At the same time, reading one highly respected national newspaper you would come to believe that the number one environmental decision that society must make in 2019 is to stop eating meat. “The way we eat is killing us and our planet” is a typical headline in the past few weeks.  

It is a surprise to see this from the Guardian newspaper as it is usually one of the first to highlight when distorted information is being promoted as a result of the power of big money. Yet right now we are seeing a number of such bodies and individuals pushing the vegan agenda as hard as possible. We have mentioned the billionaire funding from Scandinavia that is behind the EAT-Lancet paper, and everyone knows of the millions of dollars PETA Spend annually. To this add the vegan and PETA supporter Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed with billions to invest supporting his convictions. They believe now is the perfect moment to push the vegan agenda hard, and that it might be a make or break moment.

Science over emotion

One of the few constant voices pushing back against these arguments from a scientific point of view is Frank M. Mitloehner, who is the Professor in the Department of Animal Science at the University of California. He describes his department as specialised in measurements and mitigation of greenhouse gases, volatile organic compounds, ammonia, hydrogen sulphide, and particulate matter and the study of their effects on human and animal health and welfare. In short, his lab investigates the nexus of agricultural productivity and environmental sustainability.

A recent comment he made looked at air traffic GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions. He noted that on the new non-stop long distance trip from Singapore to New York a round trip produces 13 tons of CO2e per passenger. Compare this to the TOTAL annual GHG emissions of a citizen in a developed country of ten tonnes.

He also quotes the data which demonstrated the CO2e details regarding the impact of different individual elements in individual lifestyles. It is based around the cost of a child, albeit I do not see that as more than a passing interest. Nevertheless, it is enlightening. Even if you choose to believe the food numbers, which you should not, they are a long way down the priority list.

In the vegan battle against meat and dairy products, those presenting the EAT-Lancet report flew to Davos to present their report to the rich and powerful delegates, 1,500 of whom apparently travelled there in private jets. They then flew on to a presentation in Australia followed by another flight and a repetition at the United Nations. This is big campaigning as well as big (and controversial given their passionate complaints against livestock) carbon footprints.

The leather industry is peripheral damage

The leather industry is peripheral damage in all this, caught in a barrage of unsubstantiated, and mostly incorrect, pseudo-science regarding its by-product status, leather processing, worker health and water consumption. It is vital that we fight back, as one side effect of the vegan promotion has been to give promotional space to all new leather alternatives.

And the promotion and use of alternates, nearly all environmentally damaging plastics, already means that our young people are using less leather and creating no demand for brands to stay with leather if other materials are cheaper or more convenient.

I attended a lecture on parchment and medieval manuscripts at the start of this week, and this was the first time I have ever heard someone explain that not only were the sheepskins used today by-products but that they are currently otherwise being thrown in landfill.

It is vital that we all ensure that the we get behind the global campaign being pushed by Leather Naturally. It is almost across the line. It is the only campaign that will cross the world, that addresses this influential group of young consumers whom we need to be both educated and vocal. Individual regional and sectoral campaigns can come later and feed into it, and from it, but it is vital for the health of leather that it soon gets started.

Has your tannery made its contribution?

Dr Mike Redwood

February 6, 2019.

Follow Dr Mike Redwood on twitter: @michaelredwood

Publication and Copyright of “Redwood Comment” remains with the publishers of International Leather Maker. The articles cannot be reproduced in any way without the express permission of the publisher.