Among the animals who suffer and are killed by humans to be used for clothing, the majority are killed for leather production. This includes cows, bulls, pigs, lambs, and sheeps. They are sent to the slaughterhouse to obtain meat and leather to meet public demand. Each year more than 300 million tanned cow skins and more than 500 million tanned sheep and lamb skins are produced. The animals killed for these skins suffer significantly throughout their entire lives, confined in tiny spaces in industrial units. Even the small percentage of animals who do not live in such confinement are still harmed significantly. They are often separated from their mothers. They are branded with hot irons, often on their faces or legs so their skin doesn’t show any damage. And, finally, they are sent to slaughterhouses, where they experience stress and pain and are deprived of their lives.
Leather is used for all kinds of clothes and accessories: shoes, belts, wallets, jackets, purses and suitcases. It’s also commonly used in upholstery for sofas and cars. However, it is relatively easy to avoid leather in everyday life. There are many shops that offer clothing and accessories made from other materials, such as synthetic or plant-based ones. There are also online shops which specialize in the production of high quality non-leather shoes and other accessories (including Moo Shoes, Vegetarian Shoes, Ethical Wares and Vegan Wares).
The production of leather is often criticized on the grounds that it is a polluting product. However, in order to question the use of leather on moral grounds, it is unnecessary and probably counterproductive to even address such concerns. If humans were being killed for the production of skins, it is unlikely that people would make claims about the industry’s pollution; rather, there would be greater moral concerns at the forefront of their minds. Because that argument wouldn’t be used if the victims were humans, in order to move towards becoming a society without speciesism, we should not use such arguments to challenge the use of leather or of other animal products.
We can choose to wear products that aren’t made from leather. The reasons have to do with the arguments against speciesism, as well as the implications of leather production and with what the production of leather entails for the animals involved. Below are several links explaining how animals such as cows, sheeps, and pigs are exploited. As explained above, the purpose of this exploitation is for the production of meat and leather.