There was outright condemnation of Jacques Chirac, the French President, for inviting, meeting and shaking hands with Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe. Where do we stop and say: ‘No more’. Presumably, France believed it was in the interests of the Zimbabwean people to engage in dialogue with Zimbabwe’s leader rather than to ignore him. It is a difficult call.

At Leather International we are forever balancing news of animal rights concerns with industry needs, through our general news pages. We believe that you need to know when the industry is under attack from animal rights campaigners – there is no point in an ostrich mentality, we all have to live in the real world.

WE know that leather is a byproduct industry of the meat trade but that doesn’t stop animal rights campaigners targeting leather. When you get high profile, yet misguided, ‘celebrities’, such as Stella McCartney, siding with the animal rights groups, then the public are bound to take notice. It is, unfortunately, the sort of society we live in – the view of many people is easily swayed by so-called celebrities rather than bothering to take the time to look at the facts for themselves.

It is, therefore, always a dilemma as to what a magazine such as Leather International should report on the subject of animal rights. And when should we stop reporting it? A piece on an animal rights group in the March issue of Leather caused consternation in some quarters. So, was it worth reporting?

Well, the industry needs to know when activists are undermining it, and how they are going about it. Was the report one-sided? Obviously it was, but does that mean we should have ignored it totally? If we did, would they go away? Plainly, no they wouldn’t. OK, on reflection, the piece should have been reported with an industry point-of-view to balance it, and better late than never that is what we have done on page 107.

Perhaps putting their web-site address in as well was rubbing it in a bit, but I’m sure that entering their name into ‘Google’ would lead you to the same information. We can’t deny that the likes of Peta and Viva! exist.

Indirectly the piece highlights the problem that the leather industry is facing – it is not just environmental concerns that tax the tanner; it is not just pressure for new leathers, with 10% extra demanded in physical properties from manufacturers, that tax the tanner; it is not just the need to improve rawstock quality that taxes the tanner, it is also the battle over public perception. If we do not engage with the public, and start to set the agenda on this issue we will bear the same tag as the fur industry.

With an air of ‘if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em’, apart from Naomi Campbell, who in face of much criticism said she was in favour of wearing fur, which other celebrities can the industry line up to support us. I can’t think of one.

Ultimately, the conversation should be centred not on whether a magazine should publish references to animal rights activities, but how we should get our message across to the public at large, and as to why the industry STILL doesn’t have a united voice when engaging with such campaigners.

Graham Lampard