Greenpeace - The dialogue16 November 2009
While writing this month’s article I had a very interesting dialogue with one of Greenpeace’s public relations people. From this (edited) dialogue you can see that the perception of environmental organisations is set against the leather industry without actually knowing anything about our industry. That is not their fault. It’s our own fault because we have not been able to convey the real nature of our industry. Our professional organisations, which I have criticised on more than one occasion, are not properly representing us. We must get rid of the label that animals are killed for their hides, and that we pollute in the transformation process. Greenpeace added to this our responsibility as accessories to the destruction of the Amazon rainforest. How long will it take before people are objectively informed that we are a solution to an insurmountable problem, namely the transformation of a by-product that would be a health hazard worldwide if there were no hide and skin trade or leather industry.
24.06.2009 Greenpeace to Sam
Leather is not a by-product of the beef industry but rather a co-product. Co-product definition from FSC standards but applicable to leather: Material intentionally produced during the process of manufacture of another (principal) product, from the same source material, for the purpose of use as an input material for industrial processing, as a commodity in trade, or as an end-use product.
Both sectors profit from the cattle sector’s destruction of the Amazon and, therefore, both sectors are equally responsible for the sources of their products. In fact, cattle products are found in most of the items we use every day, from running shoes and designer handbags to packaged meals and cosmetics.
The profitability of the leather industry gives cattle ranchers’ economic incentive to increase their herds by expanding into the Amazon.
25.06.09 Sam to Greenpeace
Unfortunately we do not agree on leather being a by-product or a co-product. Hides and skins are a consequence of meat production. If we do not kill an animal for its meat, we will have no skin or hide. After obtaining a hide we have a choice: either neglect the hide which would be a serious health hazard or we process it and by doing so attribute a value to it rather than it becoming a burden. This year, due to no demand there is a huge glut of raw hides (we talk maybe a million pieces worldwide), particularly in Brazil (estimated surplus of 200,000-300,000 hides), where the price is down to about US$0.23 per kg, against an approximate US$1.30 12 months ago. In Europe many abattoirs today pay traders to get rid of the hides, whereas 12 months ago the trader paid the abattoir more than 1 euro per kg. Indeed the leather industry moves a huge value, employs directly and indirectly millions of people and helps the environment. But if there would be no leather industry what would you do with all those hides and skins that are being produced each and every day in every town and village worldwide???
I think that your statement that the profitability of the leather industry gives cattle ranchers an economic incentive to expand into the Amazon is not based on facts but on suppositions.
30.06.09 Greenpeace to Sam
As you are aware based on our feedback, Greenpeace continues to dispute that the leather industry does not have a responsibility to ensure that it does not source from companies that have been involved in Amazon deforestation and associated climate change. We also disagree about the seriousness of the threat of climate change, as I flagged in my last message.
Therefore, I would like to make clear that this Limeblast is not approved by Greenpeace.
Our report does not state that cattle are only killed for their hides; it is an expose of the ways in which the expansion of the cattle sector in the Amazon is the primary driver of deforestation in the region. Leather is not simply a ‘by-product’ of the meat industry, they are interdependent – after all you can’t have leather without the animals. Therefore the leather industry shares significant responsibility in ensuring it does not source hides or skins from companies that profit from Amazon deforestation. The leather industry may not source directly from the farmers, but it must use its influence to ensure the meat industry it buys from does not source from farms involved in deforestation. If it fails to do so, the leather industry may be complicit in the dirty supply chain of Amazon deforestation.
30.06.2009 Sam to Greenpeace
I do agree with you that on a voluntary basis the leather industry can and should collaborate to buy its raw materials from sources that are rainforest conscious and environmental friendly. You give the leather industry a responsibility that objectively it doesn’t have. It fits in your line of thinking, but that line of thinking may not be 100% correct.
Please forgive me, but I am not seeking Greenpeace’s approval for my article. I give my opinion by reporting on your facts and show your opinion. These opinions don’t necessarily need to coincide. Our big discussion point is whether hides are a co-product or a by-product. Greenpeace does not have the magic stick that wages indisputable total truth. You consult experts (I am considered one of them by the UN). These experts may disagree amongst themselves (depending on how they think and depending on their agenda), so I guess Greenpeace should be willing to listen to opinions that are not theirs and should be open to accept other people’s opinions if they are logical even if that is not exactly what Greenpeace wants to hear in their campaign for the Amazon.
Having said this I can assure you that meat was, is and will be produced each and every day. Hides and skins, the by-product, are NOT traded every day, otherwise we cannot explain the increasing demand for meat, the parallel increased production of hides, and the resulting glut of unsold hides all over the world. These hides must either be treated (tanned) or they will rot and become a health hazard. No definition of ‘co-product’ can match the situation of the hides.
Your saying ‘cattle are not only killed for their hides’ is light years away from ‘cattle are killed for the meat and in the process the hides become available for processing’. That, and only that is the truth. Nothing else will do! You can’t have meat without the animals and the consequence of the production of meat is the availability of hides. The meat doesn’t depend on the hides. The hides depend on the meat! You don’t like it, but that does not mean that it’s not the truth! If there are no hides and hence no leather, people dress in cloth, they will wear plastic shoes with rubber soles! Without meat they starve.
So what do you propose? The leather industry stop buying hides from the Brazilian meat industry? No problem! We can buy from Argentina, Venezuela, US, Africa, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Dominican Republic, Canada, etc, etc, etc, anywhere where meat is produced, and we do. So assume we leave all the Brazilian hides in Brazil. What do you obtain? A mountain of 150,000 hides each day that putrefies from here to
The Amazon matter is a moral issue. We can and should help in our own way, like you are helping in your way, but we are not the perpetrators in this matter. The leather industry is not responsible for deforestation!
Finally, it should not be down to me, but ICT, Ichslta, Unic, Cotance, Esalia, Aflai etc, etc, etc who should have this exchange of ideas with organisations such as Greenpeace BEFORE such reports are published.