Why Don't People Care More About The Leather Industry?

Illustration for article titled Why Don't People Care More About The Leather Industry?

It's funny: we hear so much less about leather than fur. Sure, unless you're in the Arctic, fur has the stigma of "wholly frivolous status symbol" going on, but when you think about it, most of the leather on the market isn't exactly necessary to our existence, either. And the costs are equally high - in many ways, higher. A recent article in The Ecologist (via Utne) brings us a shocking profile of the tanneries of Hazaribagh in Bangladesh. Lax environmental regulations mean the city can provide cheap leather, but at the price of the environment, the region's fishing industry, and the workers' health.The article describes the tanneries as, "electric-blue rivers of effluent gushing out of every...wall; a frothy, noxious cocktail of lead, chrome syntans, mercury, cadmium, and corrosive acids that creeps along the open drains under the stilted homes of neighbouring slums, and then straight into the Dhaka's primary river, the Buriganga." The human cost is even higher: "Large numbers of the 8,000 to 12,000 workers at the tanneries suffer from gastrointestinal and dermatological diseases... SEDH (Bangladesh's Society for Environment and Human Development) claims that 90 percent of tannery workers will be dead by the age of 50." What's shocking is how little we hear about this, relative to anti-fur literature, and the small number of alternatives. Companies like California's Organic Leather practice humane slaughter and don't use toxic chemicals in their tanning. But obviously these methods are considerably more expensive, and the high demand for cheap leather goods means conditions like Hazaribagh are far more common, and only on the rise. The True Cost of Leather [Utne]



Sad but true. Maybe it is because sheep and cows are domesticated animals and people don't feel like they are endangered in any way?