Since pre-historic times animal skins have been used for protection against the elements and leather making is one of the oldest known industries. To be clear, livestock is not killed for leather, the hides and skins used to make it are a by-product of the food industry that would otherwise go to waste and end up as landfill. Modern leather manufacturing is regulated, audited and responsible, it supplies multiple sectors including fashion, footwear, gloves, furniture, automotive and mass transport where it is appreciated for its long-lasting and tactile beauty.
Below are some of the most frequently asked questions about leather. View our FAQs page to view all 10 questions.
Are animals killed for leather?
No, hides come from animals raised for food. This accounts for 99% of the world’s leather.
The main sources of animal hides are cattle – 69%; sheep – 13%; goats – 11%, and pigs – 6%. Their skins are a valuable global resource and, thanks to tanners’ and manufacturers’ skills and knowledge, they ensure this versatile material does not end up in landfill. Current estimates put this at a saving of 7.3 million tonnes for cattle hides alone and around 10 million tonnes in total per year. That is a lot of potential waste being transformed into a versatile, usable material.
Is leather sustainable?
Yes. It converts waste from the food industry that would be otherwise thrown away, to make products we use in everyday life.
- Leather keeps around 10 million tonnes out of landfill a year
- Leather is long-lasting
- Leather products are repairable
- Leather can be recycled
- At its end-of-life phase, leather degrades through chemical and biological means
- The leather industry creates employment and skills for millions worldwide, an important defining factor in sustainability and the circular economy.
What is Vegan leather?
Vegan leather (sic) does not exist. It is a marketing term and any material that is not of animal origin can be labelled as ‘vegan’.
It is important to realise that the ‘vegan’ tag does not necessarily mean ‘natural’, ‘green’ or ‘sustainable’, nor does it necessarily provide the same wear and durability qualities as real leather.
Benefits of Leather
Responsibly made and sourced leather is a truly sustainable material. As a natural by-product leather is very durable, long lasting and ages well. Leather needs very little in the way of life-time maintenance and still lasts for generations. Moreover, it can be repaired and repurposed. Even after the long life of a leather article leather can be recycled and at the end of life it will biodegrade. Leather therefore fits perfectly into the circular economy model.