Where Did That Leather on My Back Come From?

Discussion in 'Outerwear' started by Coriu, Jul 31, 2021.

  1. Coriu

    Coriu Practically Family

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    I have a simple purpose for creating this thread….to get you to think... That’s all, nothing more. I’m specifically addressing new, horse leather garments, not ones that have already been created.

    I have worked in a slaughterhouse. I believe in eating meat and using hides to make clothing. Killing animals literally and figuratively fed my family. So, don’t mistake me for a PETA member with an agenda. Being around cattle and horses has given me great respect for them. That said, I support slaughtering them if done properly. As a lover of leather, I believe I do have a responsibility to understand how that piece of new flesh got around my shoulders. Unfortunately, it is not easy to find out.

    Over the past eight years, Canada has shipped 40,000 live horses to Japan. These animals are allowed, by law, to travel for up to 28 hours without food or water, and multiple animals are crammed into a crate that prevents them from being mobile. This is done to save money raising the horses in Japan. In Europe, Poland exports live horses that are exposed to similar conditions. In the US, “brokers” travel around picking up old horses, even pets, and take them to Mexico, where they are treated in ways many would find unacceptable.

    Is this ethical? That is for you to decide. I am not interested in debating that point and ask that we limit discussion to FACTS such as those presented in the last paragraph. For example, if you know of a company that is doing the right thing, that would be great to know and we should support them.

    I would ask you to consider one thing. If you have never spent time at a horse farm, please go, spend time with the horses, and talk to the owner about horse behavior. It will give you a different perspective, I assure you. Horses are very sensitive animals.

    Everyone in the supply chain has a responsibility to ensure that the jacket we are wearing came from an animal that was treated humanely. Just like that diamond on your finger. But how do leather companies ensure this? Or maybe they simply don’t want us to know.

    There is a smoking gun when it comes to the horse trade. I worked for one of the biggest meat producers in the world and know what goes on behind the scenes. How would you feel knowing that a horse was tortured to put that skin on your back? Do you know? Remember, my purpose here is not to put you on a guilt trip...just to think and consider.

    Until we get a better handle on things(I hope) from an ethical and sustainability perspective, I think it reasonable to at least consider purchasing existing jackets instead. I am NOT telling you not to purchase a new leather jacket. I am simply asking you to THINK about it within the context of this discussion.

    There are so many nice ones out there. Whether it is eating meat or wearing leather, one thing is clear. A message needs to be sent to manufacturers that they need to up their sustainability game so an end-user can know the animal that gave their life for us was treated with dignity.

    Why is this an important topic worthy of consideration? At the very least, it could impact the availability of leather jackets in the future. Rubbish? Many years ago I was a member of a global committee addressing sustainability in the mining industry. Issues we raised that were poo poo'd and labeled as "non issues" at the time by company CEO's are front and center today.

    If leather manufacturers choose to ignore, I believe they are in for a rude awakening in years to come. It is VERY important to Gen Z, and they are putting their money where there mouth is...and will continue to do so. In addition, tanneries are nasty places that potentially pollute and endanger the lives of the surrounding community. As people become more informed and less tolerant of environmental insults, I think these tanneries will be forced to change their ways or be shut down.
    https://www.worstpolluted.org/projects_reports/display/88

    A little story...I was auditing a manufacturing facility in Asia and noticed a fire on the property. I drove out to it and they were burning hazardous waste(next to a stockpile of gasoline!). A stream of the nastiest looking stuff was running off into a water supply. I immediately called our company's Counsel with the intent of shutting down the entire facility. I was told by the executive, "I know exactly what you are looking at, and it is not pretty, but that's just the way they do things there." .. in other words, look the other way.

    I'll close in saying that I don't get off on being Debbie Downer. If you don't want to think that hard, I understand. We are indirectly tied to a controversial industry that may have some serious challenges in the future and I think being an educated consumer is a responsible approach. If you don't mind, I am going to make myself a steak now.
     
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2021
  2. ton312

    ton312

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    Interesting topic. I have primarily ordered cowhide jackets when I’ve gone custom. The only exception being when a cowhide alternative to horse was not available (midnight blue CXL and my LW j-23 for example). I won’t pretend it was done from an ethical treatment of animals point of view.
    I tend to prefer cowhide in general. I also k ow that cows are treated brutally and often the conditions are deplorable. I do not know where modern horse hide is sourced or how the animals are treated. I’m sure we all hope that the animals are treated humanely and all usable materials are put to good use.

    My *understanding is that horses are not farmed or slaughtered for their hide. I have no proof to back that up or refute it. I would think an individual could approach a tannery and ask where and the hides are acquired, if such information will have any impact on a purchase decision.
     
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  3. Coriu

    Coriu Practically Family

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    Thanks for the response ton. Although horse meat is consumed around the world, horses are not normally raised as a protein livestock due to the economics of it. So, how horse meat ends up on the dinner table is an interesting process.

