Leather is everywhere, be it in the form of shoes, bags, accessories, clothing or furniture. It is a material that is considered durable and robust. In addition, it is breathable and comfortable to wear. Nevertheless, leather is the skin of dead animals.
„When the cows are slaughtered, the skin remains and is then processed into leather, so that it is actually quite efficient,“ is still the prevailing opinion and the leather industry does not contradict, because it sounds very reasonable. If the animals are already slaughtered, then there is nothing to be said against the fact that their skin is used. Would it be if it were true.
In fact, one billion (1,000,000,000) animals are slaughtered for leather production worldwide. The main producers are China and India, whereby the cows are often cut off their feet while the body is alive and the fur is removed. When they are transported to die, chili are smeared in their eyes if they can no longer go on. The skin is thrown away when meat cows are slaughtered. Leather is a pure animal product. But not only cows are slaughtered for the leather industry, more and more dogs and cats are also used. If you wear leather or use it to furnish your home, you should know what its comfort means for the animals. But not only animals suffer, people do too.
The leather industry employs 2.5 million people in India. So, they should be happy that we buy so much leather, because otherwise they would have nothing to eat. This is how we ensure their survival. It is important that this work is there. The fact that working conditions are inhumane does not seem to matter. Despite legal regulations, there are hardly any employment contracts, no regulated working hours or adequate wages. One can only dream of health insurance anyway. It is the hardest physical work and people come into contact with the most toxic chemicals, especially in the tanning process, which of course also remain in the product itself. Chromium tanning is the most common, which makes it possible to produce finished leather within a few hours, whereas tanning with plant extracts takes several days. Chromium (VI) compounds, such as those used in leather production, are extremely toxic because they are mutagenic, which means that they change the body’s genetic makeup and damage DNA. They enter the body via the respiratory tract and attack the lung tissue, so that people who are chronically exposed to it have an increased risk of developing lung cancer. But it doesn’t really matter, because health matters as long as you have a job.
Another aspect is that of the environment. Not only do people suffer in the work process themselves, but also those who are confronted with them through environmental toxins. Large quantities of waste water and waste are generated during the tanning process. 500 kg of chemical substances are used to process 1,000 kg of raw hides. Then 600 kg of solid waste must be disposed of and 15 to 50 m3 of waste water. Due to the high-water demand, groundwater reserves are used to a threatening extent and wastewater is often not or only insufficiently treated. This leads to contamination of the rivers and thus the groundwater. If the solid waste is also disposed of improperly, the toxic chromium VI was released into the soil. The consequences are inhibited plant growth, so that people in the area are deprived of their livelihood and pose great risks to human health. 400 km2 of irrigated land fall victim to the tanneries every year. There are no flowers or cereals left. They are stunted. Farm animals that drink the tried water suffer from premature birth and a higher mortality rate. The leather industry is destroying the livelihoods of many millions of people and ruining their health.
And what do you wear when you do without leather? Only plastic that is also harmful to the environment? In the meantime, there are many interesting alternatives that can certainly compete with the quality product leather and are made from cork, pineapple, mushrooms or paper. So the alternative is not a leather or plastic product, but a product or products made from environmentally friendly, animal-friendly and humane materials.