Dr. Hannibal Lecter: First and worst sign of sociopathic behavior: cruelty to animals.
Jack Crawford: Well, that doesn't apply in the kitchen.
Dr. Hannibal Lecter: I have no taste for animal cruelty, which is why I employ an ethical butcher.
Bella Crawford: An ethical butcher? Be kind to animals and then eat them?
Dr. Hannibal Lecter: I'm afraid I insist on it. No need for unnecessary suffering. Human emotions are a gift from our animal ancestors. Cruelty is a gift humanity has given itself.
For someone so savage, Hannibal Lecter got one thing right: animal cruelty is not cool! Being socially conscious seems to have flourished over the last decade. You can step into just about any grocery store and find ethically raised eggs and meat, or cruelty free shampoo and soap. Young people are taking more of a stand in issues they care about and we are collectively doing more to help make this world a better place. Today, let's ditch the dead skin (we aren't Leatherface) and take a stand to go leather-free. And here's why.
From shoes, purses, cars and furniture, leather is a billion dollar industry that spans across the globe. Nearly half the leather in the US is imported from India and China, where the animal welfare laws are essentially non-existent. It is truly shocking how living creatures are treated for the gain of human consumption and this does not exclude the animals in the US. Although we have stricter laws, animals are still mistreated immensely every day. There are some that argue leather is simply a by-product of the meat industry but it is estimated that leather makes up half of all profits of slaughterhouses that process cattle. Leather is also made from more exotic animals like kangaroos, zebras, seals, snakes, lizards, and even sharks, dolphins, and stingrays, many of whom are either raised or hunted specifically for their skins.
There is concern over where our meat comes from, especially amongst vegetarians and vegans. However, where our products come from is often left behind. It can seem overwhelming because we are inundated with choices every day. Luckily, education is easily accessible and there are many cruelty-free and leather-free alternatives available. Just do a Google search and hundreds of purchasing options will pop up. Stella McCartney is one such designer. As Stella explained, “using leather to make a handbag is cruel. But it’s also not modern; you’re not pushing innovation.” Feel like you just love leather too much and can't make the commitment to not buy? Start small and buy second-hand. Commit to cutting out just leather shoes. Commit to something so you can make a difference. The automobile industry is one of the largest that produces leather so even something as simple as choosing fabric seats can make the difference.
Still not convinced? Let's talk about the tanning process. Tanning is what happens to the dead skin to ensure it does not rot away. The chemicals used to prevent rot are dangerous and toxic. Most leather is chrome-tanned, even though the Environmental Protection Agency considers chromium waste hazardous. Studies have established links between chromium and sinus and/or lung cancers. Other toxins used are formaldehyde, coal-tar derivatives, and oils, dyes, and finishes, some of which are cyanide-based. Not surprisingly, highly elevated levels of lead, cyanide, and formaldehyde are found in groundwater near leather tanneries. For example, in Kentucky, leukemia among residents in an area surrounding one tannery is five times the national average! Studies of leather-tannery employees in Sweden and Italy found the cancer risk was between 20% and 50% higher than what was expected. Furthermore, the amount of solid waste produced from tanning, is immense. It pollutes our air. For every ton of hide processed by an average facility, 15,000 gallons of water are used and 2,200 pounds of solid waste is made. Put simply, leather is bad for our environment.
When it comes down to it, the only benefit of leather is aesthetics. It might look pretty, but it doesn't mean we need to allow the suffering of animals because of it. We can help end the suffering and protect the planet by being informed consumers and making smart choices about what we buy. We are making a statement about who we are in this world and standing up to the harms of our environment, our people, and especially our animals. Don't hide!