    Here's a dirty secret. There are people in the United States that are being paid by the US government(and taxpayers) to "adopt" wild horses. Due to a loophole, they are turning around and selling these horses to brokers who then take the animals across the border to Mexico where they are treated poorly and slaughtered for their meat. Nice gig, huh? Where the hides go from there is a mystery. One could debate that the companies purchasing those hides are contributing to the whole dirty business.

    These same brokers collect horses, many perfectly healthy, from people who surrender them, ie cannot afford to keep them. These horses could be pets. It's akin to someone going to the animal shelter, picking up dogs and cats, and selling them for their meat. These brokers justify their existence by rationalizing that "everyone knows what I am doing with their animals" wink wink nod nod

    It's one thing to know the leather jacket I am wearing was once part of a herd of beef cattle on a ranch in Nebraska. It's another to know that the jacket I am wearing was once Aunt Becky's pet horse. This is the part that bothers me personally...I don't know. Horse meat (and subsequently leather) is more difficult to trace.
     
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  4. JMax

    JMax I'll Lock Up

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    6,682
    Not to mention the degree to which organized crime, from low to high level, is part of pretty much every commercial operation in Mexico and other parts. From every factory imaginable, to car rentals, mines, tequila, phone cases, to a widget in an otherwise “secure” global supply chain, etc., and I’m sure horses and cattle. For many commercial operations, it’s just an added expense. One these folks find worth paying given the lax regulatory environment when compared to other places. Infinitely more dangerous but cheaper. Scary really. I have my lines but damn, there is no end once you start crawling into it.
     
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  5. TooManyHatsOnlyOneHead

    TooManyHatsOnlyOneHead One Too Many

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    1,609
    The root is that the world has become over populated because of the efficiencies of mass food production and advancements in technology and medical tech. You can't feed/clothe/sustain 7 billion people if we did it the old fashion way. We saw a brief glimmer of what the "natural" state of the world should be during those few months of the early covid lock down when factories shut down and most people really went minimalistic. Wild life reappeared, the waters cleared up, the skies turned blue, etc. It's crazy, if not just uplifting, that some 100 years of a more modern world could be turned back in the matter of weeks.

    Most people would love to eat organic, make sure animals are humanely treated and slaughtered, etc. etc. etc. But to be blunt, most people can't afford that. What's the price of heritage pork vs. what I buy at costco? What's the price of an organic peach at Whole Foods vs one at the neighborhood market?

    On the other hand, I do agree that there is a lot of senseless and straight up cruel activity mostly for the sake of profit. More should be done to combat this, but it really boils down to supply and demand. If people keep buying those 12 pack tshirts made by Uyghur slaves because they're cheap, guess what, they're going to keep getting abused. On the other hand, there's some people out there that can only afford to buy those cheap shirts. But I have been trying to examine lately what I truly need. And so maybe instead of buying that 12 pack that is going to break down after a couple years, maybe I spend a few extra bucks and buy 4 tshirts of higher quality and fairer trade standards that'll last longer. Convincing the majority of the other 7 billion people though will be a deeper challenge. But you're right, new generation seems to be latching on, so maybe in 50 years we'll see a big enough shift to have some long term effects.

    To be more direct to the question of leather jackets. I agree with you and have mostly gone to buying used jackets now. I ain't going to lie, a big chunk of that is because of the price drop off. But I'm realizing more and more, the jackets are meant to be worn. So I need to get down to a number where they're getting worn enough. What that number is will vary person to person. Someone women will buy a pair of shoes to wear once with a certain outfit at a certain event. So it's definitely relative. But at least I'm thinking about it and have stopped blindly buying stuff just because. Baby steps I guess.
     
  6. Coriu

    Coriu Practically Family

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    Funny but true story. A friend is retired federal agent. He told me about a car they took to a garage in Mexico to be worked on. When they came back to check on the car, it was out front of the business for sale...with Diplomat plates still on it!
     
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  7. Bfd70

    Bfd70 Call Me a Cab

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    I think @TooManyHatsOnlyOneHead brings up a valid point. I think its reasonable to first be concerned about the conditions producers of fast fashion endure.
     
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  8. Peacoat

    Peacoat Bartender Bartender

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    My wife and I have had horses for close to 35 years. Some are more pet like than others. Most only tolerate us because they have learned it is their lot in life to do our bidding. We have one of the grandsons of Secretariat, who is my favorite of all the horses we have had over the years. He is most personable. Not dog like, but friendly and accommodating.

    Because of my relationship with our horses, I wouldn't have bought or worn a horsehide jacket until I realized that the hide is a by product and would go to waste if not used in jackets and other applications. No horse or cow is slaughtered for its hide.

    If no one on this board, or even worldwide ever bought another leather jacket, it would make no difference in the number of horses and cattle sent to the slaughter house. They are slaughtered for their meat, and the hide is an after thought. Once I grasped this concept, I had no problem buying and wearing horse hide jackets.
     
