This is a topic that I am nervous to write about. I am nervous because a) my speciality is cosmetics, b) I will have to search through horrendous photos of animal cruelty to find the right ones for this topic alone, and c) because I know that this is really happening somewhere in the world. Having asked you all on Instagram whether or not you would like for me to write an in-depth article about the leather industry, I am now committed to telling you all the truth, as you all voted for.
Please be warned that this article is extremely graphic, contains disturbing images and will leave a pit in your stomach. Unfortunately, this is an issue that is not well-known about in the Western world, so I have taken it upon myself to inform the Irish market of this horrific practice.
So, I will just get one thing straight: that leather jacket that you own may be made from cow leather. You may be aware of this, and if you are not vegan, then this may not bother you. However, there is a 50/50 chance that your leather jacket is actually made from two of our favourite domestic animals; a dog, or a cat.
In 2014, an investigator for PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of animals) went undercover into one of the hundreds of leather slaughterhouses in China that specifically slaughter dogs. I have attached real imagery from this investigation.
In each of these slaughterhouses, around 200 dogs are killed every day for the export of leather and suede. Much like the Yulin Dog Festival, which happens annually in China, these dogs are treated inhumanely until their final torturous death. The PETA investigator captured footage of how these dogs are killed; they are yanked by the neck with a rod to the ground, and are bludgeoned to the head dozens of times while they wail in pain.
Many of the dogs are not even dead when they are roughly skinned alive. They can have their legs broken, their fur skinned- all of these dogs who are not killed straight away cry and cry as they bleed to death from their slit throats, while continuously being tortured until the moment they leave this Earth.
The reason why practices like this exist in China- including the practice of animal testing- is because the Chinese government has no comprehensive animal welfare law. Unfortunately, because of this idiotic system, for as long as the dog meat industry is thriving in China, so will the dog leather industry.
China is the world’s largest leather and fur producer, exporter and consumer. In the US, the import of leather and fur from China is prohibited, and is punishable by law if disobeyed. Unfortunately, it is extremely difficult to distinguish between ‘breeds’ of leather, if you will, so many manufacturers can slyly get away with claiming that the leather is made from cow (cow leather is just as bad by the way, as they are treated horrifically in many areas in the world where animal welfare laws don’t apply). Most leather that you buy in retail stores probably comes from either China or India, where- regardless what animal it is- the animals are tortured to death through castoration, dehorning and other vile methods.
Not only this, but when it comes to dog and cat leather, these products are intentionally mislabelled. Dogs and cats are also commonly used for leather as it is a lot cheaper than using farm animals.
Despite the reputation PETA have, their investigation work into this particular field has been outstanding, and has really helped to open up the eyes of the Western world to this vicious practice. The organisation is consistently persisting the US not to import ANY leather goods from foreign countries.
Animal torture and welfare aside, leather is an absolute hazard to the environment. The dangerous chemicals that are produced through the method of transforming animal skin into leather include Formaldehyde, which is so harmful that it is banned in the EU. Other toxic ingredients produced include mineral salts and coal-tar derivatives. All of the chemicals produced from leather production increase one’s risk of leukaemia.
Personally, I no longer purchase clothing or shoes that are made from animal skin. The way that even cows and sheep are treated in areas of the world where animal welfare laws do not apply is horrendous, and it is something I could never support. There are many alternatives to leather and suede in many shops and online stores in Ireland. Most shoe stores have some sort of a selection of ‘vegan’ shoes, and almost every store I have enquired about ‘vegan’ or ‘synthetic’ clothing products/handbags has been helpful and informative. Don’t be afraid to ask the shop assistant for help- you may be surprised at the amount of vegan-friendly options available.
You can help put an end to this. Please stop buying leather, suede, and any materials made from an animal’s skin.