What’s wrong with leather?
Leather may be made from cows, pigs, goats, and sheep, or exotic animals like alligators, ostriches, and kangaroos. And according to PETA, China even exports skins from dogs and cats around the world. Since leather is normally not labeled, you never really know where (or whom) it came from.
Most of the millions of animals slaughtered for their skin endure the horrors of factory farming before being shipped to slaughter, where many may be skinned alive. When you buy leather you are supporting factory farms and slaughterhouses since skin is the most economically important byproduct of the meat industry.
Leather is also no friend of the environment since it shares all the environmental destruction of the meat industry, in addition to the toxins used in tanning.
Frequently Asked Questions
The animals are already dead – shouldn’t we use their skins?
The animals are dead only because there is a demand for their flesh and skin. If the demand decreases, fewer animals will be killed. You can “vote” for compassion every time you shop, simply by refusing to support industries that hurt animals and choosing humane alternatives instead.
Isn’t leather better for the environment than synthetics?
As a renewable resource, leather seems like it should be green, but unfortunately this is not the case. Leather products are loaded with chemicals to keep them from decomposing in the buyer’s closet, and leather production pollutes the environment and squanders precious resources.
Formaldehyde, coal-tar derivatives, and various oils, dyes, and finishes-some of them cyanide-based-are used to turn animal skins into finished leather goods. Most leather produced in North America is chrome-tanned. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, all wastes containing chromium are hazardous. Tannery effluent also contains large amounts of other pollutants, such as lime sludge, sulfides, and acids.
Huge amounts of fossil fuels are consumed in livestock production, much of it for fertilizers to grow feed crops. By contrast, synthetic wearables account for a much smaller fraction of petroleum use.
Don’t synthetic shoes make your feet sweat?
Some of the newest synthetics are actually superior to real skins. For example, Chlorenol (called Durabuck by Nike), which is used in athletic and hiking shoes, is an innovative new material that “breathes,” stretches around the foot with the same “give” as leather, and provides great support. You can also find nice shoes made from canvas or hemp.
What am I supposed to do with the leather I already have?
Once you learn about what happens to animals in the leather industry, you may decide to shed their skins for good. But not everyone can afford to throw out all their old clothes and buy an entirely new cruelty-free wardrobe all at once. Some people go leather-free overnight; others gradually replace leather goods with animal-friendly gear. Do what feels right to you.
PETA has compiled an impressive list of companies that sell only animal-friendly, non-leather products.
A Shopper’s Guide To Leather Alternatives
A complete listing of vegan mail order catalogues, shoe companies and other sources for finding non-leather products. This page lists several options available from some of the big companies such as Nike and Reebok. Last updated in 2002.
Companies that sell vegan shoes, boots and other alternatives
Payless Shoe Source
www.payless.com (website provides no information about alternatives)
“They sell non-leather shoes. Read beneath the tongue of the shoe to identify them (man-made from synthetic materials).” – Amrit, Jan 2006. They carry a wide selection of women’s, men’s, children’s, casual, and dress shoes.
See PETA’s long list of Companies That Sell Some Leather and Fur Alternatives.
Leather-free safety footware
It is not easy to find steel-toed construction footware. Some locations of Payless Shoes may carry safety shoes such as their Toronto store near Yonge and Finch. And in Canada, Mark’s Work Wearhouse carries non-leather safety shoes, although their website doesn’t mention them. Check out the Sprint with nylon mesh, and the Widowwith microfiber upper. Both are made by Terra and appear to be leather-free. VRG’s 2002 leather alternatives list has a work boots section that suggests four vegan mail order companies, and LaCrosse for rubber work boots.
Mail order online
matt and nat
Non-leather women’s purses, footwear, and wallets.
Vegan-owned business that sells an assortment of cruelty-free footwear, bags, t-shirts, wallets, books, and other accessories. MooShoes also has a retail store in New York City. They offer stylish and high-quality alternatives to leather.
Pangea has a large selection of food, clothing, shoes, and much more. It costs about $12 to ship shoes to Canada, versus $8 for the US. They also have a weekend store in Rockville, Maryland, just outside of Washington, D.C.
Also see VRG’s 2002 list of vegan mail order companies. Most are based in the US or Britain.
Finding leather alternatives in Toronto
The following represents what we discovered by calling shoe stores in the Toronto area. Each store was asked if they carry any non-leather shoes.
Note: ‘various locations’ is indicated when the store has more than two locations.
Makers of vegetarian shoes and other products
Fashionable non-leather belts, wrist bands, and hand bags available in several stores in and around Toronto. 100% Canadian made. PETA awarded Truth with a award in 2003 for the best leather-replacement clothing product in North America.
matt and nat
Non-leather women’s purses, footwear, and wallets. Order online or at several stores around Toronto (see their website for locations).
Stores that only carry non-leather alternatives
Toronto Hemp Company
637 Yonge St. (s. of Bloor) 416-920-1980 http://www.torontohemp.com
Women’s, men’s, casual. Adbuster’s running shoes, Ecolution hemp shoes.
Stores that carry non-leather alternatives
Note: To find stores that carry Matt & Nat, see listing above.
136 Cumberland St., 416-972-1855
Women’s, men’s, casual, dressyAldo Shoes
Various locations, 416-979-2477
Women’s, men’s, casual, dressyAli Baba Discount Shoes
200 Augusta Ave., 416-596-2247
Women’s, men’s, children’s, casual, dressyArka Shoes
2196 Bloor St. W., 416-763-1851
Women’s, men’s, casual,dressy
Budget Shoe Warehouse
D & M Clearance
242 Queen St. W., 416-581-1420
Women’s, men’s, casualLe Chateau
Various locations, 416-964-7755
Women’s, men’s, casual dressyPayless Shoe Source
Various locations, 416-362-6415
Women’s, men’s, children’s, casual, dressy.The Shoe Company
Various locations, 416-787-5136
Women’s, men’s, children’s, casual, dressy, sport
Shoon – Closed.
Wash Up & Brush
Also see our Vegetarian Marketplace page for online retailers of non-leather shoes, vegan items, kitchen equipment and other stuff