Limeblast – fish leather4 January 2015
Misinformation can be a bane on the leather industry. With spurious details of practices spread across the internet, Sam Setter puts fingers to the keyboard to call out the worst offenders.
In an issue of Leather International, a feature on one of its many insightful LinkedIn group discussions highlighted an article from www.care2.com, where attention was drawn to an article titled 'Something Fishy and Really Cruel about Luxury New leather Trend'.
Some comments have been posted on LinkedIn and other sites, but I want to dedicate a follow-up to this because the article is so aberrant and unproven that I could not stop myself from commenting to Care2: "I just read your article about fish leather, which included cows being skinned alive. I have a simple question: are you playing stupid or are you stupid? If you are playing stupid to catch the eye of ignorant readers to exploit their sensitivities, then your article is criminal. If you are stupid, please keep your mouth shut when you don't know what you are writing about. Your article is the biggest load of garbage I have ever seen. There is not one single truth [to this]."
The article was shared by only 117 people to Facebook, 50 on Twitter and 74 commented on the article - most of which expressed incredulity, though some readers reacted as if they believed what was written. Of course, I haven't received a reply.
One of the passages from the article is, I quote, "Apart from the price, fish leather has other perks: buyers don't have to literally buy the whole cow, so it's great for smaller accessories; the material is soft and 'elegant'; and it is also very flexible", which I believe is not necessary to comment on, but shows the depth of misinformation of the author.
The basic argument in the article is that cattle are being skinned alive and that fish also feel pain, suggesting that fish are being skinned alive as well. I don't know how this is done on a technical level, but there must surely be some secret procedure. What is worrying is that there are people that believe this misinformation and some clever entrepreneurs have set up a niche market for what they call 'vegan leather' to serve these poorly informed individuals.
In fact, there is a Vegan Guide to Leather Alternatives: 2014 Edition where you can find a list of companies that offer bags, shoes and other articles traditionally made of leather via online or in stores. On one of the websites I found, it stated that: "The vegan mail-order companies, on the other hand, take a particular interest in avoiding animal and Earth exploitation through the products they offer. Many of these companies employ Earth-friendly manufacturing and working conditions. We believe that it is important to support these companies."
I counted 65 links to stores; of course, almost all are in the US; a few are in the UK and Australia, where this kind of business, unfortunately, finds followers. I went to one store called Vegetarian Shoes, to see what it offers. My eye fell on a Timbercat boot, which was advertised as "moulded from Thermo-plastic rubber - repairable/resole-able at standard shoe repairers... tough, comfortable and versatile. [It is] made in the American six-eyelet, lace-up work-boot style on a practical last, with breathable and water-resistant 2mm-thick micro-fibre upper material. [It has] a padded collar, padded insoles, and quadruple stitching on the uppers and lined throughout; with a classic deep-lug-sole-pattern."
One pair of ladies' shoes on the site are described as "sweet, everyday women's brogue-pattern low-heel lace-up shoe. Made from a shiny version of our breathable Vegetarian Bucky material, which creases and ages well... [and has] flexible, smooth resin soles." But don't think that these shoes come cheap; they start at £55 and go up to £250.
These extremists call the material that they use for making shoe-ware 'vegan leather' and, therefore, play to the imagination of possible consumers by linking to the image of genuine leather, which implies that leather is something good, beautiful, luxurious and comfortable - it's a pity then that you need to buy a whole 500kg cow to make a pair of shoes. Yet, they hitchhike on the image of leather to sell their product.
If you analyse the materials that are used, you see vinyl, resins and textiles - each and every one coming from non-renewable resources like plants consumed for harvesting and oil. Rubber is the only renewable resource that I have found. How is it possible that the consumer can be duped to this extent? I hope that the Global Leather Coordinating Committee (GLCC) - which I criticised in 2013 but made peace with in Hong Kong 2014 - ICHSLTA and Leather Naturally, which all pursue the proper use of the word 'leather', will challenge the use of the word in connection with vegan materials.
Set the record straight
I have nothing against vegetarians and vegans, and feel that if they wish to live their way, they should, as long as they are happy. What I do object to is that they give, first of all, false information in order to exploit the sensitivities of poorly informed readers/consumers in order to collect monies to defend an indefensible cause for which they form non-profit organisations that provide for their income.
These organisations are then capable of exploiting so-called 'famous people' who are ignorant when it comes to leather, and let them pour their 'wisdom' on the rest of us.
One online site published the names of 365 'famous' vegans - a drop in the ocean when compared with meat-eaters. These groups also find a bunch of enthusiastic volunteers, who are often mislead and used as soldiers whereas the generals remain in their offices enjoying a nicely paid job shovelling in the money sent in by their followers. PETA collects $30 million and Greenpeace $330 million a year.
Care2 claims to have 27 million members, though it does not publish any financial reports. So, if we presume that each member donates $1, this organisation manages $27 million dollars a year, potentially. What would it do with the money? Who knows. It employs staff - directors to organise campaigns, generate funds and keep in contact with its regional volunteers. That's all internet based. The money is to generate causes that appeal to consumers with a sensitivity, who are invited to donate money that is used to maintain staff and jobs, which generate causes, which appeal to consumers - and so the cycle continues. In short, it is a business, and one that opposes the leather industry, and to do that, they use unfounded arguments and run around in circles.
Back to the farm
Fish leather is a natural product made from a waste product of the fishery industry. To my knowledge, fish die of asphyxiation after they are pulled out of the water, not because they are skinned alive. For the use of fish skin, there is competition between the leather industry and the pet-food industry. A vegan who abhors the use of fish leather may buy for their beloved pet some well-advertised canned pet food, which is either made from fallen cattle or from fish waste, unless the proprietor of the pet imposes on what was a natural predator (cat or dog) in nature a set of vegan rules - a sort of loving dictatorship. By ridiculing this particular behaviour, one sees the contradictions of these types of animalist causes. It is sad to note that many people believe the nonsense and don't go looking for the truth. These are the people that sign the most absurd petitions and get away with it.