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PETA’s Shopping Guide to Compassionate Clothing: Introduction

What’s Wrong With Leather?

Millions of cows, pigs, sheep, and goats are slaughtered for their skin every year. They are castrated, branded, and dehorned and have their tails docked—all without anesthetics. Then they are trucked to slaughter, bled to death, and skinned. Leather is not simply a slaughterhouse byproduct—it’s a booming industry. The meat industry relies on skin sales to stay in business because the skin represents the most economically important byproduct of the meat-packing industry, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Animal skin is turned into finished leather through the use of dangerous mineral salts, formaldehyde, coal-tar derivatives, cyanide-based oils and dyes, chrome, and other toxins.
People who have worked in and lived near tanneries are dying of cancer caused by exposure to toxic chemicals used to process and dye the leather. A study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that a solvent used in tanning leather appears to be associated with an increased risk of testicular cancer.

When you buy leather products, you may be purchasing leather from Asian dog and cat tanneries; because product labeling rarely indicates where the skins originate, there’s no way to know for sure.


What’s Wrong With Wool?

Shearing sheep involves more than just a haircut. Sheep need the wool that they naturally produce to protect themselves from temperature extremes.

Because shearers are usually paid by volume rather than by the hour, they often work too fast and disregard the animals’ welfare. Sheep are routinely punched, kicked, and cut during the shearing process.

Much of the world’s wool comes from Australia, where tens of millions of sheep each year undergo “mulesing,” a gruesome procedure in which shears are used to cut dinner-plate-sized chunks of skin and flesh from the backsides of live animals—often without anesthetics.

Millions of sheep raised for wool in Australia are shipped to the Middle East and North Africa for slaughter. These animals are placed on extremely crowded, disease-ridden ships with little access to food or water for weeks. During their grueling journeys, they suffer through weather extremes, and temperatures on the ships can exceed 100°F. Many fall ill when they become stuck in feces and are unable to move, and many others are smothered or trampled to death by other sheep.

Intensive sheep farming, especially in Australia, is responsible for the degradation of natural waterways and land habitats and for the emission of greenhouse gasses, such as methane, into the atmosphere.

When you buy wool products, it is likely that you are buying wool from sheep who were raised in Australia, and because most wool is routed through China for processing, product labeling rarely indicates where the wool originated.


What’s Wrong With Silk?

Silk is the fiber that silkworms weave to make cocoons. To obtain silk, worms are steamed or gassed alive in their cocoons by manufacturers.

Humane alternatives to silk include nylon, milkweed seed-pod fibers, silk-cotton tree and ceiba tree filaments, and rayon.


What’s Wrong With Down?

Down—which is used to fill some comforters, pillows, parkas, and other products—is the soft layer of feathers closest to birds’ skin.

Down is plucked from geese and ducks either while they are alive or after slaughter. Many geese used for down are held down by workers who tear out the birds’ feathers while the animals shriek in pain and terror. This process is repeated multiple times throughout the birds’ lives. Birds are often plucked so hard that their skin rips open, leaving gaping wounds that workers crudely stitch back together in the same unsterile environment in which the birds were plucked. All this is done without any anesthetics. “Live plucking of geese or ducks can never be done humanely,” writes bird welfare expert Dr. Laurie Siperstein-Cook, D.V.M.

Many of the birds who are used for down are also used for foie gras (French for “fatty liver”). Foie gras is produced by cramming a tube down birds’ throats and force-feeding them until their livers become diseased and swell to up to 10 times their normal size.

Down is expensive and loses its insulating ability when wet. The insulating capabilities of cruelty-free synthetic fillers such as PrimaLoft and Thinsulate persist in all weather conditions.

Shopping Tips

Whether you’re trying on pleather pumps at Payless or digging through Nordstrom’s racks for faux shearling, synthetic alternatives are easy to find and often clearly labeled. Forget about out-of-the-way specialty shops. From discount department stores such as Target and T.J. Maxx to hip boutiques such as Diesel and Paul Frank and everything in between (think Linens ‘n Things, JCPenney, and even Victoria’s Secret), mainstream stores have become a mecca for compassionate shoppers.

Here are some general tips when shopping for alternatives to the following:


Look under shoe tongues, on tags, and on the insides of belts and bags for fake leather buzzwords such as “manmade leather,” “all-manmade materials,” “pleather,” and “synthetic.” No label or unsure? Ask a salesperson if it is “real” leather. Finally, the price may clue you in. Typically, synthetic leather sells at a fraction of the price of real leather!

