Wake up to the cruel realities of leather

By Tessa R. Salazar Philippine Daily Inquirer October 10,2018

To each his or her own skin. Humans can already create for cars more comfy skins not sourced from animals.

Para kanino ka bumabangon? Who do you wake up for?

This isn’t an ad campaign for a certain brand. Rather, far beyond anything we imbibe or consume right after we wake up, this is the kind of question that defines not just our day, but our life.

There can be seven billion answers to that question, and even more. And every one of them is correct, if it keeps the person going.

I have my own compelling reasons: I wake up for my elderly parents, my adopted four-footed companions, and my environmental causes.

I wake up to face my duties and responsibilities as a productive member of society. I wake up to check if my lucky Ultra Lotto pick is about to change my life. I wake up because life has allowed me to live another day.

But if I were to choose the single greatest reason for me to wake up, it would be this: I wake up so that I may help others wake up, too.

I experienced my own big “awakening” around 18 years ago, when I made that connection between my lifestyle—what I ate, what I wore, and what I drove—and the extremely oppressive and destructive animal industry.

Billions upon billions of farm animals—cows, pigs, poultry, goats, sheep—are sent to slaughter to serve as our food and our “second skin.”

That number today has grown radically, by the same rate our human population has exploded: 56 billion farm animals slaughtered every year.

Slaughterhouses have tried to keep the goings-on in their dark, dank facilities from the public eye, and society, uncomfortable with how its meat arrives on tables from the abattoir, has obligingly turned away.

But a quick search on YouTube reveals horrible scenes of inhumane handling.

That genuine leather that looks oh so elegant and luxurious in a car’s interior truly had a cruel past. Without exception.

Cows and bulls face unbearable torture—face-branding with hot irons, electrocution, non-stop beatings, and suffocation—before they are dealt that one final blow.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in 2012 declared that annually, the global leather industry slaughters more than a billion animals.

Those billions of animals end up in your car, your shoes, clothes, accessories, sports equipment, etc.

Can we live without animal-sourced leather?

Today, with the modern manufacturing technologies laid out before us, the answer is an emphatic “Yes!” There are numerous materials available as alternatives to leather.

There’s the sustainable textile Pinatex for vehicle interiors. Mercedes-Benz uses either the Artico man-made leather or the MB-Tex seat upholstery, which some owners swear look and feel better than genuine leather.

Italian brand Alcantara leather has been used in private jets, high-end European luxury cars such as Porsche, BMW “M,” Lamborghini models such as the Gallardo LP570-4 Superleggera, and Lexus LC500h.

Alcantara, a suede-like material, was developed as far back as the 1970s as a durable and long-lasting synthetic alternative to animal hide.

There’s also the T-Tec upholstery especially developed for Volvo Cars, and inspired by sportswear and modern travel accessories.

Supporting the use of synthetic leather and other non-animal-sourced materials is not only light on the conscience, but friendly to the planet.

Going for alternatives eases the pressure for animal farms to expand and take up more real estate.

Every second, a forested area the size of a football field is destroyed forever due to the global expansion of animal farms.

Furthermore, the age-old practice of tanning has been shown to introduce harmful chemicals to the environment and the atmosphere.

Norman Myers, author of “The Primary Source: Tropical Forests and Our Future,” wrote, “The No. 1 factor in (the) elimination of Latin America’s tropical rainforests is cattle grazing.”

American author John Robbins wrote about rainforests: “Half of all species on Earth live in … tropical rainforests.”

Dr. ME Ensminger, former chair of the Department of Animal Science at Washington State University and the author of 10 books about livestock raising, said: “It took nature thousands of years to form the rainforest, but it took a mere 25 years for people to destroy much of it. And when a rainforest is gone, it’s gone forever.”

I am truly heartened when the automotive industry, certainly among the biggest markets for leather, makes conscious efforts to use alternative materials.

A couple of years ago, a car executive of a European brand told me that some EU brands have shifted their use to faux (or false) leather because of the growing public clamor.

I woke up to write this, so that hopefully, when this piece sees print, I can exhort the reader to consider not using animal-sourced leather—not only in your next choice of automobiles, but in your life.

Wouldn’t it feel good to know that your “second skin” didn’t come at the expense of another sentient being’s life?

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