5 Things the Leather Industry is Hiding From You


Secrets hiding in plain sight...

The leather industry regularly spends millions of dollars on advertising to ensure their product is considered to be a good one. Clever marketing turns toxic tanned skins from slaughtered animals into something considered to be superior to other materials. But is this true? And what doesn’t the leather industry want you to know?

cow hide close detail leather

Source: Erol Ahmed via Unsplash 


ONE: Leather is a valuable co-product

It is common place to hear people claim that leather is simply a ‘by-product’ of the meat and dairy industry. By this, people mean to say that leather is of no real value, and skins ought to be used in order to reduce waste. This claim is used to justify the purchasing of products made from dead animals. 

The meat industry itself defines animal skins for leather as ‘co-products’. Hides are defined this way because they deliver an additional stream of income to the industry. Put simply, if people stopped buying leather products, the meat and dairy industry would make less money. If we do not want to support the slaughter of animals, we need not only to stop eating animals, but stop wearing them.  

Consider that the global leather goods market is valued at $95.4 billion USD, and is set to reach $128.61 billion USD by 2022. Leather products are not sold to reduce waste, they are sold for profit.

biodegradable leather vegan sustainable fashion

Source: Armenia

TWO: Unlike true natural materials, leather does not effectively biodegrade 

While a genuinely natural material will decompose and return to the earth as a sort of food for the planet, leather will not. While animal skins are biodegradable, the purpose of the tanning process which turns skin into leather is to ensure this decomposition does not occur. Without leather tanning, shoes would rot on our feet. 

A leather shoe 1,000 years older than the Pyramids of Giza has been found, completely intact. The leather industry touts their product as natural, but the process animal skins go through to become leather means this is not true. 

cute cows meadow leather industry

Source: Max Saeling via Unsplash 

THREE: Cows have best friends, love to learn and play. 

The leather industry would love for people to forget who their product is made from. Most leather is made of the skin of cows, and many people do not realise just how special these animals are. Cows are thinking, feeling beings. They become excited when they learn new things, they have close friends, and they love to play. 

global fashion agenda sustainable materialsSource: Global Fashion Agenda 

FOUR: Leather is far worse for the environment than synthetic leather like PU

The leather industry regularly promotes itself as the more sustainable option as compared to synthetic, animal free leathers. However the Global Fashion Agenda, in their report with the Boston Consulting Group, found that cow skin leather is the single most environmentally impactful material of all to produce. It even has over double the global warming impact of PU synthetic leather. 

animal cruelty dehorning cow tools

Source: Future Beef 

FIVE: Legal cattle farming practices are extremely cruel

Even before cows needlessly have their lives taken from them in an abattoir, cattle farming is far from kind. Globally, farmed animals have little legal protection, and many extremely painful mutilative practises are considered standard and legal. For example in Australia, and many countries, dehorning is a standard industry practise. Horns are legally removed without pain relief and this painful practise is done in many ways, including with the above tools, which cut and saw through the sensitive nerves in a cow’s head. 

As more compassionate people learn about the harsh realities of the leather industry, more people will choose not to support it. There are thousands of brands exclusively producing high quality, animal friendly, more sustainable bags from from vegan leather. Buying from these brands is the kind choice.


Author credit - many thanks to vegan model and founder of Willow Creative Co, Emma Hakansson for authoring this piece.  Emma is on Instagram @hakamme