Vegan Leather. We’ve seen this term been thrown around in the fashion industry, but what exactly is it?
Vegan leather is in fact faux leather, given a different name. Vegan leather is made of two core materials: Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) and/or Polyurethane. Basically, and animal activists’s alternative to real leather. Designer Stella McCartney is well known for using vegan leather in her collection. Her collections include women’s ready wear, accessories, lingerie, eye wear, fragrances and kids.
Being an animal lover, I could say, yes, go with the vegan leather. But is vegan leather actually better? Well that depends. I will argue both sides to state to you the real facts on vegan leather. Then let YOU decide.
First up, we have the People of Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) who argues:
“More than a billion cows, pigs, goats, sheep, alligators, ostriches, kangaroos, and even dogs and cats are cruelly slaughtered for their skins every year. Many of these animals have their tails and horns cut off without painkillers, and some are even skinned and cut apart while still conscious.Turning skin into leather takes loads of energy and a toxic brew of chemicals – including mineral salts, coal- tar derivatives, formaldehyde, oils, dyes and finishes, some of them cyanide based. Tannery waste contains water-fouling salt, lime sludge, sulfides, acids, and other pollutants.”
Secondly, we have Vocativ who argues:
“From an environmental perspective, the main concern with polyurethane-based synthetic leather is that solvents are used. The production process involves painting polyurethane in liquid form onto a fabric backing. Making polyurethane into a liquid requires a solvent, and those can be highly toxic. Gwendolyn Hustvedt, an associate professor in Fashion Merchandising at Texas State University points out, “most cows don’t die to become a purse.” The bulk of hides used in leather production come from cattle that are raised for beef and milk, so not using their hides could be deemed wasteful. This by no means alleviates concern over animal cruelty or other environmental concerns like deforestation, it’s just that, for those who do eat meat, this gives leather, environmentally speaking, an advantage.”
Christian, Fox & Kelly, 2016
I must point out though, that leather is not biodegradable due to the tanning process. However, leather does look and feel better with age in comparison to faux leather. Faux leather on the other hand is cheaper to manufacture and as a result costs less.
So which is more ethical and what is the better choice? Well that will depend on many factors of the consumer. Either alternative has it’s own pros and cons. Both cause damage to the environment. Whilst one choice does not support the exploitation of animals, is cheaper to manufacture, the other is argued that cows do not die just to be made as purses or shoes. Plus, leather lasts longer and looks better with age.
What are YOUR thought on this topic?