It is extremely exciting and heartening for animal lovers to witness the rise of veganism around the world. Veganism is said to be the fastest growing food movement worldwide, as people turn to a plant-based diet for health, environmental and animal welfare reasons. Despite this, many people still don’t consider wearing animal products a problem. Even many vegetarians who won’t eat animals don’t seem to have an issue with wearing them. This is at least in part due to the many myths associated with the animal leather industry.
Probably the biggest myth of all is that animal leather is a by-product of the meat industry. According to this myth the animals would be killed for their meat anyway, so it is a good thing to make use of their skins by turning them into leather products, such as bags and shoes. This, however, is simply not true. Animal leather in itself is extremely valuable and should be considered more of a co-product of the meat industry, increasing the demand for more animals to be raised and killed. In some cases the leather is more valuable than the meat and countless numbers of animals, including crocodiles, alligators and snakes, as well as an estimated 2 million dogs and cats in China each year, are killed solely for their skins.
Another myth is that animal leather is a more environmentally friendly option than vegan leather or leather alternatives. The truth is the environmental impacts of animal leather can be devastating. In order for animal skins to be treated, so they don’t decompose and can be turned into leather, they need to be chemically treated, a process called tanning. There are 3 methods used to tan animal skins and each have negative impacts on the environment. The majority of the world’s leather is produced in countries that lack adequate environmental protection standards and the waste products from tanneries are often dumped untreated into waterways with disastrous consequences. According to Scientific American, the tanning of leather is one of the top 10 contributors to pollution worldwide.
There is also the myth that animal leather is associated with quality and vegan leather products are inferior. This is also false. There are an ever-increasing number of companies now producing vegan/faux/non-leather bags, shoes, wallets and other products that are of an extremely high quality that you can expect to be comparable to animal leather in terms of comfort and durability. The alternative leather industry, said to worth US $85 billion globally, is evolving quickly and new materials are being developed that are both high quality and animal-friendly.
On the topic of alternative leathers, it is necessary to address concerns about their environmental impacts. In the past most vegan leather was made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a synthetic plastic polymer that results in the production of dioxins, which have negative effects on both our health and the environment. These days polyurethane microfibers, which despite still being a type of plastic made from fossil fuels are said to be a greener alternative and are much more commonly used. Research and development into more natural alternatives to animal leather, such as materials made from mushrooms and pineapples, as well as the recycling of polyurethane, is producing cleaner, greener leather alternatives.
So, what can be done to help dispel the myths associated with the animal leather industry and raise awareness of the cruelty involved? Of course education is important, as many people are simply unaware of the issues. Increasing the availability of leather alternatives is also key to making ethical, animal-friendly choices easier for consumers.
The idea for, an online store selling vegan bags, shoes and accessories, came from a desire to raise awareness about the mistreatment of animals by the animal leather industry and to prove that you don’t need to sacrifice style or quality just because you choose not to wear animal leather. Compared to a decade ago, there are now so many fantastic leather alternatives available that are vegan and cruelty-free and our goal is to showcase the very best of these, sourced from across the globe, and make them to accessible to people who don’t wear animal leather here in Australia and around the world. We also personally road-test all of our products for quality.
At Humankind we want to support those working tirelessly to prevent animal cruelty and promote animal rights and we donate 10% of our profits to animal charities. There are many amazing organisations doing this work and we are very proud to currently support the incredible work of Animal Liberation, who have been at the forefront of the animal welfare movement here in Australia for decades.
As the vegan movement continues to gain ground and the myths surrounding the leather industry continue to be exposed, hopefully more and more people will realise that we shouldn’t be exploiting or harming animals for any purpose. Just as you can have a healthy diet without eating animals, you can now have beautiful, high-quality products without wearing animal skins.