While leather purses and jackets might be “fashionable” or “luxurious” to consumers, when you take a look behind the glass department store window and see the process that made these items possible, the reality is far less glamorous.

The global leather industry slaughters over one billion animals every year. While many people associate leather with animals like cows, these are hardly the only creatures who are victims of this cruel trade. In fact, many people are shocked and appalled to learn that in China, dogs are commonly used in the leather industry. Existing in parallel with the dog meat industry in Asia, the market for dog leather is incredibly high.

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But just because dog leather is created in China, doesn’t mean that is where it stays; products made out of dog leather are sold throughout the world. As the world’s leading producer of cheap leather, Chinese leather producers have been known to sell dog leather under the label of “lamb” skin. The truth is, after it is processed and tanned, most animal skins look the same. Without conducting DNA tests, it’s practically impossible to specify what animal leather is made from.

While the Chinese Leather Industry Association claims that they have no knowledge of dog leather industry, an undercover investigation from PETA showed that this horrific practice is alive and well in the country.

There is no question that leather is a cruel, incredibly unnecessary material to begin with, but if the level of transparency in the leather industry is so low that dogs are being slaughtered by the hundreds and sold in countries across the world, this is of major concern. 

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A Look Into the Dog Leather Industry

Before PETA’s undercover investigation, the topic of dogs being used for the leather industry was completely overlooked. While certain incidents where American retailers were cited for illegally selling dog and cat fur that had been imported from China under false labels, leather was a much lesser known issue.

However, when PETA got wind of the dog leather industry in 2014, investigators from their Asia branch wasted no time to take a look into this burgeoning industry.

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The first thing the PETA investigator noticed upon entering the facility was the overwhelming smell of death. Dog carcasses were hung up on hooks and blood covered the floor. According to the investigator, each dog is grabbed and beaten to death before having their throats slit and their skin ripped off. Some of the dogs even have their skin peeled off while they’re still alive.

It is believed that most of the dogs, killed for leather, are stolen from their families on the city streets. (Yes, this really happens, check out this story of the dog stolen in Thailand to be made into leather.)

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PETA’s undercover footage shows one little dog, shaking in terror, as she is dragged out of a dirty, dark room.  She looks up at the man who is hurting her, with eyes full of fear, but he ignores her, lifts up a huge club, and bludgeons her head repeatedly. She cries out but there’s nothing she can do. She is small and weak as opposed to the huge, armed man. All you can hear are her cries with each blow to the head, until eventually, the cries stop, and her little body collapses to the ground.

As brutal as this single image is, one employee told the investigator that the facility slaughters and skins up to 200 dogs a day – and this facility is hardly the only one in operation.

Sadly, even after this investigation surfaced, these slaughterhouses did not receive any penalties from the Chinese government because domestic animals and livestock – which is technically where dogs produced in this industry would fall – are not protected from abuse by law. But it is also important to note that since there is no way to tell if leather sold in the U.S., or any other country, is made from dog or cow or sheep or pig, there is a good chance that this leather will continue to circulate, unscathed.

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What You Can Do

To be honest, if you buy and wear leather, it shouldn’t matter to you from which animal it came. The debate over why should one animal matter more than another, springs to mind and while it is easy to criticize Chinese practices, at the end of the day, consumers across the world are the ones who make the conscious choice to purchase and wear the skin of a dead animal. Every country has its own major flaws in animal welfare. We shouldn’t be choosing which animals matter. We should be realizing that all animals matter.

The great news is, Chinese activists are playing a huge role in this dog leather investigation. Some have traveled great distances to block trucks delivering dogs to these facilities. But international action is needed to truly put an end to this cruel trade. The only way to stop this brutality against dogs – and all other animals – is to stop supporting the leather industry all together.

When you stop buying leather, you stop unknowingly feeding the dog leather trade. There are plenty of cruelty-free vegan clothing companies that you can check out, here.

Once you ditch leather, tell others and help spread the word about this cruel industry. Join the movement and take a picture of your dog with a sign that says, “Your leather could have been me!” and share on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Find out more here.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what animal it comes from, all leather is cruel. Whether it comes from a cow, a pig, a goat or a dog, all these animals have feelings and none of them deserve to die for the sake of fashion.

Lead image source: Flickr