Below is Dr Senior’s response in full:
“With regard to your recent article, ‘The bizarre fabrics that fashion is betting on’, it was disappointing to see a number of inaccuracies with regards to leather. As noted, leather is a by-product of the meat industry. However, contrary to the assertion much of the hide is discarded, little is wasted. While only 20% of the hide may become leather, the remainder can be used for the production of collagen, gelatine, fertilisers, biofuels and other materials.
It is also worth noting that leather manufacture does not drive livestock rearing; cattle are reared for meat and milk, with the hide representing very little of the value of the animal. In fact, hide prices have been falling for the past two years and have reached the point where the lowest value hides are simply being disposed of.
With rising global meat consumption – consumption in China alone is expected to rise by more than 11.5% by the year 2024, with Russia and Argentina expected to see rises of around 4% – there will inevitably be more hides produced as by-products. If this renewable raw material is not converted to leather, it will probably just be disposed of. Leather is the solution to a problem, not the cause of one.
While there are exciting alternative materials available, such as the Mylo fabric, none are available in volume and as such, the only real alternative to leather would be unsustainable, fossil fuel-derived synthetics. Even apparently ‘green’ alternatives, such as Pinatex, rely on chemical binders and coatings for their manufacture.
Finally, the use of chemicals in the manufacture of leather is subject to the same regulations for production, use, disposal and consumer protection as those used in any other manufacturing process, including those used in the alternatives to leather. Done properly, the production of leather is a benign, environmentally sound process that recycles a waste product into a long-lasting, repairable, degradable, beautiful material.
I am very happy to discuss any aspects of leather manufacture with you, should you so wish”.