Demand for Skins Drives a Deadly Industry
Every time you choose to buy a leather jacket or leather shoes, you sentence animals to a lifetime of suffering. Buying leather directly contributes to factory farms and slaughterhouses, since the skins of animals are the most economically important coproduct of the multibillion-dollar meat industry. The vast majority of animals slaughtered for their skin suffer all the horrors of factory farming-intense confinement, painful mutilations, deprivation, harmful hormone and antibiotic injections, and cruel treatment during transport and slaughter.
Leather from cows comes from animals raised for both beef and milk. Cattle raised for beef spend most of their lives on overcrowded feedlots. Studies have found that ranchers maximize profits by giving each steer less than 20 square feet of living space-the equivalent of putting 12 half-ton steers in a typical American bedroom! They are subjected to painful procedures like castration; branding, which causes third-degree burns; tail-docking; and dehorning - all without painkillers. Deprived of veterinary care, exposed to the elements with no shelter, these breathing, thinking, feeling beings, who feel pain just as we do, suffer immensely. Instead of treating them humanely, they are fed a steady diet of hormones to fatten them and antibiotics to keep them alive.
Cows raised for milk are typically confined to crowded concrete-floored milking pens, where they are milked by machines that often cut or shock them. Some farmers inject cows with synthetic growth hormones, which increase the likelihood of mastitis, a painful infection in the cows' udders. They are repeatedly impregnated, only to have every baby torn from their side shortly after birth. Both calf and mother cow, powerfully bonded by maternal love, are known to cry out desperately for days when separated. The cows' female offspring are forced to become future "milk machines," and their frightened male calves are trucked to veal farms where they are chained inside tiny, dark crates. Motherless and alone, they are unable to take even one step in any direction, turn around, or lie down comfortably. When they are slaughtered, they are often too sick or lame to walk.
After short dismal lives, cows are jam-packed into metal trucks where, confused and terrified, they suffer from injury, freezing cold and blistering heat, overcrowding, hunger, and thirst. In the winter, cows routinely arrive for slaughter frozen to the sides of transport trucks, frozen to truck bottoms in their own feces and urine, and injured or dead from the journey. Frequently collapsing during their hellish ride, many cows arrive at the slaughterhouse unable to walk off the backs of transport trucks and are instead dragged off with chains-bones breaking as they hit the ground.
Every year, 35.7 million cows are stunned, hung upside down, bled to death, and skinned in slaughterhouses. The federal Humane Slaughter Act stipulates that cows should be stunned by a mechanical blow to the head and rendered unconscious before they are strung up, but the high speed of assembly lines that often process up to 400 cows per hour results in the improper stunning, each year, of millions of cows, who are consequently skinned and dismembered while they are still kicking and crying out in terror.
Cows are not the only animals who are raised for their skins. Millions of other animals are also victims of the cruel trade.