If you take a moment to take a closer look at your belongings, you will be shocked to find how many of them are made out of leather.
Purses, shoes, wallets, belts, bracelets, jackets, watch bands, book covers, luggage, pet collars, guitar straps, sofas, and car seats; just to name a few.
As Christians, we have been given permission by God to eat meat. If leather is a by-product of that meat, what’s the big deal?
The problem with owning all of these leather products is that it is estimated that well over 50% of the leather sold in the US comes from India or China.
These countries have very limited animal welfare and environmental regulations, and they are rarely enforced.
In China, many of the cats and dogs that are killed solely for their skin and fur end up as leather products in the US.
In India, the majority of cows that are used for leather are not eaten because they are too emaciated and sick when they are killed. Also many people in India do not eat cows for religious reasons, so there is also less of a market for their meat.
Leather companies in India prey on the poorest of the population; buying cows with the promise that they will be treated well and only used for milk or agricultural purposes.
The slaughter of cows is banned in most of India with the exception of two territories: West Bengal in the north-east and Kerala in the south.
The cows going to West Bengal are transported in trucks or trains. Trucks intended to hold no more than 4 cows are stuffed with more than 70 cows.
Train cars with a capacity for 100 cows are filled with over 900 cows.
Many cows die during the several thousand mile journey, crushed by the weight of other cows or from thirst or the extreme heat.
Cows that are destined for Kerala don’t have this luxury of transportation, as they are tied together and beaten as they are taken by foot.
The exhausted animals are not allowed food, water, or rest; many collapsing during the journey.
To force the cows to continue, the bones in their tails are broken and chili pepper is rubbed into their eyes. Those too injured or sick are dragged or beaten the rest of the way.
In Kerala, the chosen slaughter method is beating the head of the cow to a pulp with a hammer. In West Bengal, the cows are lined up in a room and left to watch as their companion’s throats are sawed at with dull knifes and thrown aside to slowly bleed to death.
Equally disturbing is this industry’s exploitation of poor workers and the negative impact tanneries have on the environment.
Most tanneries are located in underdeveloped countries, or in very poor areas of the US.
Tanning is the process of turning raw, degradable animal skin into long-lasting leather.
This process wastes massive amounts of water and energy, and requires the use of highly toxic chemicals like: formaldehyde, cyanide-based dyes, and coal-tar derivatives.
Tannery workers are forced to work in horrible conditions. They breathe, touch, and even stand in waist-deep in toxic chemicals. The toxic materials are then dumped into nearby rivers, polluting water sources that poor populations of people rely on.
A study by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that incidents of leukemia among residents near a tannery in rural Kentucky were five times higher than the national average. A higher rate of cancer has also been found among tannery workers.
While there are quality leather companies that source their leather from American cows, the skins most likely came from an animal in a factory farm that suffered horrible living conditions and was treated and killed inhumanely.
The most luxurious and soft leather comes from the skin of newborn calves or young calves that are served as veal.
Some leather even comes from calves that are the result of forced abortions.
In theory, it is morally justifiable to wear animal skin if it is a by-product of an animal that was killed humanely for its meat.
The problem is that there is no way to know where much of the leather sold in the US actually comes from.
If you eat humanely treated free range animals and would never eat an inhumane product like veal, it makes no sense to support the leather industry.
Even if a product says “made in the United States,” the leather was most likely sourced from another country.
If you choose to buy American leather products, pick a quality company and contact them to find out exactly where their skins come from.