The True Cost of Leather Industry
With the growing demand for materials like cheap leather, Kanpur is now the leather export capital of India. Every day more than 50 million liters (13 million gallons) of toxic wastewater pour out of local tanneries. Heavy chemicals used to treat leather, like chromium-6, flow into local farming and even drinking water. In places like Kanpur, far from the eyes of the world, major western brands get cheap materials while avoiding all accountability for the growing cost of human health and the environment.
“The local environment and soil are contaminated. The only drinking water source – groundwater is contaminated with chromium. Even agricultural products like salads and vegetables are contaminated. The health of people is affected. People have different types of skin problems, even numbness in the limbs, stomach ailments, they also may have cancer. Every year people in every other house in this region suffer from jaundice,” says Rakesh Jaiswal, the founder of Eco Friends.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the incidence of leukemia among residents near a tannery in Kentucky was five times greater than the U.S. average.
The demand for leather comes primarily from the United States, Germany, and the UK
For the next part, reader discretion is advised. It’s what happens before the leather even gets to the tanneries. The True Cost of Leather Industry
Thousands of Indian cows are slaughtered each week for their skins. To relocate the animals to a state where they can legally be killed since cattle slaughter is forbidden in most of India, the animals must be shoed and roped together in preparation for a harrowing “death march” which could last for several days. Forced to walk through the heat and dust without food or water, coupled with the sheer stress of this terrifying experience for them, many of the animals collapse and are unable to continue. But when the cattle become weary and grow faint, the bones in their tales are broken in an effort to get them back on their feet.
Handlers must constantly keep the cattle moving, pulling them by nose ropes, twisting their necks, horns or tails. They cause injuries like broken pelvises, legs, ribs, and horns.
They also use chili pepper and tobacco to keep the animals walking. The handlers rub the pepper directly into the animals’ eyes, in order to simulate them back onto its feet. And all of this before the slaughter.
As many as half of these animals will already be dead by the time they arrive in the slaughterhouse. But to make this experience even more traumatic and terrifying, they are often killed in full view of each other. And instead of the required “quick slice” across the throat with a sharp knife, they are generally killed with hacking and sawing with a dull blade.
Afterward, the skins from these animals are sent to tanneries that use deadly substances like chromium and other toxins to stop decomposition. And for people, the health effects of such chemicals in tanneries, in lieu of the continued demand for leather goods is yet another issue.
Most major chains sell Indian leather. Leather that comes from completely different cows than we eat.
Some vegan brands that we recommend: