Sunday, November 10, 2013

Hazards of the Leather Industry: Humans, Animals, and the Environment

The global leather industry slaughters billions of animals, each year.  The majority of leather in the United States as well as Europe comes from India, China, and other countries that have no animal welfare laws or have some but are ignored.  Cattle, sheep, and pigs are among the common animals raised for leather purposes.  However, in China an estimated 2 million cats and dogs are killed for leather each year.  They are confined to cages and often skinned alive; many consumers unknowingly buy products made from cats and dogs because they are often intentionally mislabeled. Not only are the animals slaughtered inhumanly, raising animals for leather requires a large amount of food, land, water, and fossil fuels; these factories produce 130 times as much waste as the entire human population. For more information on animals in the leather industry click here.

95% of U.S.  Leather tanneries have moved overseas to avoid environmental penalties.   Turning skin into leather uses vast amounts of energy and toxic chemicals.  The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) has said that tanneries are so toxic, that many old tannery sites cannot be used for agriculture, built on, or even sold due to the toxins. Learn more about the environmental issues of the leather industry, here.

 These chemicals used in leather tanneries also cause severe side effects to the employees; many even die from cancer caused from exposure to chemicals used in this process.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, leukemia among residences near a tannery occurred five times higher than the U.S. average.   Common problems that have been associated with leather tanneries include rash, kidney and liver damage, respiratory problems, etc.  Learn more about the risks to humans, here.  Photos taken from


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