I'm absolutely fascinated by the public's disgusted reaction to Lady Gaga's meat dress. If she had come on stage clad in "leather" no one would have given it a second thought. Umm... what do we think leather is peeps? Hello, it's meat.
Skin is considered to be one of the most significant economic by-products of the meatpacking business. The leather industry tans the skins and hides of billions of animals each year. Most leather sold in the US is made from the skins of cattle and calves that have suffered in factory farms. High-priced calfskin is actually a by-product of the veal industry. How luxurious! But leather doesn't only come from cattle, it's also made out of horses, sheep, lambs, goats and pigs who are slaughtered for meat.
"Oh, I just LOVE your leather coat." "Thanks, it's horse!"
Other species hunted specifically for their skins include zebras, kangaroos, dolphins, seals, turtles and frogs. Isn't that the cutest thing EVER?!
Now, unlike Gaga's meat dress, animal skins turned to leather need to be treated so they don't rot off your body. The chemicals used to make sure maggots don't start eating away at your favorite handbag are some of the most noxious on the planet. They pollute soil and water, and have been linked to various human diseases, namely cancer.
Some of the other fabulous by-products of the leather industry include lead, cyanide, chromium, and formaldehyde. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that the incidences of leukemia among residents in an area surrounding one tannery in Kentucky was five times the national average. Arsenic, a common tannery chemical, has long been associated with lung cancer in workers that are exposed to it on a regular basis. For a look at the real tragedies this industry causes watch A Civil Action with John Travolta. Netflix it, stat.
So, while we all pretend to be shocked and appalled and scandalized by the antics of a pop star, perhaps we should simply take a look in our own meat racks, I mean, closets. Wearing leather is a choice and there are some fantastic alternatives. And no, I'm not just talking about pleather, which I realize has its own set of issues (though there are some new versions of PVC that are much less harmful to the environment, to people, and certainly to animals than leather). I'm talking about things like cotton, fleece, canvas, linen, rubber, and hemp -- hell, even rice paper is being made into fierce handbags by companies like Matt & Nat.
For more information on leather and animal skins click here.