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Re:what do vegetarians think of recycled, regenerated leather recuped f

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  • Judith Gottesman
    Sorry. NO leather for me. And, heres a (LONG) great article on why synthetics are good form Herbivore Magazine: Footwear Smackdown: Leather vs. Synthetics By
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 8, 2008
      Sorry. NO leather for me.

      And, heres' a (LONG) great article on why synthetics are good form
      Herbivore Magazine:

      Footwear Smackdown: Leather vs. Synthetics
      By Lindsey Packer

      I went vegetarian when I was in college. I majored in
      fashion design, so I was learning about textiles
      (including animal skins and their alternatives) while
      I was in search of animal-free shoes that a) looked
      good and b) wouldn't fall apart.

      If you're reading this, you've probably conducted the
      same search at least once. Like me, you've probably
      heard every story in the book about vegan footwear.
      But, how to separate fact from fiction?

      I have put in well over 100 hours of my own research
      on the subject, poring over boring textiles textbooks,
      ruthlessly attacking samples of faux leather and
      (pregan) real leather with everything from boiling
      water to razor blades, and subjecting one pair of
      vegan Doc Martens to five solid years of rough wear.
      Like most people who grew up wearing animal skins, I
      wasn't sure it was even possible for the perfect faux
      leather (comfortable, durable, nice-looking, more
      Earth-friendly than animal skin) to exist. I must
      admit my findings surprised me at first.

      Round 1: Durability
      Leather and suede scratch and scuff with relative
      ease. They are also prone to splitting, cracking, and
      tearing (on a personal note, the leather interior in
      my old car was torn in about 10 places and badly
      cracked almost everywhere by the time it was traded
      in, despite preventive care.) Leather and suede can
      also be damaged by mildew.

      Good-quality faux leather does not share these
      problems (I have tested every variety I can find), and
      lasts as long as leather—sometimes longer. However,
      watch out for the cheap stuff; like pantyhose, most of
      it is meant to fall apart so you'll buy more in the
      long run.

      Synthetics 1, Leather 0.

      Round 2: "Breathability" and Waterproofing
      Many leather fanatics claim synthetics do not breathe
      or aren't waterproof. Not only are leather and suede
      not inherently water-resistant, they lose some to all
      of their "breathability" when waterproofed or given a
      patent finish.

      Some of the better faux leathers (i.e. the "Vegetan
      Microfiber" used by Vegetarian Shoes) are both
      waterproof and breathable. Bonus: unlike the cheap
      vinyls of yesteryear, they are flexible enough to let
      the wearer move comfortably.

      Synthetics 1, Leather 0.

      Round 3: Cleaning and Care
      Leather and suede generally require expensive cleaning
      performed by an expert dry cleaner. I have yet to find
      a faux leather that couldn't be cleaned with a damp
      rag; if absolutely filthy, maybe a little Simple Green
      or Dr. Bronner's. Some, like Lorica, can even be
      machine-washed. (Side note: my uncle accidentally ran
      his PVC wallet through a hot washing machine cycle.
      Unlike its leather predecessor, it's still in
      near-mint condition.)

      Keeping leather items soft and supple generally
      requires periodic treatments with oils, creams, and
      polishes as skin needs moisture. Not only are many of
      these products totally not vegan—mink oil, eeew!—this
      is an unnecessary step with faux leather (though
      Vegetarian Shoes does make nice vegan shoe polish if
      you like your boots to shine).

      Synthetics 1, Leather 0.

      Rounds 4-7: Environmental Effects and Consumption of
      We all know that raising a large farmed animal to
      slaughtering size uses a surprising amount of
      resources: animal feed, thousands of gallons of water,
      medications/hormones/other drugs, and all the
      petroleum used in getting the drugs and feed to the
      farm, getting the animals to the slaughterhouse, and
      then moving the skins to the tannery. If more of the
      human population switched to synthetic materials
      rather than further subsidizing the meat and dairy
      industries, do I really need to remind anyone that a
      cow's hide accounts for half of its post-mortem
      value?—fewer raw materials would be used in the long

      Synthetics 1, Leather 0.

      Leather requires more energy, more space, and a great
      deal more labor than synthetic fabrics. For example,
      the staking process: Staking machines stretch and flex
      tanned leather; put simply, "chewing" the skin to make
      it soft enough to wear. This is unnecessary with

      Even thick fake leather can be machine-sewn in most
      cases; many leather garments must be partially or
      entirely sewn by hand. I seem to recall a story about
      a mitered leather coat costing $9,000 because it
      required 120 hours of hand stitching. At the risk of
      stating the obvious it is more efficient to run a
      sewing machine and light a workroom for a few hours
      than to just light the workroom for 15 8-hour days).

      Synthetics 1, Leather 0.

      Leather must be treated with chemicals to keep it from
      rotting and, if desired, to give it certain finishes
      or colors. The skin goes through multiple cleanings,
      including removing the hair, which requires the use of
      alkaline chemicals or enzymes. Chrome tanning has been
      the norm for decades because it can be accomplished in
      mere hours (vegetable tanning takes several weeks;
      many tanneries won't do it). The preserving chemicals,
      often called "mordants," are better known for their
      association with the funeral industry. In fact, that
      "new leather" smell isn't a leather smell at all. If
      it were, living cows would smell like it. The
      distinctive odor is produced by the chemical reaction
      of the animal's skin with formaldehyde and chromium
      salts (which is why it tends to fade over time).
      Chlorine use in materials like PVC (polyvinyl
      chloride) can be reduced by adding more hydrogen to
      the compounds. Synthetic fiber manufacturing accounts
      for only 1% of petroleum used (and only half of that
      is the actual raw material); 95% of the world's
      petroleum is used for fuel (as previously noted, the
      leather industry directly and indirectly uses large
      quantities of petrochemicals). It's likely that more
      chemicals are used to make one pair of leather shoes
      than would be used in one pair of synthetic shoes.

