Earlier today, our friends at ILM alerted us to the latest PETA propaganda piece featured in the Autocar article, "Analysis: How veganism is changing the car industry".
Predictably, no credible sources appear to have been sought for research into the leather industry, so here is our response to this specious article.
I was very disappointed to read the article, ‘Analysis: How veganism is changing the car industry’, in the online edition of Autocar magazine. By considering only the opinions of PETA, the piece was biased, riddled with inaccuracies and blatant falsehoods, and offered nothing by way of an informed view of the leather industry or the use of leather in automotive interiors.
Leather has long been synonymous with luxury in cars. In recent years, the automotive sector has been the largest area of growth for leather use, accounting for over 17% of the annual global production of leather. The volume of leather used in car interiors has increased from 253 million square feet in 1990, to nearly 4 billion square feet now, demonstrating that leather is increasingly popular for vehicle interiors. There is increasing demand from consumers for leather in cars and, with the shift to autonomous vehicles and the growing importance of comfort and luxury in the cockpit, it reasonable to assume that this demand will grow.
However, leather has its detractors. Various agenda groups attack leather and leather manufacture, citing spurious, scientifically illiterate studies to accuse tanners of causing harm to people and the environment. The most common theme is the impact of the rearing of livestock, the source of 99% of the skins and hides used in leather manufacture, and in particular, its impact on climate change and water consumption. The quite staggering flaws in these arguments notwithstanding, the reality is that over 90% of the World’s population eat meat, and that meat consumption is rising. While this is the case, in excess of 7 million tonnes of hides and skins will be produced every year which will need to be dealt with. The most efficient and elegant solution to that problem is the manufacture of leather. Leather is unarguably a by-product of the meat industry.
Unlike the manufacture of synthetic alternative from fossil fuels, leather production is sustainable, uses a renewable by-product as a raw material, and applies heavily regulated chemistries to produce a material that is versatile, durable and beautiful. Ironically, the opponents of leather see no contradiction in warning consumers about the use of chemicals in leather, while insisting that they should replace it with chemically-derived synthetic alternatives. This article itself offered apple skin leather as the future of vegan leather interiors, even though this material is largely comprised of plastic.
Consumers have an ever-increasing degree of choice of materials for their car interiors. Leather remains the premium choice, bringing not only beauty, comfort and style to the interior, but also a material that is sustainable, renewable and biodegradable. Furthermore, this leather is produced by a sector that strives continuously to reduce its own environmental impact while reducing the impact of another. Leather is the solution, not the problem.
Dr Kerry Senior
Director, Leather UK