Leather, hide and skin are used for apparel, garments, jackets, belts, gloves, footwear, handbags, wallets, purses, watch and other straps, mobile phone and spectacle covers, linings, trimmings, accessories, upholstery, tapestry, wall-hangings, picture frames, luggage (trunks, suitcases, vanity cases, executive-cases, briefcases, school satchels, travelling bags) book-binding, book and diary covers, credit card holders, sports, musical instruments, decorations, artefacts, curios, knickknacks, toys, puppets, ornamental, fancy and utility items.


No wonder then that in April 2013 the Council for Leather Exports shockingly planned to get into organised cattle farming to bridge the shortage of raw leather, the demand for which had resulted in imports doubling in the five years to Rs 2153.3 crore in 2010-11. They blamed it on illegal movement of live cattle and unfinished leather from India to Bangladesh. (Some estimates have put the annual turnover from leather and meat of cattle smuggled at over Rs 25 billion.) The CLE strategy was to get meat and dairy producers on board and then get the support from the Ministry of Agriculture so that they get good quality leather – in other words, cattle will be bred only to be killed basically for their skin when young and healthy. BWC wrote to the Minister of Commerce appealing that the scheme be abandoned. Two months later a non-committal and unsatisfactory reply was received from the Department of Industrial Policy & Promotion (Leather Section). Therefore, BWC again wrote to the Minister and asked if the organized cattle farming concept was to merely encourage implementation of better animal welfare measures and not for killing of animals for leather, why was it taken up by the Council of Leather Exports? The CLE needed to totally and immediately abandon the concept of undertaking organised cattle farming and we requested assurance to this effect.

It is shameful that the Government of India had no intention of curbing leather production even when the export market became sluggish in July 2013 because the CLE declared that India’s leather exports were expected to touch the US $14 billion by 2017. They added that jobs in the sector would double to 5 million, and that 70% of those currently employed were women. BWC would like to ask, are there no better occupations than supporting butchery? What has happened to our Indian religious cultures based on ahinsa/no killing? Is there no respectable occupation our countrymen and women can take up?

The Variety

The majority of leather is from slaughtered cows and bulls although 20% of the world’s goat skin is from India.


Some other creatures killed for their skins (and flesh) are buffaloes, camels, pigs, horses – even reptiles, dogs and fish.


In most cases, the name of the animal precedes the words leather, skin or hide, thus indicating the creature that was killed to obtain it. And, while most people would know for example that bovine leather is derived from the cow, bull, bullock, ox, steer or heifer, and that reptile skin is from snakes, lizards, crocodiles, and alligators, there are certain names of leathers that do not name the species of animals that not long along lived in those skin. Some such leathers together with a few non-animal alternatives are tabled below:

