I haven’t eaten red meat since 1980, but for a long time I’ve been guiding wearing leather boots, boots, and coats. I thought that, rather than being wasteful, I was using after-products of animal farming that were already produced for consumption. After reading the last file The New York Times exposé – produced in partnership with the Rainforest Investigation Network at the Pulitzer Center – I know my thinking was really wrong. I should have always opted for vegan leather.
The times The article follows a rancher who raised livestock on illegally deforested land in the Amazon. By selling them, he obscured the role of livestock in destroying the world’s largest rainforest, an act I was complicit in by purchasing leather products for the animals. To hide the true origins of his cattle, the farmer organized his sales by offering a middleman and creating a fake paper trail.
It was as if his animals had grown up on a legal farm. He said other livestock ranchers in the area are doing the same. “It makes no difference,” he explained, whether his farm was legal or not.
You might think that the rapidly expanding Brazilian slaughterhouse industry mostly sells beef. However, this is not the full picture. In fact, Brazil is a conduit for tons of leather annually destined for major corporations in the United States and elsewhere.
Such trade in leather illustrates how our Western consumer culture is innately linked to environmental degradation in developing nations. According to the World Bank, the Amazon is a region that hosts 40% of the world’s remaining rainforests, 25% of terrestrial biodiversity, and more fish species than any other river system.
The animal hides trade helps fund the destruction of the Amazon despite scientific consensus that protecting it will help slow global warming. With the speed of deforestation, it is estimated that 20% of the Amazon rainforest has disappeared in the past 50 years, leading to severe biodiversity loss and contributing to climate change. The disappearance of forests is destroying the ability of the Amazon to absorb carbon dioxide.
Ironically – or we hope – Brazil was one of more than 100 countries that pledged to end deforestation by 2030 at the recent UN climate summit in Glasgow.
Leather for luxury cars, sacrifice the rainforest
Part of the appetite for Amazon leather stems from the luxury car market. The interior of a car can require a dozen or more leathers. skins Millions of cattle Supplying a profitable international market for animal skins valued in Hundreds of billions of dollars annually.
The times It follows the complex global trade linking Amazon’s deforestation with the growing desire for luxury leather seats in pickup trucks, SUVs and other vehicles sold by some of the world’s largest automakers — such as General Motors, Ford and Volkswagen.
- GM issued a statement saying it expected suppliers to “comply with laws and regulations and act in a manner consistent with the automaker’s principles and values.”
- Ford has made it clear that it aspires to “only obtain raw materials that are produced responsibly.”
- Volkswagen insists that its suppliers are already committed to a high level of sustainability.
Vegan leather has become fashionable for car manufacturers (Whew)
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) reminds us that for years they have been putting vegan vehicles on the road, pushing and persuading car brands to embrace leather and wool-free seats and steering wheels. The nonprofit makes an argument that an environmentally conscious automaker should be consistent in its entirety by refusing to burn the Amazon rainforest as well as the wool industry, which poisons the water supply.
Once upon a time, the Tesla Model 3 included a leather-wrapped steering wheel by default. By 2017, all Tesla seats were available in synthetic materials. In 2019, the last animal product of the Model 3 was removed – a new steering wheel wrapped in faux leather was revealed. Although the vegan leather steering wheel does not have a heating element and presents a challenge with the long-term wear and tear of less favorable leather, customers have responded positively to environmental changes. Now all new Model 3 and Y vehicles are shipped with premium synthetic seats and a vegan leather steering wheel.
Tesla’s high-end vegan skin isn’t the only game in town. Other car manufacturers also boast of their interiors made of vegan leather:
- stronghold: The Ford Mustang Mach-E comes standard with an all-vegetarian interior, including a vegan steering wheel.
- Toyota: While Toyota offers leather seats and steering wheels on some models, it’s easy to find a vegan Toyota. Look for Softex, Toyota’s vegan leather alternative, on premium or upgraded Toyota models. Base model Toyotas generally come with fabric seats.
- Volvo: The company wants to make all cars leather-free by 2030. Although it intends to continue offering wool blends. Edmunds reports that the 2022 C40 Recharge and all future electric vehicles will be leather-free.
What is vegan leather, anyway, and why is it a favorite?
The main concern for most people when choosing between animal skins and vegetable skins is their impact on animals and the environment, especially in areas rich in biodiversity such as the Amazon rainforest. The term “vegan leather” describes the many physical alternatives to animal leather – the look, feel, and properties of vegan leather are like leather, without the animals having to sacrifice in the process of making it.
The general category of vegetable leather can be divided into two types, according to going:
Old fashioned faux vegan leather, also known as faux leather. Faux leather is made from petroleum-based materials and was one of the first attempts to create cheaper alternatives to animal hides. It was generally produced from polyvinyl chloride (PVC) or polyurethane (PU) and is sometimes referred to as leather (plastic leather). This type of vegan leather is harmful to the environment.
Newly developed natural vegan leather. Natural vegan leather is made from organic materials, such as fruit byproducts, mushrooms, aloe vera, algae (kelp), orange and apple peels, pineapple leaves (pinatex), cork, bark cloth, and even paper. When compared to faux leather, natural vegan leather is sustainable and of better quality.
There are several benefits that make vegan leather preferable to animal skin:
- Vegan leather is cruelty free and animal friendly. No animals are sacrificed in the process of making vegan leather.
- Most vegan leathers are sustainable and eco-friendly.
- Vegan leather can be made to order, which means there is no waste of material – all parts are cut and sized according to the needs of the designer.
- Manufacturing plant hides results in fewer carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas emissions than animal hides, and its production requires fewer toxic chemicals.
- Vegan leather is waterproof and easy to maintain.
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