From belts and boots to car seats and key rings, whether it be for ‘fashion’ or accessories, leather is everywhere. But what – or more accurately, who – is leather made from, and how?
What is ‘leather’?
While most people associate leather with cows, the reality is that many different animals are killed to make leather. Leather is made from the skin of animals – once an animal’s skin is removed, it is preserved through a process called ‘tanning’, which uses strong chemicals to prevent the skin from decomposing. Animals pay the ultimate price for leather — but the tanning process can be toxic to both people and the environment.
The animal victims
A wide variety of animal species are used to make leather — most notably cattle, but also pigs, goats, sheep, crocodiles, snakes, sting rays, seals, emus, deer, fish, kangaroos, horses, cats and dogs. Even baby animals don’t escape the leather industry — with the skins of calves, kids and lambs considered particularly ‘valuable’ because of their softness.
Hundreds of thousands of days-old ‘bobby’ calves born into the dairy industry are slaughtered every single year in Australia, with their skins then used to make boots, bags and other products for the fashion industry. Even unborn calves (called ‘slinks’), whose pregnant mothers are killed in slaughterhouses, may be skinned too. The skin from these premature animals is unfortunately particularly sought-after for its ‘delicateness’ – but if more consumers knew, they would likely choose kinder alternatives.