 What it is
 Leather treated with dye to produce a "naked" leather look.
 Thick layer of polyurethane applied to a substrate of low-grade or  bonded/reconstituted leather.
 Birkibuc / Birko-Flor
 Made from acrylic and polyamide felt fibres to replicate Nubuck and Patent  leathers.
 Ninety-100 percent leather scrap fibres bonded together with latex binders to  create a "true" leather look.
 Hair-sheep skins much used in footwear and gloves for sports like golf.
 Inferior quality crocodile skin.
 California Banknotes
 Special type of side leather.
 Chamois / Flesher
 Skin of a small mountain antelope or young sheep/goat/kid/pig/puppy used  for making expensive gloves and for cleaning fine surfaces.
 Chrome is a process relating to the use of chromium salts used for tanning  leather like Nappa known for their softness. Used in luxury
 Hides of young bulls.
 Reddish brown coloured leather.
 Chrysler's brand name for the leather used in their cars.
 Calf leather made to look like crocodile skin.
 Croupon / Crupp
 A semicircular portion of leather taken from the butt of tanned horse hide.
 Tanned and dried out, but not finished leather.
 Cuir Bouilli (boiled  leather)
 Thick, hard leather produced by boiling it; used to bind books.
 High-quality leather tanned in Italy. Used for items ranging from shoes to  luxury cars.
 Jewel Calf
 Calfskin derived by killing a calf that is few days to few weeks old.
 Skin of a young bull or heifer.
 Created from the fibrous part of the hide left once the top-grain of the raw  hide has been separated from the hide which is then used to create Suede,  and if desired it can be further processed to give afull grain appearance the  trade name of which is Latigo.
 Sheep skin dyed red and has a bird's eye pattern grain.
 Soft, chrome tanned and used for high quality goods.
 Cattle hide with velvet-like surface.
 Man-made material, a substitute to Suede.
 Made from sheep/goat/calf skin.
 Very shinny/glossy, smooth and some times coated with plastic.
 Leather of wild boar.
 Man-made material consisting of plastic and leather, as the name suggests.
 Leather from cows that were grazed in once-dense South American jungles.
 Raw Hide
 Obtained by scraping the skin thin, soaking in lime and stretching while it  dries.
 Ninety-100% leather scrap fibres bonded together with latex binders to  create  a "true" leather look.
 Brand name for artificial leather cloth. Made from a mixture of cellulose  nitrate, camphor oil, pigment and alcohol, embossed to look like leather.
 Safari Croc Calf
 Calf skin embossed to look like crocodile skin (or other reptile skins).
 Shargreen / Stingray
 Rough leather, usually coloured green.
 Sheep and lamb skins tanned with wool intact.
 The thin grain layer split from sheep skin.
 Soft leather of an unborn calf/fetus, used for gloves.
 Created from the fibrous part of the hide left once the top-grain of the raw  hide has been separated from the hide which is then used to create Suede.
 Leather with a dense, soft and fuzzy surface produced by rubbing the flesh  side. Looks similar to velvet and felt.
 Hide of an adult bull. 
 Untreated leather. Used as trim on handbags and luggage.
 Fine quality Parchment made of calf skin.
 Full grain/split leather of cow, buffalo, sheep, goat and camel sold wet and  blue, the blue colour being derived from the chromium used for tanning the  hide.

The Quantity

About eighteen square feet (roughly only a quarter of a saree) of leather is obtained from an average sized cow or bull in India.


A leather jacket would be made from approximately ten square feet: 55% hide of a single cow or bull and if also lined with leather, the skin of two medium-sized goats.


A leather briefcase would be made from five and a half square feet representing 30% hide of a single cow or bull together with the entire skin of approximately three small goats used for the inside lining and the compartments.

The Origin

A cow is a cow till she gives no milk – she is then classified as a bull!


And bulls, like male calves that are of no use, are disposed off – rather sold – to middlemen for the unmentionable word: slaughter.


Butchers calculate the cost of flesh, blood, bones and hide when negotiating the purchase price of a live animal. Each and every body part is in demand and therefore valuable commodities.


Deal done, the animal’s destiny is sealed. It is then inhumanely transported to be converted from a living, feeling creature into numerous products.


Outside a slaughter house animals instinctively get scared and panic because they can smell, see, know and feel death round the corner.


They are over-powered and dragged inside the big horror chamber… their throats abruptly slit, and lives cut short.


Their blood mixes with the blood of others… their meat is packed with other animals’ flesh… their hides piled upon other hides… and their bones, horns and hooves kept aside for other uses.


The unending assembly line moves on and on without change.


If the demand for leather lessens, the supply automatically diminishes, thereby saving animals.


How many – even those who eat no meat – think “slaughter” when buying or using leather? If they did, they wouldn’t be using it, not even a little patch of it: never ever.

… and Support

Please join the Beauty Without Cruelty campaign “Leather = Slaughter” today.


For detailed information on Leather please read http://www.bwcindia.org/Web/Awareness/LearnAbout/Leather.html

Page last updated on 08/07/13