The leather industry has no problem with a designer such as Stella McCartney using her status to promote sincerely held beliefs. Yet people who have access to the media and can expect to shape the opinions of others must use that power responsibly.
The latest video put out by Stella McCartney and PETA fails in that respect. It states that it is intended to provide the consumer with information to take an informed decision yet is made up very largely of half-truths and errors.
The leather industry has no argument with those who wish to be vegetarian. Many enjoy working with and using leather. Neither does the leather industry support poor practise in either the manufacturing process that make leather and leather goods or in animal husbandry.
Not one of the animals killed to make the 22 billion square feet of the leather that constitutes the core of the tanning industry production comes from an animal bred or killed for its skin. For as long as society chooses to eat meat, use wool and consume dairy products the tanning industry will have hides and skins, although there are some other uses such as gelatine for them. If society slows that demand the leather industry will accept a reduction in its raw material. No one can legitimately say that millions of animals die for the sake of fashion each year. It is just not true. The fact that hides and skins have a commercial value is if anything an additional incentive to promote good practices in animal husbandry.
Well made leather does not damage the environment, but sustains it. The video makes statements about the use of arsenic and rates of cancer. We can find no tanner using arsenic in any part of the world. It was used in historic times but not in living memory. Certainly any processing using man made or natural materials can do harm if badly carried out but modern leather making is not harmful or toxic when carried out properly in modern plants as is normally the case. Technical complaints made against leather manufacture in recent years have an almost 100% record of being proven untrue and the many high quality tanners around the world are proud to stand by leather as an elegant, high performance and sustainable natural material.
Leather is a beautiful, natural and sustainable material
Responsible leather makers do not in any way wish to evade responsibility for their product. They stand by it as an excellent material for designers to use and consumers to buy. They believe that given the facts all those involved in making, using and consuming leather will continue to do so with pride and satisfaction. The vast majority of the leather industry behaves ethically and responsibly. We have a duty to respond when items like this are promoted using highly unbalanced and selective material and including serious factual errors in order to suggest conclusions, which do harm to the planet and society rather than benefit it.
LeatherNaturally! represents tanners and associated companies promoting leather as a high quality sustainable material. www.leathernaturally.org
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