Hint: You’ll find a continually changing stock of synthetic shoes if you drop into shoe warehouses and designer discount stores such as Off Broadway Shoes, DSW, and Marshalls. It is just as easy to steer clear of skins at upscale department stores such as Macy’s and Saks Fifth Avenue, with most trendy and high-end lines, including Chinese Laundry, Kenneth Cole, Nine West, and Kate Spade, featuring pleather footwear and accessories.

Wool, Etc.

Watch out for wool hiding in pants and suits (read labels!), and take a pass on pashmina, angora, cashmere, shearling, camel hair, and mohair too—all made from animals. Instead, look for snuggly warm synthetic fabrics such as polyester fleece, acrylic, and cotton flannel—they wash easily, keep their bright colors, cost less, and don’t contribute to cruelty.

Heavy, bulky wool can’t hold a candle to revolutionary new fabrics such as GORE-TEX, Polartec Wind Pro, Thermolite, and Thinsulate. Polartec Wind Pro is made primarily from recycled plastic soda bottles and has four times the wind resistance of wool. It also wicks away moisture and is available at Patagonia and other outdoor outfitters.

Tencel, a natural fabric made from wood pulp, is a breathable, durable, and biodegradable alternative to wool for men’s and women’s dress suits. If you’re looking for a suit, start shopping in the spring, when summer suits made from cotton, viscose, and other lighter materials are available from retailers such as 99X, TravelSmith, Pangea, and others.

For nonwool tuxedos, try or



Find humane alternatives to silk ties and other silk items—including fabrics such as nylon, polyester, rayon, Tencel, milkweed seed-pod fibers, and even silk-cotton tree and ceiba tree filaments—online and in stores for a fraction of the price of silk.



Down-free coats, sleeping bags, comforters, pillows, and more can be found virtually anywhere, including at Eddie Bauer, The Company Store, and Bed Bath & Beyond. Read labels and look for the words “synthetic down,” “down alternative,” or “polyester fill.” Also look for items made from high-tech fabrics such as PrimaLoft or Thinsulate—both of which are soft, washable, downlike materials that are often used in coats, gloves, and comforters and that stay warm even when wet (unlike down).


Forget about fur accessories and coats with fur collars and fur trim. Again, read labels to weed out cruelly produced products. Cruelty-free faux furs made of plush, modern synthetics are becoming easier and easier to find. Fabulous Furs sells elegant, stylish coats that are completely faux. Many other designers and manufacturers—including Charly Calder, Faux, Purrfect Fur, and Sweet Herb—specialize in fabulous faux furs as well.

Buying cruelty-free shoes, belts, wallets, bags, sweaters, and jackets has never been easier. This guide is divided into the following sections:

•    Vegan Companies
•    Leather and Fur Alternatives
•    Search by Product Type
•    Animal-Friendly Companies Wanted

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  • Palmore says:

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  • Sandokan says:

    Me ha gustado el artículo

  • Costa says:

    This info is worth everyone’s attention. How can I find out more?

  • Cason says:

    Hi there! This blog post could not be written any better!
    Going through this article reminds me of my previous roommate!

    He continually kept talking about this. I will forward this post to him.

    Fairly certain he will have a good read. Many thanks for sharing!

  • Hembree says:

    Greetings! Very helpful advice in this particular post!
    It is the little changes which will make the largest changes.
    Many thanks for sharing!

  • Kim says:

    I have a leather coat that a boyfriend bought for me in 1997. It’s like new because I barely wore it. I bought a down-filled coat in 2001. I still have it today.
    I was ignorant when I bought them. I didn’t know the truth, didn’t think of what could be true, and just thought it was “normal.”
    It’s really important to get the word out to the younger generation.
    I am still learning. I wasn’t even aware that the shoes I was wearing were from dead animals.
    I was raised eating meat, but have limited my meat diet. I eat meat about half of the time. I’m thinking of ways to eat even less or no meat at all.
    It’s not easy when it’s all around you.
    Thank you PETA, for teaching me the truth. These people don’t deserve our money for what they do. They are criminals.
    I don’t know what to do with these coats. I could donate them, but that could be wrong. I could trash them, but that, in a sense, could be disrespectful to the dead animals. Maybe I should slice my down-filled coat open and let the feathers fly freely. It’s the least I feel I can do at this point. I cannot bring myself to wear them again.

    Light and Love

  • FeeFee says:

    I agree with both Connie and Michelle as a person trying to do what she can for the environment. I’m still trying to balance on the scale that is life, so at the moment, I am vegan. However, I don’t intend on remaining so for long, seeing as humans are omnivores and I am a still-growing-teen. But the reason I chose not to remain a vegetarian was the thought that consumption of vegetarian but not vegan foods still contributed to the industry. I don’t have regular access to humane and environmentally sourced products. So here I am now. I realized what was wrong with leather was the same as milk and eggs (I don’t know the issue with honey yet.) I never thought of wool but figured it was fine since it wasn’t skin. I see the issue now.

