By Chere Di Boscio
It made sense with Champagne, I guess – after all, the bubbly drink was invented by monks in that particular region of France, and there’s quite a specialised process involved with the making of the refined beverage, so it wasn’t surprising when the French government insisted that legally, any other carbonated wine beverage other than those made in the Champagne area of France had to go by another name (Prosecco, anyone?). But now the French want to ban vegan leather, and if you ask us, they’ve gone way too far.
Yep, it’s true: the Conseil National du Cuir (CNC), the representative body of France’s leather industry, is keen to defend the meaning of the word ‘leather’ even outside of French borders. Last June, the CNC petitioned France’s Minister for the Economy to demand from the EU Commission a draft directive aimed at protecting the word ‘leather’ as a designation. The goal is to mute the growing popularity of vegan leathers, including ‘pineapple leather’ and ‘mushroom leather.’
Acting as though they invented leather itself, the French government issued a statement saying they believe the word ‘leather’ can only refer to a material derived from dead animals.
Recently, the CNC has sent out threatening letters to several vegan companies which use these terms, and the French Ministry for the Economy stated that it made the EU Commission aware of “on the one hand, the imperative and urgent need to establish appropriate measures to ensure the products that circulate on the domestic market are suitably labelled and that the ‘leather’ designation is applied to products of animal origin only, and on the other, of the [need to] draw up with [EU] member states a draft directive for a harmonised definition of the term ‘leather’ and for how this term can be used, in order to allow competition among economic operators to be fair and for consumers to be able to exercise an informed choice.”
Not well known for its record protecting animal rights, nor for its vegetarian cuisine, the French are adamant that the growth of cruelty-free products should be stifled. “Vegan leather is something that doesn’t exist!” insisted Jérôme Verdier, president of the French Tannery Federation, said to FashionNetwork.com in January 2017 at a French leather industry conference.
France’s leather industry is huge, with around 9,400 companies and 130,000 employees, generating over €25 billion in revenues every year. It’s famous for killing baby cows for ‘refined’ calfskin, slaughtering ostriches, snakes and lizards for ‘exotic’ leathers, and even lamb fetuses for ‘karakul fur’, a type of tight, curly hair that’s often used in Russian-style hats and coats.
The French initiative is an appalling step backwards at a time when demand for all plant-based products, including vegan milks and fabrics is higher than ever. Instead of fighting this evolution, maybe France should get with the program and recognise that the future is vegan.
Main image: Mayya Saliba’s Pinatex bag – from ananas-anam.com