Many people actually ignore the real meaning of vegan leather. Is it a material whose manufacturing “does not cause any damage to animals”? Maybe. For sure, it is not, in itself, a more sustainable or environmentally friendly material. Its definition is “a very smart marketing tool”, but it is not thorough anyway, pointed out Vivobarefoot. Rather interestingly, right this company, which is a British footwear brand, wants to address the issue. The Clarks family is currently in control over 80% of the company (they are not part of the homonymous footwear group though). They created the business while looking closely at sustainability: they have a vegan collection and, at the same time, they make use of leather. That is why they are somewhat neutral, or secular, observers of the topic we are discussing.
What is vegan leather really?
“The truth is that every synthetic product is classified as vegan friendly: they often believe it is like that actually – commented Vivobarefoot –. Yet, many times, vegan leather is just a euphemism for another term, that is, plastic”. Such is the gist of the message the British company is sending to their animal-rights customers, who much dislike animal mistreatment and would therefore blame the company for that: the remedy might turn out to be worse than the disease. “Like it or lump it, boycotting products that derive from slaughtering may cause a carnage of animals”.
The impact of petroleum
“Undoubtedly the oil extracting and refining industry is currently the largest single destroyer of animals and plant life on earth”, warned Vivobarefoot. Not to mention, in addition, that the plastic manufacturing process is not a zero impact one. On the one hand, a rapidly increasing number of alternative materials to leather, deriving from vegetable fibres, is interesting, as long as it is a “niche” event; yet, on the other hand, it may have consequences on “industrial agriculture production” if one thinks of a massive use of them.
Marketing and facts
Vivobarefoot admit that vegan leather is somehow a powerful marketing label. Yet, it cannot be enough to real vegans: “A synthetic jumper, with toxic dyestuff, which releases micro-plastics, manufactured in unhealthy factories by underpaid work staff, can be said vegan – wrapped up the company –. Another one, made of wool, naturally and hand tinted, made of materials in a short supply chain, cannot”. Which one has a bigger impact on the environment and, therefore, on animals? – wonder Vivobarefoot. Saying that you are vegan is not enough to compare yourself to the ones who solved the problem.