution, and the human rights abuses for workers.
Cheap leather is everywhere. And it's ridiculously cheap. Buy sustainable, ethical fabrics instead, supporting vegetarian and vegan brands and encourage friends and family to join you.
For me, buying all my clothes from charity shops means avoiding the responsibility of buying items from negative corporations, though I don't think I'd wear leather anymore based on the horrors of the industry.
Maybe shop in charity shops, kill the demand.