23/12/2014 13:16 GMT | Updated 22/02/2015 05:59 GMT

Are You Wearing Dog Skin?

Take a peek inside your wardrobe. Do you have any leather gloves or belts? Leather handbags or wallets? Unless you are a long-time vegan, you probably have something made of leather. If so, then now may be the time to bury that dead skin. As a new investigation has revealed, those leather accessories might have been made from man's best friend.

A PETA Asia investigator obtained never-before-seen video footage of the dog-leather trade in eastern China, which exports dog skin for accessories all over the world. And with so many mass-market retailers importing cheap Chinese leather, there's no easy way to tell whose skin you're really in.

The footage is shocking and hard to watch. We see a filthy abattoir floor covered with blood and guts. Dog carcasses hang on hooks. One terrified dog after another is grabbed roughly around the neck with metal pinchers and then clubbed over the head with a wooden pole. Some fall unconscious. Others cry out and writhe in agony with severe head trauma. Some struggle to breathe after their throats have been cut. Finally, their skins are torn off.

Some of the dogs are still alive as workers peel the skin from their bodies.

Dogs who are next in line for slaughter can smell, hear and see what is happening to those in front of them. They wail and bark as a worker hits them and steers them onto the killing floor. Many dogs, who are tame and clearly seem to have once been someone's companion, are so terrified that they clamber on top of each other in the holding area, desperately trying to escape.

A worker at one abattoir told PETA Asia's investigator that this facility alone kills 100 to 200 dogs every single day. The investigator documented the dogs' skin being turned into ladies' fashion gloves, men's work gloves, and other products that are exported around the world.

If you're like most people, you're probably horrified by the thought of unknowingly wearing dog skin. But no animal wants to die. All are equally filled with fear on the killing floor, and all struggle fiercely to avoid the knife.

Much of the world's leather comes from India, where a cruel and corrupt skins trade flourishes.

Since it's illegal to kill cows in most Indian states - they are, after all, supposed to be that country's holiest animal - cows may be marched through extreme heat many kilometres over state borders to slaughter. Handlers rub chilli peppers into the exhausted cows' eyes and break their tails in order to force them to keep walking.

Or they are moved across state borders by being crowded onto trucks in such illegally high numbers that some are gored by others' horns and some incur broken bones. The weak, the young and the aged fall and suffocate as the trucks careen down bumpy unpaved roads.

At the abattoir, cows who have collapsed are left to swelter in the sun. The survivors have their feet tied together and are thrown down in the filth and blood. Like the dogs in PETA Asia's video, they can see and smell what is coming. Their eyes bulge with fear.

Other animals killed for their skins endure painful mutilations and physical abuse on factory farms.

This cruelty will stop only when people refuse to buy any animal leather. Fortunately, that's never been easier to do. A growing number of designers and retailers - including Stella McCartney, CoraLlei, Felder Felder, Beyond Skin, Vika Gazinskaya, ASOS, H&M and Marks & Spencer - offer shoes, bags, jackets and much more made from pleather, micro-suede, rubber, recycled plastics and other high-quality vegan materials that don't harm animals or the planet. Not only are modern alternatives to animal skin, such as Ultraleather and Dinamica, animal- and eco-friendly, they out-perform leather. They are also breathable, waterproof, resistant to cracking and abrasion and indistinguishable from animal-derived leather.

Animals are not fashion accessories. They have emotions and needs just as humans do, and whether they are canines or cows, sheep or sows, it's high time we began to see them for who they are, not for the type of accessory we can turn their bodies into.