Leather is made from animal skins. It’s widely used for shoes, wallets, purses, jackets, car seats, furniture upholstery, and belts. Most leather comes from pigs or from cattle. The stuff may also come from sheep, ostriches, snakes, and alligators.
Environmental Problems Associated with Tanneries
Whatever the ethical problems related to animal slaughter, people commonly regard leather as a quintessentially natural product. The reality, however, is that animal skin decomposes as readily as flesh, so tanneries must treat it with a variety of nasty substances. The Ecologist asserts that, “Tanning is one of the most toxic industries in the world because of the chemicals involved.”
Tanning chemicals typically include heavy metals and other dangerous substances. They probably pose greater hazards than any of substances used to make vegan leather alternatives.
Leather is not an innocuous karma-free byproduct of the meat industry. A typical steer’s hide provides a significant portion of the carcass’s value. In a low-margin business like cattle ranching, the value of leather therefore inevitably increases the number of cattle each rancher will raise. In other words, the sale of products made from leather puts money into the meat industry’s pockets as surely as does buying meat. Demand for these goods has a clear effect of increasing the total number of animals raised and slaughtered.