23/07/2019

Defending the leather industry - again

Part of our work at Leather UK is to protect the identity of leather and to challenge the mistruths spread by agenda organisations.

Every now and again, an article is published with such glaring inaccuracies and specious claims that we publish a response. This article was brought to our attention by International Leather Maker, and Leather UK, COTANCE and Leather Naturally supplied statements published by ILM as an industry response, which you can read in full here.

The full response by Leather UK Director Dr Kerry Senior is shown below:

"The claims made about climate change are wildly inaccurate, as they are based on the now discredited 2006 UN report, ‘Livestock’s Long Shadow’. As we heard at the 4th World Leather Congress in New York last week, the impact of livestock rearing is relatively minor compared to that of transport and industry. Furthermore, the emissions from cattle are part of the natural carbon cycle, meaning that, if cattle populations remain stable, they make no net increase to greenhouse gases. In contrast, consuming fossil fuels only increases greenhouse gases. Focusing on livestock as a cause of climate change is to ignore the massive elephant in the room.

With reference to leather, livestock are not reared to make leather; the hide or skin is a by-product of the meat, milk and wool industries. This fact is recognised in the EU PEFCR for leather, which attaches only 0.42% of the environmental impact of cattle rearing to the hide. Even less is attributed to rearing of sheep and goats.

Leather manufacture does not drive livestock production as evidenced by the growing demand for meat and falling demand for hides and skins. While leather can be a valuable product, that value is only realised once the tanner has taken a waste from the meat sector and transformed it into something beautiful. As long as people eat meat, there will be waste hides and skins and the most sensible solution for their disposal is turn them into leather.

As usual, there is no comprehension of the chemistry of chromium. The leather industry uses only Chromium III salts to tan leather. Like any process chemical, when used properly chromium III offers no hazard to workers or consumers. The EPA has also classified Chromium III salts as not carcinogenic to humans. The reference to the Chromium VI case is entirely irrelevant as the industry doesn’t use Chromium VI.

Pinatex sounds like a great idea and I am all in favour of using any waste material rather than disposing of it. However, Pinatex uses fossil fuel-based binders and top coats, which can hardly be considered sustainable.

While the leather sector has no issue with alternative materials, it is not acceptable to label them as leather. It is ironic that, while condemning leather, advocates of alternatives seek to align them with well-understood, desirable properties of leather, through the use of misleading labels. By the crudest definition, leather is only made from the hides and skins of animals. Materials made from plants or plastic have their place but they are most definitely not leather".

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