AR-FAQ - #60

#60 What is wrong with leather and how can we do without it?

Most leather goods are made from the byproducts of the slaughterhouse, and some is purpose-made, i.e., the animal is grown and slaughtered purely for its skin. So, by buying leather products, you will be contributing to the profits of these establishments and augmenting the economic demand for slaughter. The Nov/Dec 1991 issue of the Vegetarian Journal has this to say about leather: "Environmentally turning animal hides into leather is an energy intensive and polluting practice. Production of leather basically involves soaking (beamhouse), tanning, dyeing, drying, and finishing. Over 95 percent of all leather produced in the U.S. is chrome-tanned. The effluent that must be treated is primarily related to the beamhouse and tanning operations. The most difficult to treat is effluent from the tanning process. All wastes containing chromium are considered hazardous by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Many other pollutants involved in the processing of leather are associated with environmental and health risks. In terms of disposal, one would think that leather products would be biodegradable, but the primary function for a tanning agent is to stabilize the collagen or protein fibers so that they are no longer biodegradable." MT

For alternatives to leather, consult the excellent Leather Alternatives FAQ maintained by Tom Swiss ( DG