Is it Ethical to Wear Leather?

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vegetable tanned leatherAlthough many people prefer wearing leather jackets, shoes, handbags and other clothes and accessories, there is an open ethical issue about these products. Is it ever OK to wear leather? Is leather always a byproduct of the meat industry? Yes, it is OK to wear a leather, especially if you eat meat, but keep in mind that not all types of leather are ethical. Statistic say that cows are usually killed for meat, more than a billion of them and their skin sale provides around twenty per cents of total revenues. But, when it comes to the reptile skin, it provides almost hundred per cents of the carcass’ value. 

Does it mean that you should stop buying reprile leather products? Well, you should consider that, but don’t be so relieved about the cow’s skin. In fact, you should inform about the leather’s provenance. The welfare standards in slaughterhouses and farms in China and India, the major cow leather exporters, are questionable. If you expect these standards to be like those in Europe, you are wrong. Therefore, whenever it is possible, buy leather from EU, UK, Canada, U.S. and other countries with the highest welfare standards. And yes, they can be more expensive than Chinese or Indian leather products.

Being an natural material, created by the living animal during its long and happy lifetime, is there any environmental impact when it comes to leather products? Yes, there is and the real damage is likely to occur during the tanning of the leather. This process can involve toxic chemicals, such as formaldehyde, mineral salts, coal-tar and its derivatives. Chrome tanning can be cancer-creating, because of the chromium (VI) being release into water supplies. Even though chrome tanning has been banned in EU, in some other countries, such as Pakistan, it’s still one of the most common tanning forms. How to overcome this? There are vegetable tanned leather products available on the market and even though they are more expensive than conventional ones, you should choose them if you want to be environmental-friendly.

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