Are Cows Killed for Leather?

Leather—a term that can be found on the labels of certain jackets, shoes, purses, wallets, belts, and other goods. But what exactly is leather, and can it ever be animal-friendly?

What Is Leather Made Of?

According to Oxford Dictionary, “leather”—in its noun form—is “[a] material made from the skin of an animal by tanning or a similar process.”

Although leather is often made of cows’ skin, it can also be made from the skin of pigs, goats, sheep, dogs, and cats as well as crocodiles, ostriches, and other “exotic” animals.

Do Animals Need Their Skin?

Animals absolutely need their skin to survive. Those used for leather are typically killed before their skin is torn from their bodies—but sometimes they’re skinned alive, dying slowly and painfully.

Can you imagine your skin being torn off while you’re still conscious, just for a handbag or belt?

Is Leather Vegan? Can It Ever Be Cruelty-Free?

You can’t buy a leather jacket without sentencing an animal (or many) to death. The leather industry claims billions of lives each year. Some assume that wearing leather shoes is somehow less cruel than biting into a cheeseburger, but the production of these items goes hand in hand. See how the treatment of cows in the meat, dairy, and leather industries compares:

Treatment Cows Used for Meat Cows Used for Dairy Cows Used for Leather
Torn away and separated from their families ✅ ✅ ✅
Restrained and branded with hot irons ✅ ✅ ✅
Often kept in feces- and mud-filled holding pens ✅ ✅ ✅
Receive inadequate veterinary care ✅ ✅ ✅
Often suffer from disease and lameness caused by stressful living conditions ✅ ✅ ✅
Killed 10 or more years earlier than their natural life expectancy ✅ ✅ ✅
Crammed into trucks and transported for miles through all weather extremes, typically without food or water ✅ ✅ ✅
Sent to slaughterhouses, where their throats are slit and bodies hacked apart, sometimes while still conscious ✅ ✅ ✅

And it’s not just nonhuman animals who suffer—leather production harms humans, too, as well as the environment.

As a coproduct of the meat industry, leather contributes more to water pollution, water depletion, and greenhouse gas emissions than any synthetic or plant-based vegan leather. The numerous chemicals used to turn animals’ skin into leather—such as chromium and formaldehyde—also effectively prevent it from effectively biodegrading.

What Should I Wear Instead?

There are so many cruelty-free, chic, eco-friendly vegan leather options available today. By opting for animal-free goods over leather ones, you’re helping to save lives. Click below to shop:

Ladies, want the perfect faux-leather jacket? Get your hands on a limited-edition PETA x Coalition LA Vegan Leather Jacket today. Click below to learn more about vegan leather and why it belongs in your closet:

What’s So Great About Vegan Leather?

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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