Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Halting the unregulated Leather Industry

Stopping the leather industry would not be an overnight process. As wonderful as it would be, just from the aspect of saving all the animals that are inhumanely lost to the leather industry, there is, still, yet, another aspect that should be considered. Economics. Economically it would not be feasible. When you have as many countries that are involved in the unregulated leather production industry, you have to look at the big picture. The people who work in the unregulated leather industry are for the most part living hand to mouth and they have families to take into consideration. We are talking about an industry that economically is forecasted to bring in $91.2 billion by 2018. You also have to take into consideration that most all of these unregulated factories do not have any sort of health care for their workers, nor do they have a union, of any sort, to protect them against sweatshop conditions. This of course means horrid conditions for the workers some as young as 7, live work and die in these factories.

The billions of dollars flooding the unregulated leather industry, also means, and corners are cut and this affects us all. Ultimately the consumers pay the price for the toxic environment, in and around these factories. In Bangladesh where 90% of the leather produced, go unregulated. Socioeconomically, it would be financially devastating to hundreds of thousands of families around the world who have become dependent on the leather industry as their main source of income. Globally speaking, the leather industries “revenue is forecast to reach $91.2 billion by 2018.”

There is much to take into consideration when considering the elimination of the unregulated, or even the regulated leather industry. The cleanup from the toxic chemicals alone, has already permeated the atmosphere, the soil, and the people, near and around the tanneries- as well as, us, the people who purchase leather goods. We, on the receiving end, must take into consideration the contaminants that come with most all of the leather goods we purchase. Just purchasing leather goods and taking them home, you are exposing yourself to an array of toxic chemicals. This means that there is zero financial motivation factory owners to clean up their working environments. Ultimately the cleanup is guesstimated into the billions of dollars whether we are speaking of India, Bangladesh, Africa or South America. 

I found it completely fascinating that Germany’s largest leather production company recently closed because they were only able to keep their current waste-water purity at 95%, they were not able to meet the  to 98% required by legislation in Germany for proper environmental standards.. The German company could not afford to rebuild their plant, to meet the requirement of 98% water purity. 98% is an amazingly clean and green number for water purity. I can’t even begin to fathom what the unregulated
% rate of waste-water purity would be in India, Africa or Bangladesh. There is of course an overwhelming need to save the animals around the world and protect them from the inhumane conditions of the unregulated and regulated leather industry, but there should also be a sense of urgency regarding the plight of the people who are often times forced into horrible working conditions. People who are barely able to survive. We must put the people first, in this case. 

In Bangladesh, for example, the maximum a family can hope to earn is a most a “minimum wage of about $39 a month.”

And $39 is keeping a family of 5 in a hand to mouth situation regarding their living conditions. They do not have medical insurance of any kind, they do not have access to clean or even regulated working conditions. Children as young as 7 or sometimes younger must work to sustain a family.

This information can be overwhelmingly negative. There is a light at the end of tunnel. Due to laws and regulations, people are becoming much more socially conscious of the environment. Due to technology and open source information people have access to much more information than they did 20 years ago. We can start to learn positive disciplinary tactics that would not only help those who work directly in the industry; it would be most beneficial to mention more ethical for our planet. 

We the people must find leaders in our present political system who can change the unregulated and horrid conditions globally, in and around the leather industry. A professor of Cognition writes, ““Perhaps, indeed, there are no truly universal ethics: or to put it more precisely, the ways in which ethical principles are interpreted will inevitably differ across cultures and eras. Yet, these differences arise chiefly at the margins. All known societies embrace the virtues of truthfulness, integrity, loyalty, fairness; none explicitly endorse falsehood, dishonesty, disloyalty, gross inequity.” Howard Gardner.

We can, indeed, develop habits that can change the world. We must get our message for change, in- and around the World Wide Web. We can be the change that helps somebody, 5 thousand miles away, step up and out of, and the horrid conditions they are forced into. We can stop the insanity of the incomprehensible and inhumane conditions of the animals. We need to change, not just our minds, our habits and our daily routine but change the minds of the people around us. Push our leaders to focus on the unregulated leather industry so we can set global environmental standards. Our leaders could also help push those unregulated factories into regulated ones that will happily meet the safety and environmental standards. Of course financial motivations are key to changing the current unregulated systems. Pushing for change means we must lead by example. The ending of an animal’s life is just the beginning of a long and toxic story that starts in inhumane and horrid working conditions.

The light at the end of the tunnel is us. People who are informed and take the time to spread the word. Education, forming good habits, being informed and knowing the history behind the objects you purchase can all lead to informed decisions. We have the power. We have the internet, and we have each other.

In conclusion, the standards are changing and getting better, and in order to keep these changes moving in a positive direction for the sake of the people, and the animals, we need to keep educating everyone around us. Change will come in a massive and incredibly positive way. We may even end our love affair with leather and move onto more ethical materials. Until then though, we need to keep speaking, writing, and provoking positive thought. We can do this.

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