Op-Ed: Style at the cost of lives

The dangers and inhumanity of the leather industry

| September 25, 2016
Co-founders Sarah and Mikey Brannon have started a line of vegan fashion which includes high-end faux leather jackets like the ones they are wearing on Jan. 15, 2015 in Los Angeles. (Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

Co-founders Sarah and Mikey Brannon have started a line of vegan fashion which includes high-end faux leather jackets like the ones they are wearing on Jan. 15, 2015 in Los Angeles. Gina Ferazzi/Los Angeles Times/TNS

Life has a weird sense of irony about it; it has a way of driving in its point at unexpected times. A few days back my friend and I were discussing a trip he had once made to a particular race track for people to test-drive on. Apparently the only reason why he was denied permit was that he only had a protection jacket on with the knee and elbow caps instead of the required complete leather bodysuit, not unlike the fancy ones we see in movies like “Rush.” My friend grumbled on about how his friends had a good time but what really struck me was that in our so-called modern society leather is still seen as a style statement, and in this case, as a “requirement.”

It’s not exactly a secret that our ancestors used animals for survival. By used, I mean in totality: the meat for consumption, skin for clothing, horns for weapons, and all the works. You get the picture. Come 2016, despite the growth of resources and science why is it that when somebody wears a chic leather jacket, along with it they don a smug smile? Of pride, I suppose, or perhaps satisfaction? Or maybe it’s because they’re gonna look sexy in their next outing!

Bullshit, and that’s the kindest word I’ve got in my repertoire. What that person is wearing is the hide of another living being that shares the same planet as us, which is perhaps the sole sin they may have committed. Technically speaking, we came after them, so we are the ones who encroached. The rosy picture painted in front of the eyes of us “animal-lovers” is that when animals are killed for meat (a topic on which I have more than a few words to share) the left over skin is used for leather. While not totally convincing, this sort of shuts those hypocrite mouths that don’t have the time or energy to expend some effort into finding the truth.

It was my aunt who brought me, somewhat forcibly, down the line of artificial leather. It gave me an easy excuse to shift to a “non-animal” product due to the significantly lower pricing, and due to the added fact of me being a vegetarian, I proudly plastered upon myself the tagline of “animal-friendly.” It was then that I put my lazy self to work into finding out the truth which I eventually found shares has in common only one feature with that of a rose: color.

Red, the color of love (and of the wine I love) is also the color of that blood which stains the walls of the slaughterhouses that house the raw material of perhaps one of the most commercially booming and profitable industries. Unlike what was held as popular belief, animals are specially raised for the sake of being skinned alive. I repeat in simple words, leather is not a by-product, instead in itself is a highly commercialized commodity. Instead of looking for fancy adjectives like macabre or grotesque, use the internet to research out how leather is made, and find words for yourself to describe and reason this senseless and heartless slaughter of these creatures just to don some fancy garment.

A billion and counting: that is the number of animals raised and slaughtered for our fancy leather suits and fur coats. I find it even more disgusting when a salesman pronounces with great pride “pure leather,” which has been made even more repugnant due to the tagging of the type of leather which comprises of almost all animals that were housed in “The Ark.” Cows, buffaloes, bison, elephants, dolphins, seals and many more animals which are meant to grace the oceans and open lands now “decorate” our households or bodies. The even more “exotic” collection includes kangaroos, crocodiles, alligators; the motto has become “you name it you have it.” If you were thinking on my lines then yes, even cats and dogs aren’t spared. To add icing to an already “decorated” blood-bath, the skin also comes from alligators and calves that are barely a year or two old, and in some cases even from animal fetuses.

Enough of my passion. Let me bring down some hard “scientific facts” that may stir you into interest, if the above mentioned alone doesn’t make your skin crawl. Everybody loves alcohol, so even more invited is a cocktail, yeah? Let’s look at the “cocktail” leather gets to gulp during its manufacture in brief. I don’t consider myself Walter White, but what I do know is that tanning (one of the three steps of making hide into leather) constitutes of pretty “friendly” chemicals such as ammonia, cyanide-based dyes and arsenic, which only constitute of few of the toxins released in the land they are made in and water nearby. Blindness and skin diseases only form the trailer of the nightmare that ensues. These cancerous toxins have spelled out these consequences:

– 20-50 percent risk factor of cancer for tanning workers in Sweden.

– 15,000 gallons of water wasted per ton of hide.

– 2,200 pounds of solid waste per ton of hide.

– 50 years of life expectancy for tanning workers.

For those who want to shift to some other form of fashion that looks equally appealing as leather and fur may look at synthetic leather, also called faux/artificial leather or else vegan leather which makes use of polymers, though it is to be noted that not all polymers are made of equally good material. Many of them contain oils and pure plastic that once again is not going to help the “environmental cause.” Science has also cast the die, retrieving cells from living animals in order to engineer the tissue into leather. So if you can’t help the environment at least don’t damage it any further, spare animals. Come on and show some compassion.

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Category:Opinion, Society and Identity

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