      Synthetics 1, Leather 0.

      The aforementioned vegetable-tanned leather, out of
      favor for so long, has had a slight resurgence in
      popularity lately because of the belief that it is
      less harmful to the environment. However, those in
      attendance at the first-ever World Shoes Accessories
      ecoEthics Conference, held this February in Las Vegas,
      heard Bill Bartholomew, a representative for The
      Leather Group, admit that "eco-friendly" vegetable
      tanning is actually just as polluting as chrome tint!
      Case in point: long before chrome tint existed,
      tanners on Florence, Italy's Ponte Vecchio are said to
      have turned the Arno River into a stinky mess.

      Synthetics 1, "Vegetable Tanned" Leather 0.

      Round 8: Biodegradability
      Leather does not biodegrade due to the chemical
      preserving. Very old leather can crack, chip, and
      otherwise appear to start decomposing, but this is
      just damage, not actual rotting.

      Some faux leathers are at least partly biodegradable.
      The faux leather that Blackspot—Adbusters Media
      Foundation's indie shoe label—uses for its V1 sneaker
      and V2 boot is 70% biodegradable. Some faux leathers
      are cotton with a vinyl or polyurethane coating.
      Although not ideal, at least the cotton can still

      There reportedly is a 100% biodegradable vegan leather
      in existence, but vegan shoe manufacturers have not
      been quick to embrace this material because the only
      factory that currently makes it is located in Vietnam
      and factories in Southeast Asia are still notoriously
      hard to monitor for fair labor practices.

      Synthetics 1, Leather 0.

      Round 9: Effects upon Human Health There has been some
      debate about PVC and polyurethane manufacturing
      causing an increased risk of cancer. Even if this is
      so, tannery employees and men living near tanneries
      still have a higher risk of testicular cancer than men
      working or living elsewhere.

      Both leather and synthetics can cause allergic
      reactions in very sensitive people. Interestingly,
      some of said sufferers are allergic to both materials!

      While synthetics are not necessarily better in this
      area, they are certainly no worse.

      Synthetics 1, Leather 0.

      Round 10: What the Hell Is This Stuff, Anyway?
      As a vegan retailer, I hear this question almost every
      day. No, it's not plastic (if you have been referring
      to faux leather with the "p" word, PLEASE stop). Faux
      leather is commonly made of a carbon, hydrogen, and
      nitrogen compound. (The next time someone derisively
      refers to your shoes as "plastic", you can now scoff,
      sneer, and truthfully inform them that they're
      carbon-based … kind of like dumb humans. Ha!)

      By contrast, leather is made from pretty much any
      living being that ever had skin. I have seen shoes and
      purses made from alligators, kangaroos, snakes, pigs,
      emus, horses, fish skin, lamb fetuses … the list goes
      on. While most leather is cow or pig skin, leather
      suppliers in China have stooped to skinning stray dogs
      to meet quotas. As last winter's Sean John dog fur
      fiasco proved, labels can lie. Leather wearers like to
      think they know the species of the animal who died for
      their shoes, but unless they have had a DNA test
      performed on the skin, this is not necessarily the

      Synthetics 1, Leather 0.

      Bonus Round: Appearance
      Even with careful wear and lots of conditioning, most
      old leather does eventually start to show its age
      (experience taught me long ago that even buttery
      designer leather shoes can only take so much). Dark
      leather (a.k.a the ubiquitous black and brown) shows
      scuffing, scratching, and aging to a greater extent
      than light-colored leather.

      While cheap fake leather can start to look worn out
      pretty fast (though on occasion the cheap stuff just
      might shock you by lasting forever), decent fakes look
      pretty much the same for years (I have found this to
      be especially true with PVC). Good faux leather so
      successfully mimics animal skin that most people
      cannot distinguish it from "the real thing" without
      reading the label (in Italy's street markets, Lorica
      and other fakes are routinely passed off as leather),
      and now, in 2007, we can easily—gasp!—CHOOSE between
      textures and finishes. Antiqued, patent, pebble, fake
      snake, basic matte, faux pony, mock croc—it's all out
      there. Anyone doubting this is welcome to tour my
      closet—by appointment, of course.

      Synthetics 1, Leather 0.

      Final Score: Synthetics 11, Leather 0.

      I did not learn any of this from the animal rights
      movement. I learned it in fashion school—a strange
      world where silk scarf painting was a required
      assignment and my Tailoring instructor gave me the
      weirdest look for using linen instead of wool.

      Most of my information on the production and impact of
      faux leather came from one particular textbook, Fabric
      Reference. The book's author, Mary Humphries, included
      a somewhat dismissive remark about animal rights
      activists in the introduction to the extensive fur
      chapter (feel your skin crawl here), so I am quite
      convinced she was in no way biased in favor of living
      beings when she included the good points of synthetics.

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