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See It Here First: Real Leather, No Cow Needed

Written by Michelle Kretzer | October 10, 2013

“I’m convinced that in 30 years when we look back on today and on how we raise and slaughter billions of animals to make our hamburgers and our handbags, we’ll see this as being wasteful, and indeed, crazy.” Andras Forgacs, a leader in biomedical tissue engineering, doesn’t mince words when he talks about all the problems with raising animals to be killed for food and clothing. But thanks to Forgacs’ ingenuity, killing animals for belts and burgers could soon be nothing but a bad memory.

Animals are not just raw materials. They’re living beings, and already our livestock is one of the largest users of land, fresh water, and one of the biggest producers of greenhouse gases, which drive climate change. On top of this, when you get so many animals so close together, it creates a breeding ground for disease and opportunities for harm and abuse. Clearly, we cannot continue on this path, which puts the environment, public health, and food security at risk. There is another way.

—Andras Forgacs

Forgacs and his father started a tissue engineering company that creates human tissues for medical research and transplants. He soon realized that the same technology that he uses to grow human body parts could also be used to grow animal tissues that can become leather or even meat—without any cruelty or death involved. Since animal products are, as Forgacs puts it, “just collections of tissues,” he asked himself, “What if, instead of starting with a complex and sentient animal, we started with what the tissues are made of, the basic unit of life, the cell?”

Forgacs did just that—and he showed a lucky group of people at the Technology, Entertainment, and Design (TED) Global Conference how real leather can be produced from just a few animal cells in a laboratory and gave them the first glimpse of the revolutionary material:

Not only does this real leather have the potential to save millions of animals’ lives, it also trumps conventional leather when it comes to versatility: Because we can craft it to be exactly what we want, we can grow it into any shape, size, thickness, or texture that we can imagine. It seems that the future of lab-grown leather is as bright as the futures of the animals it has the potential to save. 

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  • Durdana Khan says:


  • Liliana Blaszczyk says:

    This is great news. Good job, Andras Forgacs!

  • jose de zeeuw says:

    I think is is FANTASTIC!!!!It should be realised as soon as possble!!I am so glad that you come so far to explore this.You are a real leader of the animalworld!!!Thank you for making this possible.I hope you will reach the people who make the difference!!!

  • amalia savelli says:

    I think this is great. Anything to help the horrific lives these poor animals have.

  • Wendy says:

    It’s about time we came up with a humane alternative to satisfy our addictions. This is worth looking into!

  • Sabina says:

    There indeed is an option of producing the same final product without hurting them, such a pity this could not have been done earlier, in 100 years i hope that killing animals for any human purpose will be illegal to make such things like the rest of some companies still do, and that those firms will be ashamed of what they have done.

  • Diane Pease says:

    No animal deserves this treatment. They are living, feeing, beings just as we are and we need to respect them and treat them with kindness. They are innocent. Please have compassion!

  • Martina Falk says:

    Brilliant idea !!! But what about the lobby of lifestok ? Is a new thinking needed…I’m 200% in for this solution !!!

  • Nina says:

    I am certainly all for talented, creative humans inventing leathers with thier scientic knowledge, where live, sentient, feeling beings would not have to suffer the horrors of captivity, pain, suffering, and death. Humans need to realize that animals of course feel pain

  • Lisa says:

    I truly hopes this works, unfortunately it prob. won’t be in my lifetime so I will have to suffer ever day while hearing, reading and seeing the shit that people do to other sentient beings. I am so disgusted with most humans anymore, they make my skin crawl and I am sooo ashamed to be part of a race that is so evil and vile. I never used to feel this way but as I grew older and continued to see what humans do … I can’t help it but hate them. This picture of the cows/bulls tied together so tightly and closely to each other with no room at all to move on a truck broke my heart. They don’t deserve that, what have they EVER done to us humans for humans to do such despicable things to …WHAT???????? I don’t get it.

  • catherin schaichet says:

    do stop killing animals for making belts or hamburgers. They are sentient beings There are alternatives to leather.

  • Debra Clinton says:

    BRAVO, Mr. Forgacs! Well done! I hope you are given the credit one day as the man who saved TRILLIONS of animals pain and suffering! You are a TRUE HERO!!! Thank you on behalf of those animals.

  • Yvonne says:

    I for one welcome this, I must admit I don’t like leather, I often look for pleather but can’t seem to find it, so I am really looking forward to this.

  • Mark Bickett says:

    Maybe this can stop the carnage and suffering for the animals, something has to be done soon or it’s bye bye human race.