When designing our dog collars and leashes we focused on making each piece extra durable, non slip and easy to clean. Because we know that mud baths and rainy walks are part of the deal. We decided to use a nylon base for extra durability and vegan leather to top it. Vegan leather is a man made fabric. It is very durable and it resembles real leather. It comes in an incredible variety of colors and textures. First, however it is important to clear up why animal leather is damaging to the environment.
The leather industry
We now know that fashion is the most water polluting industry on the planet, after oil. The leather industry takes a huge toll on not only the environment but also the animals and people involved. The reasoning, that leather is the byproduct of the meat industry doesn’t hold any longer. As people are eating less meat, leather companies are finding themselves in trouble. Although white meat consumption is still on the rise, beef consumption (the primary animal used in leather making) is on the decline. This has left luxury leather companies in short supply. In order to gain more control over their stock, these companies are actually purchasing the farms and tanneries. This means that they keep animals purely for their skin. It is questionable, whether they use the meat after the animal is skinned, or simply discard it.
There is nothing ethical or sustainable about conventional leather tanning. The most used technique to tan lathers is by far the most toxic. Chromium salts and tanning liquor is used to create a hazardous slush. Tanners then soak and pickle, then dry, soften, color and shape the material. Then they dump leftover toxic chromium waste into waterways in places like China, India, and Bangladesh. Mainly countries where environmental regulations are either non-existent or not enforced. Therefore these are some of the biggest leather-producing countries in the world. Along with chromium, other chemicals like lead, formaldehyde, phosphorus, cyanide, and nitrates wreak havoc on rivers and streams, and a lot of it ends up in landfills. All of this noxious waste generated by the tanning process can damage our environment. They cause health defects, and incite a number of serious cancers in animals throughout the food chain. Not to mention, these tanneries are using up a ton of energy, leaving quite a large carbon footprint.
Why use it in the pet industry then?
So I think it is totally understandable to question leather’s place in the pet industry. After all, would you happily have one animal killed, so another can wear its skin? Unlikely, if not infuriating. I know, we can justify leather’s use in shoes, accessories even in home goods and lifestyle. I cannot say we can justify its place in the pet industry. It is a fast growing industry, worth billions of dollars. The average millennial opts for pet parenting instead of having children. To put it nicely, our dogs are our children. And as if they were human babies, we shower them with accessories, clothes, gourmet food and grooming. It is all lovely, but why don’t we stop for a minute and take a hard look at the numbers? Billions are spent on pet products in the US and Europe alone. We don’t even mention Australia, Canada and New Zealand.
2019 – $75.38 Estimated spend – $16.44 billion of this is spent on products and supplies
2018 – $72.56 Actual spend – $16.01 billion of this is spent on products and supplies
2017 – $69.51 Actual spend
In Europe the pet food industry and related supplies and services represent a combined annual turnover of over € 36.5 billion. Of this €7 billion represents accessories. These are huge numbers, that keep growing. Yet, we don’t pay as much attention to the pet industry, as we pay to fashion. And if you think about it, in a production sense they are not that different. They use the same manufacturing process, the same materials and and the same source of labour.
Isn’t time we paid a closer attention to our fabrics?
As pet product makers, it is important to keep on the eco conscious side. Making wise fabric choices, recycling and reusing fabric all add up. Choosing vegan leather is not only a matter of staying cruelty free. The process applied to make vegan leather is not more toxic, than leather tanning. It is important to keep up with product innovations too. And we have great news for the earth conscious pet parents. We are preparing to launch products that are fully sustainable, earth friendly and will fully biodegrade. More news to come soon, but in the meantime be sure to make the right choices when buying pet products.
Sources: APPA (American Pet Products Association), Ecocult