Should Leather Evolve?

In the United States, cattle farming presents a heady amalgamation of ecological concerns. Cattle have been farmed for generations and continue to be an important cultural staple in many societies across the world. Herd animals can be conducive to healthy living on a small scale, but larger industrial farms have put quite a strain on the modern world.


While cattle farming has become more ethical over the decades, it still raises many flags for animal lovers. A large problem is that cattle farms are overcrowded, and that cows often don’t experience the chance to flourish in the outdoors. Injections of hormones and antibiotic treatments have manipulated cattle on a biological level, and the waste they excrete generates a hazardous quantity of methane emissions.


While some people are hard-pressed to eat veal, they may still be seduced by a fine leather jacket or supple purse, yet the leather industry is far from being ethically pure. The creation of leather itself is a very toxic process, producing carcinogenic chromium which can leach into the water supply.


Many people think of leather as being a by-product of the meat industry, but the truth is that a great deal of leather, especially high end varieties, are shipped from overseas. The animals used are often not a product of American slaughterhouses, and can be subject to cruelty. Calves are often used to create the most luxurious forms of leather, and cattle shipped from India are forced to forgo their sacred status to be processed for consumers in the West.


However, there are some creative fashion designers who are eager to use materials that aren’t animal-based at all. Phil Ross is an artist who created a novel line of products designed to mimic the texture and appearance of leather. The substitute is actually made from mycelium, which is harvested from mushrooms.


This mushroom skin is a part of the Mycoworks line, and Ross hopes to perfect the material so that it reaches a durability consistent with tanned leather. By experimenting with products and inventive ways of envisioning fabric, fashion designers may pave the future for both high-end clothing and animal welfare.



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