Animal welfare concerns raised in fashion industry

Bovine leather is the most common source of leather for the fashion industry in SA and the world, and is derived from cattle

Bovine leather is the most common source of leather for the fashion industry in SA and the world, and is derived from cattle

Published Apr 30, 2023


Durban - Animal-rights lobby groups have welcomed a report by Four Paws South Africa, an animal welfare organisation, that has researched the use of animals in the local and global fashion industry.

Four Paws SA recently released the first of a four-part series of reports.

The “Wear it kind: Leather Report” is based on the organisation aiming to work with the fashion industry to improve the standards of animal welfare, while also highlighting the alleged cruelty and lack of transparency around the use of leather, be it bovine or exotic leather, to consumers.

According to the report, SA is one of the leading producers of crocodile skins in the region, with SA, Zambia and Zimbabwe alone exporting over 250 000 skins each year.

Crocodile leather is used for bags, shoes, belts, and other accessories. The report suggests that SA also produces around 70% of the world’s ostrich meat, leather, and feathers and provides skins to top fashion brands.

This has resulted in animal welfare concerns being raised. Bertha Moteane, campaign officer of Four Paws SA, and author of the report, said that the fashion industry was known for poor transparency and regulation. Moteane said that crocodiles were probably slaughtered at two to three years of age and often by painful methods.

The organisation has put pressure on fashion brands for transparency in their supply channels and marketing, for more adherence to ethical animal welfare standards and for brands to meet best practice principles for animal welfare.

Animal rights lobby groups agreed that the report is necessary. Director of Ban Animal Trading (BAT), Smaragda Louw, said, “The clothing industry uses and abuses animals and their bodies for the sake of fashion. Wool, leather, fur, reptile skins, down, silk, etc, are used to make so-called ‘high end’ clothing, and because of the animal ‘ingredient’, people are fooled into believing that the clothing item is worth much more. However, they are paying for animal cruelty,” said Louw.

Toni Brockhoven, the Director of Beauty Without Cruelty, applauded the initiative taken by Four Paws SA and believed that it would improve the lives of animals.

“We encourage kinder options to lifestyle choices which cause misery, suffering and death. We promote to consumers the choices of man-made or plant-based fabrics and fibres, and with the advent of excellent newer options which includes recycled plastics for clothing and trendy jackets, there are now leather-style options using pineapple leaves, mushrooms, cork, cactus paddles, corn, banana and more, using the inedible parts of these plants,“ said Brockhoven.

Megan Carr, Head of Research at EMS Foundation, said the foundation and BAT have published four extensive investigative reports known as the Extinction Business series.

“These reports relate to the breeding, trade and export of animals from South Africa. During our research processes we have certainly become aware of how extensive the global wildlife breeding industry for trade and human consumption is. We are also painfully conscious that there is very limited animal welfare consideration and animals that are caught up in this trade suffer horribly.

The EMS Foundation believes that in 2023 we should have evolved sufficiently as humans, we have innumerable alternatives available to us, we certainly do not require real fur coats for warmth,” said Carr.

Bongani Lukhele, Director of Media Relations for The Department of Trade, Industry and Competition, said they were unaware of the report, however would look into it.