The Council for Leather Exports (CLE) have warned that the agitation by the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) against the Indian leather industry would serve no purpose in furthering animal welfare reform but could have an adverse effect on the large workforce.

‘If PETA continues its attack on the industry, there is a real danger of hardening of stances (by industry) which could, in fact, be counter-productive at this stage, when some momentum in animal welfare reforms has been gained’, chairman of CLE, M Mohamed Hashim said.

Following CLE’s efforts at reforms, PETA announced an indefinite moratorium in July last year. Despite this PETA lobbying has affected leather exports.

‘Foreign buyers don’t want to deal with protesters outside stores. It’s easier for them to just stop buying from India. Several leading brands stopped purchasing from us after the last round of demonstrations in 2000’, says Hashim.

Once the moratorium was announced, buyers resumed purchases from India. But recently, PETA has threatened to renew their campaign and continues to exert undue pressure on almost all leading buyers in the US and UK.

These include Gap Inc, J Crew, Clarks, Florsheim, Nordstrom and Wolverine, Caterpillar and Harley Davidson, towards ending their contracts with Indian exporters due to the slow progress in the animal welfare reform process.

The CLE has studied the situation independently and admits there is widespread violation of prevailing animal welfare laws during transport,handling, number of animals loaded per vehicle and abattoir practices.

The leather industry is currently the eighth largest foreign exchange contributor to the national economy and provides employment to an estimated 2.5 million people, largely from the weaker sections of the society, a predominant percentage of whom are women.

Since May 2000, the CLE has been actively involved in drawing up and facilitating a programme for reform in the way animals are treated during transport and slaughter.

‘In fact, PETA has found a rare ally in us in our efforts to persuade the government into action and in our willingness to get involved in direct action to facilitate the reform process. Irrespective of PETA’s decision to agitate against us, CLE remains committed to humane treatment of animals’, Hashim said.

Source: Daily Business Standard, New Delhi