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Posted on February 05 2020

You’re walking down the street, a couture leather bag dangling from your perfect manicure. You bump into another through the crowded streets that lead to your office, grazing the corner of your purse on their elbow. No-one says anything. You walk along the concrete strutting in leather boots you’ve been saving for. Your favourite work colleague notices and congratulates you on finally having made the purchase. You go home, feet sore and bag full of files you have to read over night. You slip off your shoes and place them back into your wardrobe; a cupboard filled with animal skins that glimmer in the evening light. A cupboard full of victims. You’ve got skeletons in your closet. You’re getting away with murder.


Animal-based leather is a colossal human failure perpetuated both by the fashion industry and its consumers. The luxury of a garment is determined by the quality of the skin it is wrapped in, the crueler the torture or more unusual the animal, the more expensive. Shoppers drop their faces in disgust when the shoes are synthetic and reject wallets that are not hand-crafted Italian leather. A disconnect has occurred in the language where leather does not represent torture, death and cruelty but rather luxury, quality and beauty. Leather has remained safely unquestioned amongst most big fashion brands. While fur has been banned by trend-setting global labels such as Gucci, Chanel and Versace, leather remains socially acceptable if not celebrated by our mis-informed community.


Leather is not solely a by-product of the meat industry. There is enough demand to ensure that the leather industry stands alone and unfortunately stands very comfortably. This industry takes the lives of over a billion animals each year and has a market value of approximately 77 billion USD annually. Most of the world’s leather comes from countries like China, India and Bangladesh where animal welfare laws either do not exist or are particularly lapse. Depending on the animal, they are either held captive in tiny cages, walked for days on end without food or water to get to the slaughterhouse, or transported so poorly most end up preemptively dead.


Leather, much like our own human skin, naturally decomposes over a period of time, so to prevent the disintegration of your purchase, animal skin is processed through a tannery to stabilize the cells and stop them from breaking down. Chemicals including chromium, acids, formaldehyde and ammonium salts are all used in this tanning process and are handled and inhaled on a daily basis by workers with little to no protection. The insurmountable amount of toxic waste infects rivers and other water sources, often dumped into local waterways after use. This is the water communities of people use to bathe, wash, water their crops and drink. Locals cannot escape these toxins and as a consequence, the heavily polluted water can cause respiratory problems, nerve damage, infertility and birth defects along with severe damage to the fish and underwater plant life, and therefore the eco system itself.


Purchasing leather makes you not only responsible for the death of the animal in your hand, but the many injustices that occur as a consequence of this industry. These atrocities continue in the name of the consumer. Are you responsible for murder?


Maybe this is all new to you, and for that reason you would like to plea for a lesser crime; manslaughter. Our capitalist society, built upon patriarchal values, thrives off the distinction between people and earth; production versus nature, or economy versus environment. Patriarchal values are inherently hierarchical and the same discrimination that exists against women within this framework also punishes other species. Pitching leather as a material for the taking continues this notion that nature exists for us, not in spite of us. That we, as a dominant species must mark our status through the demotion of other animals rather than the protection of them. To continue to educate yourself on the truths of the beauty, fashion and manufacturing industries is to crush the patriarchy a little more everyday. Knowledge is power, power is change.


At Neena, our products are animal-crime free. Wearing a man-made leather bag, all you’re getting away with is a guilt-free conscience.


SUBSTITUTE OF THE WEEK: Often, anti-leather arguments include that there is no guarantee what animal you are buckling around your feet. Without much accountability, countries can ship off both cows and sheep or dogs and cats skins to be made into garments. However, I wonder what would happen, if we stopped internalising and prescribing a hierarchy to the animal kingdom that so surely demotes cows under their domestic pet pals. What if all living animals had a right to safety and protection?


Sub out: domestic vs farm animals vs exotic animals, for, ‘all animals are created equal’.


  • Jeremiah Agware: January 13, 2021

    Wow that was odd. I just wrote an very long comment but after I clicked submit my comment didn’t show up. Grrrr… well, I’m not writing all that over again. Anyways, just wanted to say it’s a fantastic blog you have here! Hope you can get to see mine at Tecreals and Makeoverarena

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