Nothing to Hide


Leather facts

Hides and skins: by-products of meat production

About this essay

Dr Phil Hadley is a senior regional manager for EBLEX-AHDB, the UK’s beef and lamb association. Dr Hadley worked as meat and poultry inspector before completing a master’s degree in advanced meat science. He spent seven years as a consultant in the global leather and by-products sector, during which time he completed a doctorate in animal production at the University of Nottingham. He joined EBLEX in 2004.

This essay tackles the following misrepresentations:

Myth: Every year, the global leather industry slaughters more than a billion animals.

Fact: The global leather industry does not slaughter a single animal; it uses a valuable by-product from the meat industry.

Myth: Cattle are subjected to poor conditions and treatment; animals suffer horrors including deprivation, branding, tail-docking and dehorning.

Fact: Slaughterhouses and farmers are regulated; there are laws against cruelty to animals. Plus, animals that have been well cared for yield higher-quality meat and are therefore more valuable.

Executive summary

The global market for beef, and hence hides for leather production, is finely balanced. The supply is clearly based on the demand for beef, rather than the needs of the leather sector. Over recent years, global supply and demand patterns have begun to shift – declining beef consumption in Europe due to various reasons including economic pressures is being offset by rising demand in China. Traditional cattle-exporting countries such as the US are expected to report a slight decline in 2014, while those from South America are predicted to rise, according to the US Department of Agriculture. But while supply and demand patterns are changing geographically, the demand for beef on a global scale is rising – by the end of 2014, global beef and veal exports will have increased by 25% since 2009, according to the US Department of Agriculture.

The livestock and meat sectors should work more closely with leather and other by-product industries to promote how positive whole animal utilisation is across a spectrum of products, including pharmaceuticals and energy as well as leather. One thing is clear, if there is a useful product that can be derived from the live animal and in doing so reduce waste, then that is good news.

The sector does indeed have nothing to hide, in fact, quite the opposite. It produces a whole range of products that the global consumer increasingly demands while all the time striving to improve processes to ensure environmental and social responsibilities are met.

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