  9. Coriu

    Coriu Practically Family

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    I understand your point. The bigger issue is the horse meat trade. Hides are a substantial source of income, ie 2019 US hide exports were over $1billion. With historical lows in hide pricing, meat companies are facing a unique dilemma...what to do with the hides. The cost and environmental headaches of landfilling them will definitely cramp their style financially, not to mention get them bad publicity from environmental watchdogs.

    They want people using leather. In that sense, end-users today seem have some leverage to say, "We'll use it, but you need to be producing it ethically and sustainably." How much leverage? Don't know. One thing is certain...anyone who purchases new horse leather is ultimately financially supporting an industry that does some questionable stuff, no matter how far down the chain you are.

    Is it gonna make a difference if I as an individual take a position and let that impact my purchasing habits? That's a philosophical question for each of us to decide. One thing does seem certain. If nobody takes a stance, whether that be meat consumers or leather consumers, there is little motivation for the bad actors to change their ways concerning the treatment of the animals and the environment.
     
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  10. Peacoat

    Peacoat Bartender Bartender

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    I think the leather consumers are so small, relative to the meat consumers, it's only a drop in the bucket, and any impact they would have is negligible. But I don't have to worry about it from the perspective of a leather consumer as my wife has said, no more leather jackets and no more peacoats. She is right as I have no more room for them. I have topped out with 15 leather jackets and 15 peacoats. Add to that mix I have another 30 or so textile jackets and coats. I don't like to get cold in the winter.
     
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  11. All I can say ( in this existing world order of every day greed ), profit, and production is: 'Oh hum'. It would take a multitude of the sensitive to change much of anything. So I enjoy wearing my Thedis and Vansons and don't care to investigate just how they do it.
     
  12. Coriu

    Coriu Practically Family

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    There's another aspect to all this. Purchasing used leather jackets is a great way to model for our youth the importance of "recycling." I'm realistic. Buying certain used things is not practical. Lots of folks, myself included, don't want to buy a used appliance, especially with the garbage out there today. And buying a used diamond ring for your fiancee is probably not a smart move.

    Leather jackets provide us a great opportunity to demonstrate to kids that buying new is not always necessary and if you take care of it it can last a long time. There are a limited amount of things one can buy used and make an argument that it is better used than new. Leather jackets are one of them. And hey, nothing wrong with buying a new jacket once in a while.
     
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2021
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  13. Fine if you can wear 'off the rack' jackets. Vintage jackets are too short for me and many others. I'm tall with long arms and go custom to get the fit I prefer. I buy new...and have absolutely no guilt about it.
     
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  14. Dionysus

    Dionysus New in Town

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    Vegan, vax, and now don't buy new jacket? give me a break.....
     
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  15. Peacoat

    Peacoat Bartender Bartender

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    Let's keep this thread from getting ugly. I want to keep it open as long as we have positive discussion. The last post wasn't positive.
     
  16. Manolito

    Manolito New in Town

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    6
    I must say that i have only bought one new jacket in horse leather, from Aero Leather. I am not super confortable with this leather, as it has been reported many times that this sourcing is not very clear. I've bought a few second handed jackets, and i don't mind because, if you are not too cheap, you can find excellent bargain for quasi new good quality jacket for between 200 € to 500 € on ebay or vinted in France... Which is like a 80-50% rebate. But to buy well second handed, it takes time, patience and exeprience, and i undersand that not everybody is willing to go this way...
     
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  17. jonbuilder

    jonbuilder My Mail is Forwarded Here

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    My understanding it is a crime to resell one of these adopted horses. The US government is aware of the problem and supposedly starting to do something about it
     
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  18. red devil

    red devil My Mail is Forwarded Here

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    Just choose your battles and stick to the ones you get the most rewarding feeling for the effort spent.

    And keep in mind that the effort spent looking for vintage jackets could be used in other activites such as volunteering for a good cause, etc.

    It all depends on what motivates you.
     
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  19. Coriu

    Coriu Practically Family

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    Here is a recent article concerning the topic.
    https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/15/us/wild-horses-adoptions-slaughter.html

    From a legal standpoint, as well as having limited resources to address, it's questionable how much impact they can have. We are talking big bucks here. As an example...a family of five each adopted four Bureau of Land Management horses (the per-person limit). They listed the same address on their applications. They “flipped” them to slaughter auctions 60-90 days after receiving title to the animals. This netted profits of $20,000 in AIP payments($1000 per horse) and approximately $10,000 at auction for a total of $30,000 in profits for the five-person family. And they can do this every year.
     
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  20. Coriu

    Coriu Practically Family

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    Great advice. At my age, I have no desire to march around in public protesting or anything that requires that much effort. But I have found a way I can "make a difference." As a school teacher, my students get exposed to my leather jackets. I am able to educate them about leather and show them that some really cool jackets can be found at Goodwill and on the internet.

    I don't tell them leather is good or bad. I simply tell them where it comes from and how it is made. With that knowledge, they can draw their own conclusions. American schools do a poor job of educating kids about the most basic stuff. One teenager thought rice was made by a machine and not a natural product. LOL
     
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