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Clothes and accessories made out of animal skins? That is so "caveperson"!
Fashion is evolving, and today's animal- and eco-friendly fashionistas are trading in animal skins for natural fabrics and trendy synthetic "fauxs".
It's all about making a mark on the world by doing everything in our power not to leave a mark on the world and its animals!
That said, there is no kind way to rip the skin off an animal.
Whether you're talking about materials that come from chinchillas, sheep, silkworms or cows, it's impossible to manufacture fabrics using any animal-derived products without contributing to abuse in some way.
Every year in China, millions of chinchillas, rabbits and even dogs and cats are abused and cruelly slaughtered for their fur.
Many are skinned alive.
Sheep raised for wool in Australia undergo a gruesome procedure in which workers slice large chunks of flesh from the animals' backsides without using painkillers.
Sent to slaughter in the Middle East, the sheep are hauled to abattoirs, where their throats are cut while they are still conscious.
Silkworms are steamed or boiled alive in their cocoons. It takes approximately 1,500 worms to produce just 100 grams of silk.
Leather production is equally horrifying.
Over the years, we've conducted undercover investigations into the Indian leather industry and have exposed how cows, buffaloes and other animals killed for their skin are grotesquely abused in ways that violate Indian law and shock the conscience of all kind people.
Despite India's traditional reverence for the cow, today a thriving international trade in leather means that hundreds of thousands of India's cattle endure dehydration, beatings, broken bones and cruel slaughter.
Since slaughtering cows is illegal under most circumstances in all but two Indian states, cows are marched in the heat - without food and water - across state lines.
When animals falter or collapse, men smear chilli peppers and tobacco into their eyes and break segments of their tails to keep them moving.
Crammed into illegal, extremely crowded transport trucks, many of the animals, including mothers and calves, are trampled or gored during the long journey. Those who survive suffer a cruel death.
At the abattoir, cattle are tied up by all four feet and lined up on their sides.
Sick and wounded animals who are too weak to move lie in congealing pools of blood, left to die where they have fallen.
Workers, including children, cut the animals' throats - sawing back and forth with dull knives.
Completely conscious animals are left to slowly bleed to death.
A PETA investigator who went undercover at the Deonar abattoir in Mumbai stated, "These animals are forced to watch their companions be killed before they themselves have their souls cut out of their bodies".
Anyone who has ever seen the floor of one of these places, covered in the bodily fluids and waste of the innocent victims of human greed and consumption, would be ashamed to ever support such an industry.
Of course, not only is leather production cruel, it is also devastating to the environment.
Poet Rabindranath Tagore could have been talking about the leather industry when he wrote, "The greed of gain has no time or limit to its capaciousness. Its one object is to produce and consume. It has pity neither for beautiful nature nor for living beings. It is ruthlessly ready without a moment's hesitation to crush beauty and life".
As any true environmentalist will admit, it's hard to reduce your carbon footprint when you're wearing leather shoes on your feet.
Once they're removed from their original owners, animal skins are anything but green. You might even call them "anti-green"!
That's because they are loaded with caustic, toxic chemicals that stop the hide from decomposing in your closet.
Groundwater near leather tanneries has been found to contain high levels of lead, cyanide and even formaldehyde.
Considering that more than 500 tanneries in three districts of India were charged with polluting some 16,000 hectares of agricultural land, it is small wonder that one Indian government-sponsored study referred to the leather industry as "more harmful to the environment than the textile, medicine, fertilizer and paper industries".
Harmful to the environment, indeed; but these chemicals are also perilous to those who come in contact with them.
People who work in tanneries or live near them on riverbanks - cooking and washing in polluted water - are becoming sick and dying of illnesses caused by constant exposure to such toxins.
In the US, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention found that the incidence of leukaemia among American residents near one tannery was five times the average rate.
In India, the figures can only be many times higher.
Creating leather garments for the marketplace also gobbles up massive amounts of precious natural resources.
When all is said and done, producing a leather jacket requires 20 times the amount of energy needed to produce a coat made from natural fibre, synthetic material or a mix of both.
Lucky for us, the Earth and animals, it's easier than ever to create a look that kills without killing animals or hurting the environment.
From the mall to the marketplace, you can find a wide selection of affordable animal-friendly fashions made from cotton, linen, ramie, jute, canvas, rayon, polyester or pleather.
In fact, natural fibres and synthetic fabrics are so hot that most stores now carry an array of faux fashions, including bunches of better-than-wool acrylic and cotton sweaters, socks and suits; shimmery rayon scarves; and piles and piles of pleather shoes, jackets, belts, bags and pants.
With so many hip and humane options available today, there's no excuse for wearing any animal skins! So how about ridding your closet of that "caveperson" couture and giving fur, wool, silk and leather the boot?
About the author: Ambika Shukla is not an animal 'lover', she is simply a firm believer that animals too have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. She is currently Director Media & Communications, PETA India.
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