Letter to the Editor, The Observer Newspaper
The Eco Guide to Radical Materials 15th Oct 2017
When your writers work hard to establish a trusted place with readers it is important that they maintain that trust through thorough research before going to print. By including so many string environmental positions in such a short item the impression is given that all are accepted facts. It is important that it is realised that while the leather industry contests every point about leather made in the article.
We totally reject any statement that suggests leather has a “thunderous footprint”. Given that it is a by-product of the meat and dairy industry we believe leather is the best use for the hides and skins and offers a highly sustainable and long lasting material. With few exceptions tanneries today are modern, compliant, clean, technical and safe places to work. The Leather Working Group, managed out of Northampton, is recognised as being at the forefront of setting audited environmental standards and most major brands and tanneries throughout the world are signed up. This audit has for some years included a traceability element part of which includes elements to ensure the link between cattle and the Amazon forest destruction is broken.
At the same time the Modern Meadow material featured in the article will go through a tannery for processing and so will benefit from the dramatic improvements the leather industry has made over the last three decades. Their “brew” as it is described is awaited with interest to sit alongside leather, and assuming, as implied in its creation it does not create much waste, or use a great deal of energy or water, it will be a useful addition. Given the legal definition of leather in much of Europe and other countries such as Brazil as a material made from the hide or skin of an animal, essentially intact, it has been called Zoa. “Biofabricated leather” or any other leather are terms that cannot be used for such materials. They will have to succeed on the basis of their own strengths and weaknesses and not by attempting to deliberately confuse consumers by passing themselves off as leather.
Professor Michael Redwood
Visiting Professor in Leather
University of Northampton
Spokesperson for Leather Naturally