The Leather Industry
Most of the world’s leather comes from India, where animal-protection laws are blatantly ignored. Cows like these are forced to march for days to their own slaughter, and they do so without food, water, or medical attention.
In India, it’s illegal to slaughter calves or milk-producing cows—but this, like so many other laws, is often disregarded.
Part of the death march often involves forcing cows onto severely crowded trucks before driving long distances without giving them food or water. Some die on the journey, collapsing on top of live cows and trapping them. The conditions are so cramped that the animals often can’t avoid stabbing one another with their long horns.
This torturous journey leaves many cows too exhausted, weak, or injured to stand. In order to get the cows moving, their handlers often break their tails and rub hot chili powder into their eyes. In the image above, a man breaks a suffering cow’s tail.
At the end of their journey, cows are slaughtered and skinned. They’re supposed to be killed in the traditional halal fashion, with a quick cut across the neck. However, dull blades often lead to hacking and prolonged suffering. Many cows are still ALIVE as they’re being skinned. And they’re killed in full view of one another.
Like human skin, cow skin naturally rots. Toxic chemicals are used to prevent this from happening, and those chemicals end up in nearby soil and water supplies, endangering the lives of people who work at the tanneries and others who live in the area.
The Fur Industry
Eighty-five percent of the fur industry’s skins come from animals who are being held captive on fur farms. The animals, who are housed in unbearably small cages, live with constant fear, stress, disease, parasites, and other physical and psychological hardships.
Many animals become so stressed that they actually self-mutilate, like this poor fox in the image above.
There are no penalties for abusing animals on fur farms in China, which is the world’s largest fur exporter, supplying more than half of all finished fur garments that are imported for sale in the United States.
Before they’re skinned, the animals are yanked from their cages, thrown to the ground, and bludgeoned.
Many animals are still alive and struggling desperately when the workers flip them onto their backs or hang them up by their legs or tails to skin them.
When the fur is finally peeled off over the animals’ heads, their hairless, bloody bodies are thrown onto a pile of those who’ve gone before them. Some are still alive, breathing in ragged gasps and blinking slowly—and some of the animals’ hearts are still beating five to 10 minutes after they’re skinned.
The Down Industry
The down industry often plucks live geese in order to get their down—the soft layer of feathers closest to a bird’s skin. Employees on goose farms pin the birds down and roughly yank out handfuls of feathers while the geese scream in agony.
The process is terrifying and excruciatingly painful for the birds. The geese or ducks are often left with gaping wounds on their bodies and are paralyzed with fear.
When wounds occur as a result of hasty and careless plucking, workers often sew the geese’s skin back together using dull needles—without giving the birds any painkillers.
Buying down also supports the cruelty of the foie gras and meat industries. Many farmers who raise birds for food make an extra profit by selling their feathers as well. At the slaughterhouse, many of these birds are improperly stunned, which means that they’re still conscious when their throats are cut and they’re dumped into the scalding-hot water of the defeathering tank.
The Wool Industry
Twenty-five percent of the world’s wool comes from Australia. Here, the most commonly raised sheep are merinos, specifically bred to have wrinkled skin and, therefore, more wool. But it also means that many sheep die of heatstroke and are unable to relieve themselves properly. Many endure the agony of flystrike when flies lay eggs in the folds of their skin and the resulting maggots begin to eat them alive. Most Australian ranchers perform a barbaric procedure on them called “mulesing,” in which workers carve huge strips of skin and flesh off the backs of lambs’ legs and the areas around their tails. This is done to produce smooth, scarred skin that won’t harbor fly eggs, yet the bloody wounds often get flystrike before they can heal. Sheep suffer terribly during this ordeal.
It’s considered “normal” in the Australian wool industry for approximately 3 million young lambs to die every spring. Most of them die from exposure.
Shearers are usually paid by volume, not by the hour, which encourages fast work without any regard for the sheep’s welfare. An undercover PETA exposé into the Australian and U.S. wool industries revealed that workers violently punched sheep in the face, stomped and stood on the animals’ heads and necks, and beat and jabbed them in the face with electric clippers and a hammer.
Once sheep are no longer wanted, they’re sent to slaughter. Millions of live sheep are shipped from Australia to Africa and the Middle East every year. A 2005 report stated that about 38,000 sheep died just in transit. In most cases, their carcasses were thrown overboard. Despite the claims of the Australian government and the live-export industry, which both insist that these animals are treated humanely, investigators have found that sheep and cows are dragged off trucks by their ears and legs and left to die in barren feedlots. They were also bound and thrown into the trunks of cars and then slaughtered in prolonged and cruel ways that are illegal in the U.S., Europe, and Australia.
The snakes, alligators, crocodiles, and other reptiles who are killed for their skins suffer immensely.
Because of the mistaken belief that live flaying makes their skins more supple, snakes are commonly nailed to trees and their bodies are cut open from one end to the other as they’re skinned alive.
Their mutilated bodies are then discarded, but because these animals have such a slow metabolism, it can take hours for them to die.
Lizards are often decapitated, and some writhe in agony as the skin is ripped from their bodies. There are few laws that protect reptiles from abuse, and those that do exist are rarely enforced.