    However, (Of course I want to eliminate cruelty! Of course I’ll do all I can! Not that I’ve purchased wool recently, or even need to in the near future, but if it came from humane sources? When the wool was no longer needed by the animal? I’ll look into it as soon as I’m done here, promise.) but my main focus is the environment. Going synthetic is not an option for me anymore. It’s harmful to the environment.

    The woman who writes that blog was able to almost get all plastic out of her life, and I hope to do so too.

    But I do see the your point. I like to think that what is natural is good. And obviously sheep didn’t evolve to stand up and give us the wool off their backs.

    Though I’d appreciate it if you’d cut out advertising the synthetics. It would definitely reconcile me more to your cause/causes.

  • Kristin says:

    Are DC Shoes made with leather or animal products? Also, what about Converse? I have black with blue plaid DC sneakers and have a pair of red Converse high tops. I also have black Converse one star sneakers.

  • green_ladki says:

    @connie and michelle: Thumbs up!!! I totally agree with you guys. Plastics are not the alternative to animal fibres. Although I do not support animal cruelty, I do not think this is right. I mean, soon they’ll tell us to stop wearing cotton, because the plants are living too, and they feel bad and hurt when we pick cotton! We cannot challenge nature. We cannot tell the tigers and the lions to stop eating other animals because they are living beings too! That is just plain ridiculous! What should be done instead of boycotting wool, is better anti-cruelty legislation to improve the living conditions of the sheep, and of all other animals.

  • Ashley-P says:

    Hi Krista, Thank you for your inquiry regarding the animal testing status of Bath & Body Works. After the animal testing statement was re-worded on Bath & Body Works’ products, PETA received a new signed statement of assurance reconfirming that it does not conduct or commission animal testing of its products or ingredients.

    This “This final product not tested on animals” language the company states on its products is written to meet language requirements in England. The company sells products in the U.S. and U.K. and uses the same packaging in both countries. Because most ingredients have been tested on animals by someone at some time in the past, England does not allow a company to state “no animal testing” or language to that effect on its products, even if it has not conducted animal testing of ingredients.

  • Tessa says:

    Wow! That’s a really neat aswenr!

  • Krista Rose says:

    Why do you list bath and body works? Doesnt anyone read the label?

    On the BACK of the bottle it states:


    hence…. the product is still tested…. on animals…. during conception of the product.

    I will not support them!!


  • FAE says:

    may i ask y’alls opinion? i have just recently started to pay attention to animal cruelty. and i feel i will from now on boycott the animal based fashion idustry. but i still have leather and wool products. while i feel it would do good to no longer buy new leather ,wool etc products i dont feel that throwing away something i already paid for and owned for years would not make a would it really be that bad if i kept them until they finally rot away?.cuz i dont like to throw away stuff until i really cant use them.for example i’ve kept shoes for more than six years

  • connie says:

    I agree with Michelle. Unfortunately, you must pick your battles. For me the only sustainable solution is to buy only what I absolutely need, and choose good quality, so that I can use them for years to come. If your leather boots get worn out, don’t throw them away, have them fixed. I’ve been wearing the same boots for 15 years, I just have them repaired every year, and they still keep my feet dry, look good, and are comfortable.

  • connie says:

    I agree with Michelle. Unfortunately, you must pick your battles. For me the only sustainable solution is to buy only what I absolutely need, and choose good quality, so that I can use them for years to come. If your leather boots get worn out, don’t throw them away, have them fixed. I’ve been wearing the same boots for 15 years, I just have them repaired every year, and they still keep my feet dry, look good, and are comfortable.

  • Michelle says:

    Are the petrochemical produced products you mention: “synthetic down,” “down alternative,” “polyester fill,” or a high-tech fabric like Primaloft really better than animal products?

    I know it is easy to say, yes because animals are living, but if one will think the question through more and realize that the petrochemicals are in fact harming all life on earth, it will be easy to see that neither petrochemicals nor animal fiber products are solutions. Yet, we must wear something unless we can grow our own coat, so what will that be? It will be an immense challenge finding any clothing, let alone bedding, towels, etc… that has no petrochemicals or animal fibers. Even the wonderful voutecouture you have been advertising for has petrochemicals in them. Yes they are recycled, and therefore at least they are doing something with waste petrochemical products, but that to me is not a sustainable solution. Any suggestions?