Have you ever wondered where that leather belt or bag came from? Eight-year-old Rebecca did, and when her mother couldn't tell her for sure, she made a point of finding out. That's the premise of "Labels", a new PETA video created by Catsnake Studios.
Without showing blood, guts or any imagery of animal suffering, the video leaves the viewer with a sobering message: that leather items can come from any animal, including cats and dogs. It's a hard pill to swallow - but a necessary one.
The video comes on the heels of a recent PETA Asia investigation which exposed a thriving dog-leather industry in China, in which workers clubbed dogs, slit their throats and tore off their skin to make women's dress gloves and other products that are falsely labelled as leather from sheep and exported around the world.
More than 1 billion animals are killed for the leather trade every single year. Horses, cows, calves, goats, lambs, pigs - and, yes, even dogs and cats - are shipped off to abattoirs around the world, but only after enduring the same misery as do animals on factory farms: confinement to filthy pens and crates, chronic infections and diseases triggered by severe crowding, and castration and other invasive procedures without anaesthetics.
Cows are supposedly revered and protected in India - which, along with China, produces most of the world's leather - but the animal-skins industry thrives there nonetheless. Traffickers circumvent the law by forcing cows (sometimes by the thousands) to walk to distant abattoirs. The death march is arduous, and the cows are not allowed to rest. When they collapse from exhaustion, they're beaten, their tails are broken, and chilli pepper and tobacco are rubbed into their eyes to get them back on their feet and to keep them moving. To maintain their weight so they can fetch a higher price, they're given water laced with copper sulphate, which destroys their kidneys and makes them unable to urinate.
What can you do? Easy: just choose cruelty-free fashions, which are available for every budget - from bargain-priced leather-free shoes at Topshop to high-end vegan purses made by Stella McCartney. It's the only way to make sure that your wardrobe has not contributed to appalling animal suffering.