The recent article in the Huffpost on the 17th August entitled “Why Vegan Leather Is On The Rise” might be well intentioned but the inaccuracies within it highlight some extremely poor journalism, not least because the phrase 'vegan leather is a deliberately misleading term.
In those countries where it is not specifically declared illegal – such as Germany, France and Brazil – it contravenes any reasonable trades description laws since it is intended to deceive the consumer. The fact that on both sides of the Atlantic in the last few years those selling what has been termed “bonded leather” have been forced by courts and advertising authorities to withdraw or amend their promotions gives evidence of this.
At the same time there appears to be a concerted attempt to equate a vegan view with animal rights and through this with sustainability, and it this which we think requires challenging. There can be no objection to those who wish to eat a vegan diet, or to those who wish to buy non-leather footwear. Today both are well catered for since currently less than half of the shoes made in the world are leather.
The article correctly identifies that it is disingenuous to pretend that plastic substitutes are sustainable given that the have their origins in fossil fuels, often have manufacturing issues and are not very durable.
It is quite untrue that most footwear leather is cheap and purely made. Leather is a truly sustainable material and since hides and skins are a by-product of the meat and dairy industry
In transforming them into leather we are creating a product that is both natural and long-lasting. Given its by product status comments regarding its “intensive” use in footwear are nonsensical.
All but a tiny minority of tanners globally are highly responsible producers and the talk of hazardous and toxic chemicals in entirely inappropriate. Leather is unique in its ability to combine beauty, comfort and practicality but it is an engineered product and like all the competitive materials mentioned in the articles creates problems if improperly produced,
For as long as we eat meat and drink milk society must take more interest in animal welfare rather than animal rights. Tanners are keenly interested in supporting good welfare and believe that they play a small part in that all round the world including with the billion subsistence farmers who rely on livestock for their livelihood. At the same time leather and leather using industries, being labour intensive, have played a significant role in pulling millions out of poverty around the world and currently there are high hopes for this to continue in Africa where countries like Ethiopia have developing their raw material as a basic pillar in their medium-term development.
Consequently, for those wanting “an approach to fashion which takes care of the environment and the people who make the things we wear” we believe there is no better material to use than leather. They may cost a little more than cheap plastic footwear but they will last longer and usually can be repaired.
20th August 2017