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Analysis - Leather and Sustainability, No Contradiction – part 2
28 September 2020

How many times have I read the statement that a cow is slaughtered for the production of leather, asks Dr Dietrich Tegtmeyer, Advocate for Leather Sustainability.



Everyone in the leather industry feels that such statements are misrepresented and would love to pick up the phone directly to correct this view of things.

 There are clear facts and two simple reasons, why this statement is incorrect:

1. A tanner of course is interested in producing a most beautiful, high-quality/valuable leather. This is only possible from high quality raw materials. The structure of a skin from an animal that has been fed healthy and raised naturally is of much higher quality. The tanner can use it to produce a much higher quality leather as if he has access to only lower quality raw material. For this reason it is very important to every tanner that the animal food and animal welfare conditions are respected during the farming of an animal. Any kind of cruelty to animals, unacceptable transport conditions, etc. are abhorred by the leather industry: from an ethical standpoint, as well as even from an value aspect.

2. In its pilot project “Product Environmental Footprint Category Rules”, the EU worked out that the value of the hide represents only 0.42% of the value of a cow prior to its end of life. This means that the clear reason for raising cattle lies in the dairy and the meat industry. No cattle breeding is worthwhile for the economic value of the generated leather. For this reason, the skin is a clear by-product of the farming industry, and leather production is a sustainable up-cycling of a renewable raw material source, the collagen.

 Already today Animal Welfare conditions are even part of many laws and legal regulations. If they get not respected I consider this to be “crime”. Unfortunately, the leather industry has no power and input to inforce these legal requirements more and push for a change.

The tanner has to tan, what is available. If the leather industry is not going to use up the available hides, hides are considered to be waste and get dumped … up to 25% of hides in certain countries have been dumped in the last year, because the leather market is under pressure, and more and more synthetics are used instead of leather. This is a shame.

 Each final application, where leather can replace a synthetic material, is a more sustainable solution.