We need to stop buying stop buying exotic leathers for loads of reasons. Some of which you never knew, we’ll bet!
By Emily Spennato
Let’s face it: there’s no doubt that all leather and fur is cruel. Animals are usually kept in tiny cages or pens, with little to no movement or affection, before being painfully slaughtered so we can wear their skins. Consequently, many designers are now choosing to phase fur out of their collections, and they’re now including more vegan options. But we need to stop buying exotic animal skins of all kinds, and even ‘regular’ leather, too. Now.
What are exotic animal leathers, anyway?
Exotic animal skins usually refer to the hides of crocodiles, alligators, snakes and lizards. But that doesn’t mean they’re the only animals tortured for fashion purposes. The list goes on!
These skins are more common than you might think. That’s especially true in luxury fashion. For example, Louis Vuitton and Hermes both sell items made from python, lizard, mink, ostrich and crocodile. And in 2017, French luxury group Kering — which owns Gucci, Yves Saint Laurent and Bottega Veneta — purchased a python breeding farm to keep up with luxury fashion’s demand for exotic animal skin. They claimed they did so in order to ensure the animals were slaughtered humanely. But if that’s the case, they failed, big time, as we shall see below.
The harsh reality is that we need to stop buying exotic leathers because we are far from eradicating animal cruelty in the fashion industry. Though some forward-thinking designers have banned fur from their collections, accessories made from exotic animal skins are still big sellers.
In addition to trying to end corruption within the International Union for Conservation of Nature regarding trophy hunting, animal lovers have also been lobbying the conservationist organisation for years to end the trade of endangered animal species’ expensive skins, body parts, and furs.
Why exotic animals suffer more than you think
The main reason we need to stop buying exotic leathers is that the reptiles suffer far more than you’d think.
For example? Snakes are commonly nailed to trees and their bodies are cut open from one end to the other. You might think that would kill them right away, but NO. Because of these animals’ slow metabolism, it can take hours – or even days – for the snakes to die, from shock or dehydration.
Lizards are often decapitated, and some writhe in agony as the skin is ripped from their still-sentient bodies. According to PETA, most alligator skins come from farmed animals who are raised in crowded tanks or pools of fetid, stinking water. The animals are shot or crudely bludgeoned with hammers.
Workers sometimes use a mallet and chisel to sever crocodiles’ spinal cords—which paralyzes them, but does not kill them. Herpetologist Clifford Warwick, a specialist in reptile biology and welfare, told PETA, “There is no scientific question as to whether alligators are capable of feeling pain and sensitivity to stress—they are.” Dr. Warwick also found that farmed crocodiles often “develop abnormalities and deformities because they can’t walk or swim” in the crowded enclosures.
Legal issues with exotic animal leathers
While there are some laws to ensure pets and farm animals are not abused, very few laws indeed exist to protect exotic animals from abuse. And those laws that do exist are often not enforced.
For example, although animals such as anacondas and crocodiles are covered by Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) regulations, it is estimated that for every animal which is legally killed for the exotic skins trade, another will be illegally poached.
In the United States, reptiles are excluded from the meager protections afforded by the Animal Welfare Act. In addition to being cruel, this industry is extremely wasteful. For example, it can take the skins of four crocodiles to make a single bag.
The cruel truth behind designer brands
Back in 2016, PETA launched an investigation into Vietnamese crocodile farms which showed the animals being skinned alive. Two of the farms featured in the video were suppliers for Heng Long, a major exotic skin supplier for luxury fashion houses. In 2011, luxury group LVMH— parent company of iconic brands including Louis Vuitton and Dior — acquired a 51% stake of Heng Long. This is all in addition to being exposed for bashing python heads with hammers and skinning them alive with razor blades.
And LVMH isn’t the only luxury group to be caught red-handed. In 2017, Kering stated that they w0uld NOT stop using wild caught pythons for their skin, in addition to farmed ones. The comes despite the company’s written commitment to the ‘Python Conservation Partnership’. All talk, and no action, Kering!
Most recently, a PETA Asia investigation revealed a video that showed workers smashing the heads and hacking at the necks of lizards at an Indonesian exotic animal skin supplier, of which Kering is a purchaser.
In response to the video, PETA supporters flocked to Gucci’s flagship store in London on December 23, 2021. The protestors demanded that the luxury company ban exotic animal skins. Meanwhile, demonstrators carried handbags soaked in fake blood and signs that read: “Gucci: Bin Bloody Exotic Skins” and “Gucci: House of Horrors”. PETA also pointed out that this directly contradicts any of Kering’s statements regarding animal conservation.
“No purse is worth an animal’s agonising death,”said PETA Director Elisa Allen in a press release shared with Eluxe. “PETA is calling on Gucci to give animals some peace on Earth by joining the growing list of forward-thinking designers who have banned cruelly obtained exotic skins from their collections.”
Why ALL leather is unethical
At this point, you might be thinking: fine, I’ll just buy normal leather then. But guess what? That’s not eco-friendly, ethical or cruelty-free either. While we do need to stop buying exotic leathers, we need to stop buying ALL leathers, too. Here’s why.
Raising animals for food and leather requires huge amounts of feed, pastureland, water, and fossil fuels. Animals on factory farms produce 130 times as much excrement as the entire human population, without the benefit of waste treatment plants. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has even acknowledged that livestock pollution is the greatest threat to our waterways.
Furthermore, turning skin into leather also requires massive amounts of energy and dangerous chemicals.
- mineral salts
- coal-tar derivatives
- various oils
- toxic finishes (some of them are even cyanide-based)
Indeed, most leather produced in the U.S. is chrome-tanned, and all wastes containing chromium are considered hazardous by the EPA. And toxic waste from tanneries ends up in our waterways, and also harms those who work at and live near tanneries. Many die of cancer, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the incidence of leukemia among residents in an area near one tannery in Kentucky was five times the U.S. average.
How wild animals are killed for ‘normal’ leather
Even if you believe it’s fine to kill ‘domestic’ animals, such as baby cows, sheep and pigs, for leather, did you know this? We need to stop buying exotic leathers because many wild animals are killed when domestic animals are raised. That’s because raising the animals whose skin eventually becomes leather requires vast quantities of pastureland, which must be cleared of trees. In fact, in the last half century, 70 percent of the Amazon rainforest has been cleared to make way for pastures or for growing feed crops. This mass deforestation results in habitat loss for millions of species, including monkeys, birds and sloths. It also eliminates the Earth’s tree canopy, and drives climate change.
But raising livestock also kills fish, since runoff from feedlots and dairy farms also creates major water pollution. Leather also has the greatest impact on eutrophication. This is a serious ecological problem in which runoff waste creates an overgrowth of plant life in water systems. It suffocates animals by depleting oxygen levels in the water and is the leading cause of so-called “dead zones.”
In short, the production of ALL leathers hurts animals, the environment, and the workers who manufacture them. The only ones who benefit are those who profit from the misery and suffering of others. We need to stop buying exotic leathers, but also ‘regular’ leathers, too. Thankfully, there are plenty of sustainable vegan leather options to choose from today.
Will you stop buying exotic leathers after reading this article? Let us know in the comments, below!
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