I have always been a huge animal lover; I am a vegetarian, I donate to several animal charities and of course I spend a lot of time spoiling my pets. But recently I was forced to reevaluate my principles. I've always been against fur - I feel that in this day and age real fur is needless and breeding animals for their fur is beyond cruel. On the other hand I've never really felt the same way about leather - I have always thought of leather as simply a by product of animals farmed for their meat. While I don't eat meat my thought process about leather was that if the animal was going to die for their meat anyway, and they were killed humanely, then using the skin is morally acceptable.
But recently while clicking around Facebook I came across something that really shocked me. It's a few years old now but the photo showed a poor cow being skinned alive in China for her leather whilst her limbs had been cut off to prevent it from moving.
I braved myself to research more and had no idea that some leather is sourced in this disgusting way. I also read that in India cows tails are often broken and tobacco is rubbed into their eyes to force them to walk to the slaughterhouse.
This really hit me hard, I don't want anything that was sourced from the torture of a poor animal. However, I've discovered that there is no law making it compulsory for brands to label which animals their products are made from. China is the leading exporter of leather in some cases it comes from the skin of cats and dogs.
Please don't get me wrong I'm not saying leather is bad, but personally I do not want to wear leather that has come from a tortured animal. As a consumer, I want to know how the leather has been made and certainly what animal. Surely this is our right?
Leather is such an integral part of our daily lives. Shoes, bags, belts, watchstraps, wallets, purses, jackets, furniture, ... even trousers for the bikers and middle aged rockers out there. The list goes on and on and it's really easy to forget that leather is actually the skin of an animal.
So with so much money being made on the sale of leather goods I'm saddened and disappointed that the government have no law in place making it compulsory for companies to label which animals their leather products are made from or how they have been sourced. As a consumer, you quite literally have no idea who's skin you are in and it's all too easy for a company to turn a blind eye to the conditions under which their leather has been sourced if it means more profits for them.
Before I discovered about this I'd had my eye on a suede bag now for a couple of weeks. However I made the decision that I wouldn't buy it until I'd discovered where the and how the brand sources their leather. I shot off an email and this is the answer I got back.
"Some of our leather goods are made in factories in China, which we visit regularly to ensure rule and regulations are being followed. We always mention on our product description if a product is made from genuine leather, so please do check the description if you want to avoid buying real leather"
A fob off if you ask me! In a world where so many regulations are place for almost everything we do, why is there such a gap when it comes to the sourcing of leather? If retailers won't tell us more about the leather we buy and the government won't help us as a consumer with an interest in animal welfare the best option is buy pleather or vegan leather.
This week I met Vanita Bagri, a vegan fashion expert and the Founder & CEO of LaBante London, I was thoroughly impressed with her brand; the quality was exquisite. Talking to her I asked why she decided to use vegan leather for her designs and she told me that quite simply she wants to contribute to animal welfare whilst running a desirable fashion brand. I was taken aback hearing this as I still think ethically minded people are rare in the fashion industry. I really do hope that her brand thrives.
So next time you are out shopping and you see a nice leather purse or belt - all I ask is that you spare a thought for the fact you don't know if the leather was taken from a tortured animal or not.