Cow Leather

Cows account for 70% of the world’s leather production.

Once dairy cows are no longer profitable, they are then sold to be slaughtered and skinned. This practice includes slaughtering unborn calves, their mothers, and even cows that are not used in the supply chain for meat consumption or dairy production. Globally, the demand for leather products is projected to be a $128.61 billion industry by 2022, way higher than the 2018 figure of $95.4 billion. Further, the United States, by 2022, is projected to also capture just more than 10% of the industry or about $13.1 billion. As consumers, we have a significant stake in the health of the leather industry.

From footwear to automobile seats, leather products are intertwined with everyday life. As one may suspect, countries like China, Brazil, Italy, Russia and India are the leading exporters of leather products. In fact, the Ministry of Food Processing Industries and the Council for Leather Exports have found that leather exports in India are ten times greater than its meat exports. The implication is, essentially, cows, in India, are being killed purely for their skin. This is despite the large Hindu population and positive symbolism often association with cows. Clearly, the religious connotations are not superseding market forces.

When firms manufacture leather from cowhides, many deadly toxins are released. In the United States, most leather is produced by chrome-tanning. Chrome-tanning uses chemicals such as tar, formaldehyde, and dyes that produces a lethal byproduct — chromium. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the waste creates “dead zones”. Dead zones are run-off chemicals that result in the “overgrowth of plant life in water systems”. This overgrowth of plant life depletes oxygen levels and alters the ecosystem irreparably.

However, the damage doesn’t stop there. Often, workers in nearby tanneries are at risk for higher rates of cancer due to exposure of these chemicals. For example, in Kentucky, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that residents were five times more likely to develop leukemia than the average person in the United States, simply because they lived in the same vicinity. Similarly, in a medical report, several doctors stated that childhood leukemia could be a preventable disease if public health awareness about the dangers of certain chemicals was more well known.

Even if you consider alternatives — such as, vegan leather —it is still terrible. Although no cows are being slaughtered, it is produced synthetically with use of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and polyurethane. These plastics leach overtime, which are harmful to consumers and the environment. However, the advantage of vegan leather is the ability to source products in a less harmful manner.

To elaborate, better sources do exist to buy leather, whether it be from animal products or faux. In Fez, Morocco, tanning is produced less harmfully. The skin is soaked in a cow urine mixture and then pigeon poop mixture before being colored by natural vegetable dyes and dried in the sun. For vegans, Stella McCartney has pursued Eco Faux Leather targeted to make faux leather from biodegradable, non-toxic materials.

Simply put, we encourage consumers to understand and research products before they buy them. I know I will not be buying leather products anytime soon.

Water Footprint

What you eat, can save the environment.

Many vegan promoters on Youtube and elsewhere, advocate that our food choices could help save our environment. Although there is truth to their claim, the other side likes to argue how much water some fruits, vegetables, and nuts take in comparison to other meats and dairy.

Before switching out your beef for almonds blindly, take a minute to truly understand the eco-friendly nature of this transition. Beef requires 1,847 gal/lb. Almonds, on the other hand, take about 1,929 gal/lb. Additionally, chocolate takes a whopping 2,061 gal/lb.

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While many like to point to these facts to justify their meat and dairy consumption, no person honestly would have the same amount of almonds or chocolate as they would beef.

Waverly Harden, Chief Operating Officer of Counter Current

On average, a serving size of beef consists of 0.5 lbs (1,031 gallons of water) whereas a serving size of almonds is 14 grams (58 gallons of water) and chocolate is 25 grams (103 gallons of water). Based on serving size consumption, meat and dairy take about 10 fold the amount of water of fruits and vegetables.

Processed foods require even more water than their raw food counterparts. Meat consumption alone in the United States accounts for 30% of our entire nation’s water footprint. Granted beef is at the highest end of water consumption as are almonds and chocolate for vegan foods. But the proportions do not change much for lower water consuming meat and dairy to raw vegan foods. Thus, substituting to whole, plant-based foods really would help relieve the limited water supply. For those who have already made the switch, refining choices of nuts, oils, and other fruits and vegetables would help reduce our water footprint too.

What we eat has a big impact on our environment. Whether we look at water footprint or the production of greenhouse gases, we need to be conscientious consumers. If you are interested in your personal water footprint calculator, click here!