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Cape Town, 7 February 2023 - The animal welfare organisation, FOUR PAWS in South Africa, has recently released a new report on the suffering of animals for the fashion industry. This is the edition that focusses on leather and is the first of a four-part series of reports on textiles that will be released throughout 2023.
Campaigns Officer of FOUR PAWS in South Africa, and author of the report, Bertha Moteane, says the organisation wants to work with the fashion industry to improve the standards of animal welfare in fashion, while also highlighting the cruelty and lack of transparency around the use of leather be it bovine or exotic leather in this instance, to consumers.
The report says South Africa is one of the leading producers of crocodile skins in the region, with South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe alone exporting over 250 000 skins each year. Crocodile leather is used for bags, shoes, belts, and other accessories. Moteane stressed this industry is known for poor transparency and regulation.
South Africa also produces around 70% of the world’s ostrich meat, leather, and feathers and provides skins to top fashion brands such as Prada and Louis Vuitton.
The production of these materials leads to animal welfare concerns. Moteane says crocodiles may be slaughtered at two to three years of age and often by painful methods.
“These animals are also often kept in crowded and confined conditions. Injuries sustained from fighting under these conditions can result in deformities.”
She points out that with the production of ostrich leather and feathers for fashion adornments and accessories, slaughtering often includes hanging of the birds upside down as well as electrocution.
She explains bovine leather is the most common source of leather for the industry in South Africa, and indeed the world, and is derived from cattle. Serious concerns arise with the production thereof, such as painful mutilations, dehorning and branding by hot iron.
In addition, Moteane says the adverse health impacts caused to workers in the fashion industry by exposure to toxic chemicals are well documented and include a high incidence of cancer, respiratory, skin, and eye problems.
Says Moteane: “It is also common to have bird flu outbreaks on ostrich farms affecting both the birds and the farm workers.”
FOUR PAWS makes an appeal to the public to put more pressure on brands for transparency in their supply channels and marketing, for more adherence to ethical animal welfare standards and to brands to meet best practice principles for animal welfare. A previous comprehensive report on fashion brand and animal welfare policies showed that only 25% of fashion brands have formal animal welfare policies in place to help safeguard animals from these risks.
She says consumers can help by joining the more than 232 000 concerned animal welfare supporters of the FOUR PAWS Wear it Kind pledge. They can also commit to purchasing leather alternatives.
“Through our Wear it Kind programme, FOUR PAWS is building a worldwide movement of people, designers, and brands who are demanding kindness to animals used in fashion. The tide is turning,” emphasises Moteane.
FOUR PAWS is the global animal welfare organisation for animals under direct human influence, which reveals suffering, rescues animals in need and protects them. Founded in 1988 in Vienna by Heli Dungler and friends, the organisation advocates for a world where humans treat animals with respect, empathy and understanding. The sustainable campaigns and projects of FOUR PAWS focus on companion animals including stray dogs and cats, farm animals and wild animals – such as bears, big cats and orangutans – kept in inappropriate conditions as well as in disaster and conflict zones. With offices in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Kosovo, the Netherlands, Switzerland, South Africa, Thailand, Ukraine, the UK, the USA and Vietnam as well as sanctuaries for rescued animals in eleven countries, FOUR PAWS provides rapid help and long-term solutions. www.four-paws.org.za