Just in time for Cow Appreciation Day (13 July), PETA India sent a letter to Shri Sanjay Leekha, chair of the Council for Leather Exports (CLE), which functions under the aegis of the Indian Ministry of Commerce and Industry, urging him to advise the organisation’s members to move to end the slaughter of cows and buffaloes for leather goods. This can be done, we advised, by studying the market change in consumer interests and making the switch to vegan leather production, thereby opening up new opportunities for enhanced livelihoods. Today, vegan (non-animal) leather is often made from plants, including those that grow in abundance in India – like bananas, grapes, apples, pineapples, and coconuts – or from related agricultural waste and discarded temple flowers.
Examples of vegan leather used by major international companies include Demetra, a vegan leather containing wood pulp developed by Gucci, and Sylvania, derived from mushrooms, which Hermès is working on with MycoWorks. We are working diligently to push the country’s producers and farmers towards a stronger position in the domestic and world markets by urging them to see the writing on the wall and move away from animal-based clothing, foods, and other goods now.
In the letter, we note that demand for vegan leather is growing fast. Infinium Global Research estimates that the market for it will reach nearly US$90 billion by 2025. We identified some of the factors behind the boom, including concerns over tannery waste in the Ganges, which is causing human health problems and creating agricultural wastelands, as well as workers’ rights issues, since the toxic chemicals in leather production cause many to suffer from skin diseases, respiratory disorders, and various cancers.
On visits to markets, transport routes, and slaughterhouses with CLE representatives in the past, we documented that the Indian leather industry is the stuff nightmares are made of. Cattle were dragged from vehicles in which they had been packed so tightly that they sustained broken bones. Video footage shows slaughterhouse workers slitting animals’ throats without stunning them and in full view of other animals.
Cow Appreciation Day was created by US fast-food chain Chick-fil-A as a marketing gimmick to sell slaughtered chicken products over its competitors’ beef, but PETA US has routinely hijacked the day to tell the public that both cows and chickens matter and that neither want to be killed for food.
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