Leather and the meat industry, what is the connection?
99% of the leathers are made from livestock, (that is cattle, sheep, goats and pigs) and they are a by-product of the meat industry. Without exception, across the world farmers do not raise livestock for their hides and skins.
The Sustainability of Leather FAQ
Are animals killed for leather?
The answer is no. Animals are killed for the meat and that is where its value comes from.
The hides and skins that are used to make leather represent, on average less than 4% of the overall value. It does not therefore make sense to raise livestock for this low level of income – it is an urban myth that livestock is killed for leather and not for food.
Is leather a by-product?
Yes. Of the leather produced worldwide, 99% is from livestock, made from cattle, sheep, goat and pig hides and skins, which is a by-product of the meat industry. The balance comes exotics such as crocodile or snake.
Leather is currently the best way to up-cycle hides and skins from the meat industry; every year the leather industry converts around 7.3 million tons of hides that otherwise would go to landfill. Leather is so versatile that it is used in a range of products from soft gloves to comfortable footwear, and from long lasting furniture and automotive seating to contemporary clothing.
If we replace leather does that mean fewer cattle?
No. The number of cattle is determined by the demand for meat. If we stop making and using leather it will not reduce the number of cattle raised.
The report, ‘Quantifying the Relationship Between US Cattle Hide Prices/Value and US Cattle Production’ establishes that hides are a by-product of the dairy and meat industries, not a driver. It also shows that ending the use of leather would not stop cattle production”.
Are we eating less meat?
No. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (UN), average global per capita meat consumption grew from 36.4 kilos per year at the end of the twentieth century to 41.3 kilos in 2015. FAO projections suggest a level of 45.3 kilos in 2030.
Sources: http://www.nothing-to-hide.org/LeatherFacts/Meat_industry:_by-product_recycled http://www.fao.org/3/y4252e/y4252e05b.htm
What happens if we stop using leather?
If we stop making and using leather it will not stop the production of meat and dairy for the food industry. Today we have no other use for the hides and skins, if we do not turn them into leather they would be discarded, creating and huge problem of greenhouse emissions, estimated at 6.6 million tons per year*.
If we stop eating meat what happens to leather?
Leather is a by-product, without livestock raised for food, we would have no hides or skins to make it.
There is no indication however that we will stop raising livestock for food in the future because livestock is a great source of protein, and an important social and economic driver as well as a positive contributor to regenerative farming practice, which is considered part of the solution for climate change. Globally up to 1.3 billion* people are employed in different livestock product value chains