Who Are You Wearing? PETA Makes Noise, Saying ‘Leather Destroys’

Published by Sara Oliver.

Leather made from animals’ skin is one of the worst things you can buy in terms of its impact on animals, the environment, and other humans. Read on to find out why it has no place in your wardrobe, home, or car and how you can help PETA spread the word that “leather destroys”!

How Bad Is Leather?

Global leather production, measured by the weight of the skin torn off animals of all kinds, was more than 12.5 million metric tons in 2020 alone. That’s nearly the same weight as 40 Empire State Buildings.

Worldwide, more than a billion cows, sheep, and other animals are killed annually for their skin. Much of the leather sold in U.S. stores comes from countries where animal welfare laws are nonexistent or largely unenforced. In Brazil—the world’s single-largest source of animal hides—a PETA exposé revealed that gentle cows and bulls were burned on the face with hot irons, beaten, and electroshocked so that their skin could be turned into car interiors.

According to the Higg Materials Sustainability Index, leather made from cows’ skin contributes far more to water pollution, water depletion, and greenhouse gas emissions than any synthetic or plant-based vegan leather.

Raising cows requires that thousands of acres of land be cleared of trees and the animals who live there. Roughly 80% of deforestation in the Amazon rainforest has been caused by cattle ranchers destroying land to raise animals for their skin and flesh.

Turning a cow’s skin into leather is an extremely unnatural process—halting decomposition through chemical baths and dehydration. Formaldehyde, coal-tar derivatives, and various oils, dyes, and finishes—some of which are cyanide-based—are used to turn animal skins into finished leather goods. This toxic waste runs off into local water sources in countries like Bangladesh, poisoning entire ecosystems and increasing tannery workers’ risk of skin cancer at rapid rates. An estimated 90% of Bangladeshi workers will die before the age of 50 because of the hazardous production of leather.

How PETA Is Spreading the Word That ‘Leather Destroys’

  • In September 2022, we placed dozens of posters around Spring Studios—the hub of New York Fashion Week—showing a desolate runway and the words “Your Leather Outfit Is Killing Animals and the Planet,” created by ad agency Archer Troy.
  • We made it clear that “cruelty doesn’t fly” in Charlotte, North Carolina, and Business Traveler magazine, which is sold in airports all across the U.S.

  • In July 2022, we ran our “Wearing Leather Kills More Animals Than You Think” ad in VegNews.

  • We attended Levi’s annual meeting to encourage the brand to stop using leather patches on its jeans—which would look better without them and make a world of difference to animals who want to keep their skin!
  • We gave Crocs an award for ditching leather
  • Since we all should feel comfortable in our own skin, we joined forces with chiseled photographer Mike Ruiz and had a new billboard put up for NYC Pride Week.

Urge Levi’s to Go Green—for Real

Levi’s claims that sustainability is sewn into the fabric of everything that it does, from its manufacturing process to its climate change initiatives. Yet the company continues to use cows’ skin for the patches on its jeans. Committing to using only vegan leather on its jean patches would be an easy first step toward legitimizing the company’s claims of being a sustainable and compassionate industry leader. By doing so, Levi’s would join the ranks of von Holzhausen, Tesla, and Jon Bon Jovi’s clothing line, all of which have already made the switch to vegan leather. Let Levi’s know that it must replace animal skin with vegan leather in its products immediately if it truly intends to protect the planet.

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 Ingrid E. Newkirk

“Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights?” READ MORE

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind