As long as men and women have inhabited the planet earth, men have gone hunting and fishing to bring home the food they needed to survive, proving that human beings have never been averse to the consumption of animal meat. Also, cavemen are generally depicted in cave drawings of the time as wearing some kind of skin.

In order to provide the meat that we buy at the local butchers or supermarket, we have a professional system that raises animals in farms. In order to keep the meat that is produced by the animals safe for human consumption, the animal is brought to a modern and well equipped processing plant where, thanks to modern technology, the animal is not stressed and does not suffer.

Animals do not suffer in the modern abattoirs of the Western world as great care has been taken to keep them totally unaware of what is happening. We raise animals, with very few exceptions, only for their meat and in the case of goat and cows also for their milk and sheep for their wool. None of these animals is raised or slaughtered for its hide or skin!

All that remains after an animal is slaughtered for its meat, such as skin, bone, intestine, hoofs, horns, is what we call a byproduct. The meat is and remains the main product.

Hides and skins, except in very few cases (bacon), are not eaten so we have to make a choice of whether to throw the skin away or to find a proper use for it.

The same choice, of throwing it away or making use of it, is made for the fat, the bones, the horns, the intestines etc. The caveman had the same choices, and he cleverly decided to use the bones for decoration, for tools, the horns as grips for his knives, the intestines as strings for his bows and the skins to use as a cover to keep him warm and protected. These byproducts only become available after the animal has been slaughtered for its meat.

The fat of animals is conserved for a large variety of uses in the pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries and bones are transformed into glue. Some other animal byproducts become gelatin used for cakes or on an industrial level to make candies. That is, of course, an excellent use for such products which, if thrown away, would smell terribly and become a health hazard for us all.

In today’s environmentally conscious society, we would be in great difficulty if we had to find a way to destroy these animal byproducts, especially the hides and skins. Luckily we have a better use for them.

The structure of an animal skin is similar to that of its meat. It consists mainly of proteins and water. You all know how bad it smells when meat is not fresh. Also a skin, if thrown away, will putrefy, smell appallingly and become a serious health hazard.

Because of its toughness a skin can be transformed with proper processing into the useful and beautiful natural product that we call ‘leather’. For the caveman this was a very basic process. For us today, it is very high-tech. Once a hide or skin is transformed by chemical processing, it becomes leather and has a myriad of uses. More leather is made out of fish skins such as eel, salmon and perch.

All these products would otherwise be thrown away, products that would pollute our environment. They were not doing any good to anybody while now they create labour, income and supply us with beautiful products.

Leather is in no way dangerous for the environment. On the contrary it helps to keep the environment clean. It is healthy for your feet. There is simply no contra indication, and there is no valid substitute. Leather is available in all the colours of the rainbow. Leather can take any shape we want, and it can be printed with any design.

Some people, mostly belonging to groups that follow their own political agenda and represent an absolute minority, argue that if you don’t buy leather animals will not be killed. This is nonsense because animals are not being killed for their skins but for their meat and, in any case, one day animals will die of old age or disease. That would create huge environmental problems, because what would we do with all those dead animals. Nobody is allowed to eat meat from animals that have died a natural death from age or illness because that would be dangerous.

Most of you will have seen the pictures of the animals that had to be put down in the foot and mouth disease crisis. That was really ugly. They could not be buried as there was not sufficient space and would have created a health hazard. There were huge funeral pyres in England because that seemed to be the only way to efficiently destroy the huge quantity of carcases. It caused an increase of dioxin in the atmosphere.

Environmentalists did not lodge one single protest. Actually comments have been heard that they were happy that these unfortunate sick animals were killed and burned, as that way there would be fewer animals to kill later for their skins. I hope that after the explanation about why animals are actually slaughtered, you are now able to detect the absurdity of this statement. Fortunately these environment extremists are a very small minority, screaming and shouting to force their ridiculous ideas on others.

Hundreds of thousands of people work directly or indirectly in the leather industry all over the world in a most honourable way, making a living for their families, keeping the environment clean and supplying us with beautiful products. They are not crooks or murderers!

I am not trying to convince you to eat meat or to wear leather, because that is your own choice. I am just trying to make you understand that we in the leather industry have a very clear and useful function in society, that you can buy leather which is a beautiful, fashionable, safe and long lasting product, and that by buying leather you are not making animals suffer.

We in the leather industry care for animals as much as you do, also because healthy animals produce good meat and good leather.

Sam Setter

The exhibition Vivre en Cuir is being organized by the CNC (Conseil National du Cuir and is being at the UCAD (Union Centrale des Arts Décoratifs), 111 rue de Rivoli. The aim of this exposition is to promote the French leather industry which embodies ‘an image of quality, prestige and creativity’