"I admit to having worn suede and
leather myself for a while, but you just never felt clean, and it’s
degenerate anyway to use animal skins."
the bling bling world of the National Basketball Association (NBA),
leather is on its way out. Not the shoes, boots, sneakers, pants, or
ubiquitous motorcycle jacket ... I'm talking about the ball itself.
"Spalding urged the NBA to switch to a
composite model because it was having trouble securing 'consistent'
leather to keep manufacturing the ball that has been used for
decades," writes Marc Stein of ESPN.com. New Jersey Net Jason Kidd is
skeptical. "They probably couldn't sell (the leather ball)," he said.
"It was an indoor model. A lot of kids play outside, so maybe that was
the reason." Whatever the reason for the switch, here's a little
something the $1.5-billion-and-100-million-animal-skins-per-year U.S.
leather industry would probably prefer you didn't know.
"Leather is not simply a slaughterhouse byproduct," writes animal
issues columnist Carla Bennett. "It's a booming industry and an
important part of the slaughter trade, since skin accounts for
approximately 50 percent of the total byproduct value of cattle."
Leather is also made from slaughtered horses, sheep, lambs, goats, and
pigs. "When dairy cows' production declines, for example, their skin
is made into leather; the hides of their offspring, 'veal' calves, are
made into high-priced calfskin," adds Bennett. "Thus, the economic
success of the slaughterhouse (and the factory farm) is directly
linked to the sale of leather goods."
Another tactic for procuring animal skins is hunting. Species such as
zebras, bison, water buffaloes, boars, deer, kangaroos, elephants,
eels, sharks, dolphins, seals, walruses, frogs, crocodiles, lizards,
and snakes are murdered solely for their hides. These animals are
often endangered or illegally poached -- and death is rarely swift or
painless. Alligators are clubbed with axes and hammers and may suffer
for hours. Reptiles are skinned alive to achieve suppleness in the
leather and may take days to die. Kid goats are boiled alive.
A clever diversionary tactic of leather makers is to label their
products "biodegradable" while pointing out that synthetic versions
are usually petroleum-based. However, says Sally Clinton in
Vegetarian Journal, the tanning process acts to "stabilize the
collagen or protein fibers so that they are no longer biodegradable."
In turn, the Kirk-Othmer Encyclopedia of Chemical Technology
explains, "On the basis of quantity of energy consumed per unit of
product produced, the leather-manufacturing industry would be
categorized with the aluminum, paper, steel, cement, and
petroleum-manufacturing industries as a gross consumer of energy." The
primary reason for this is that over 95 percent of U.S. leather is
chrome tanned. "All wastes containing chromium are considered
hazardous by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)," writes
The PETA website details "the threat to human health from the highly
elevated levels of lead, cyanide, and formaldehyde in the ground water
near tanneries. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found
that the incidence of leukemia among residents in an area surrounding
one tannery in Kentucky was five times the national average. People
who work in tanneries are dying of cancer caused by exposure to
dimethylformamide and other toxic chemicals used to process and dye
the leather. The coal tar derivatives used are extremely potent
cancer-causing agents. According to a study released by the New York
State Department of Health, more than half of all testicular cancer
victims work in tanneries."
Whether the NBA realizes it or not, its decision was a slam dunk.