Why is “real” leather not appealing to vegans?

No vegan or vegetarian needs skin these days. Well, who would like to “carry” a cow?! And the pig? It’s not even discussed. But let’s think for a moment – why, in fact, you should not use animal skin – for example, in clothes? Apart from the obvious objection that the impersonal “use” is such a convenient modern euphemism! – a thinking person can easily logically decompose into much less attractive verbs: “slaughter”, “tear off the skin”, and “pay for the murder.”

Even if we ignore the obvious fact that this skin used to cover someone’s warm, breathing and living body that fed its children (like any pig) and maybe us (a cow) with milk – there are a number of other objections.

To complete the picture, it is worth noting: – In the past, “dark” centuries, it was virtually no alternative, the only one available. And then for a long time, already without special need, it was considered simply “very cool”. But the days of James Dean, Arnold Schwarzenegger and other world-class superstars dressed from head to toe in black leather are over (in fact, the younger generation no longer even knows how “cool” it is to dress in dyed leather, and who such James Dean). Squeezing your body into tight leather pants was sharply fashionable precisely in those glorious days, when in progressive countries such as the United States it was believed that you had to create an “explosion in a pasta factory” on your head, generously sealed with varnish, and meat baked in the oven, or barbecued on backyard is the healthiest food for the whole family! Of course, time does not stand still. And now the use of the skin (and fur) of animals is, frankly, not only “not fashionable”, but also smacks of either dense barbarism, or “scoop”. But these are rather emotions – and let’s look from the point of view of logic, why.

1. Leather is a by-product of the slaughterhouse

Typically, a leather product does not indicate where the material was obtained from. However, one should not lose sight of the fact that, most likely, the skin came from a slaughterhouse, that is, it is part of the industrial cattle breeding process that is detrimental to the planet and belongs to a side branch of the meat industry. The millions of pairs of leather shoes sold every day are directly linked to the massive cattle farms that raise cows and pigs. Nowadays, it has long been a fully proven fact that such “farms” () cause great harm to the environment (poisoning of soil and water resources near such a farm) and the planet as a whole – due to the emission of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. In addition, both the workers of the factory itself and those who will wear these clothes suffer – but more on that below.

You should not think that the impact of the tannery on the environment is “pointy” and generally insignificant, on a global scale! Well, just think, they poisoned one river with pig excrement, well, just think, they destroyed a couple of fields suitable for growing grain or vegetables! No, everything is more serious. The United Nations (UN) agency responsible for nutrition and agriculture, FAO, has found through research that livestock accounts for 14.5% of greenhouse gas emissions globally. At the same time, other organizations, especially the Worldwatch Institute, claim that this figure is much higher, at around 51%.

If you think a little about such things, then it is logical to conclude that since the leather industry justifies not only cattle, but also (less obvious, but no less evil!) Livestock on an industrial scale, it adds its interest to this black “piggy bank”, which can lead to a complete environmental “default” of the entire planet in the medium term. When the scales will go down, we do not know, but a number of analysts believe that this day is not far off.

Do you want to put your money in this “piggy bank”? Shall we not be ashamed in front of the children? This is just the case when it is possible and necessary to “vote with the ruble” – after all, without consumers there is no sales market, and without sales there is no production. This whole issue of the poisoning of the planet by cattle farms can, if not be completely resolved, then certainly be transferred from the category of an environmental disaster to the category of a marginal manifestation of human stupidity, without loud words and actions … simply without buying clothes and shoes made from “natural” leather!

2. Tannery is not good for the environment

We go further along the line of leather production. As if the harm done to nature by the cattle farm was not enough – but the tannery, which receives the skins of animals, is considered an extremely harmful production. Some of the chemicals used in the leather industry are alum (particularly alum), syntans (artificial, synthetic chemicals used to treat leather), formaldehyde, cyanide, glutaraldehyde (glutaric acid dialdehyde), petroleum derivatives. If you read this list, reasonable doubts arise: is it worth wearing something soaked in ALL THIS on the body? ..

3. Dangerous for yourself and others

… The answer to this question is no, it’s not worth it. Many of the chemicals used in the leather business are carcinogenic. Yes, they can affect a person who wears this chemical-soaked and then well-dried skin on his body. But imagine how much more at risk are low-paid wage workers in the tannery! Obviously, many of them simply do not have sufficient education to assess the risk factor. They fill someone’s tight (leather!) purse, while reducing their lifespan, and laying the foundation for unhealthy offspring – isn’t it sad? If before that it was about harm to the environment and animals (i.e., indirect harm to humans), then the question is directly about people.

4. Then why? No skin needed

Finally, the last argument is perhaps the simplest and most convincing. The skin is simply not needed! We can dress – comfortable, fashionable, and so on – without any skin. We can keep ourselves warm, also in winter, without the use of leather products. In fact, in cold weather, the skin almost does not warm – unlike, say, modern technological outerwear, including products with synthetic insulation. From the point of view of consumer qualities, nowadays trying to keep warm with a piece of thick skin is not more rational than warming yourself in the garbage by the fire – when you have a comfortable apartment with central heating.  

Even if you like the look of leather products, it doesn’t matter. Made specifically for vegans, ethical products are made that look—and feel—like leather, but are made from synthetic materials. At the same time, we should not relax here either: many products that are positioned as a vegan alternative to leather actually do even more harm to the environment than leather production! In particular, it is polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and other synthetic materials that are derived from petroleum products. And recycled materials often also raise a number of questions: let’s just say that not all even 100% avid vegans would like to wear recycled car tires.

And when it comes to choosing shoes, the question is even more acute: what is better – shoes with leather uppers (unethical, “killer” products!) Or “plastic” ones – because these “ethical” sneakers will lie in a landfill without grimacing, “up to second coming”, side by side with “ethical” ski boots made of non-degradable eternal plastic!

There is a solution! It’s better to just choose more sustainable fabric alternatives, since they are available – these are plant-based materials: organic cotton, linen, hemp, soy “silk” and much more. These days, there are more and more vegan alternatives in both clothing and footwear – including trendy, comfortable and affordable ones.

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