Practical Issues > Factory Farming > Cows
The Cruelty of Leather in India

The cruelty of leather

Distinguished Editors,

In India--the largest manufacturer of leather in the world--it is technically illegal to kill healthy, young cattle, so unscrupulous dealers often deliberately maim healthy animals.

Workers may break animals' legs so that they can be declared fit for slaughter. Cattle are tied together with ropes through their nostrils and beaten mercilessly in forced "death marches" over hundreds of kilometers in searing heat.

During the marches, cattle collapse from hunger and exhaustion, but handlers force them along by snapping the bones in their tails and rubbing tobacco and chilies into their eyes.

Cattle are crammed on top of each other into lorries and endure long, hot trips to slaughterhouses in Mumbai, Kerala, Karnataka, and a few other states where mass slaughter is legal.

Border guards are known to take bribes to allow overloaded lorries of cattle to move illegally into slaughtering states.

The animals fall and crush one another on the lorries because of overcrowding, and many die from suffocation and horn gouges before reaching the slaughterhouse. Once inside, their throats are slit in full view of other animals. Some have their legs hacked off while still conscious or suffer the agony of being skinned alive.

*** India's leather industry is perhaps the cruelest in the world.

Abuse and Murder

For seven years, PETA India:
and its affiliates have conducted undercover investigations into the transport and slaughter conditions that are endured by the cows, buffaloes, sheep and goats who are used in the Indian leather trade.

The leather produced from the skins of these animals is exported throughout the world, including to the US and Europe.

The investigators have gathered graphic evidence of the widespread illegal abuse of these animals as well as evidence of unhygienic and dangerous conditions in slaughter facilities.

The animals are subjected to cruelty that includes being crammed into lorries in such large numbers that many become severely injured when they are crushed or gouged by the horns of other animals.

Many of them die en route.

The evidence also reveals that most of the animals are dragged into abattoirs before they are cut open � often with dirty, blunt knives and in full view of one another � on floors that are covered with feces, blood, guts and urine. Some animals are even skinned and dismembered while they are still conscious.

___Broken Promises
The investigations have also brought to light the fact that -- despite the directives that top Indian government officials gave to state governments and the assurances that they made to the public regarding improvements in animal welfare six years ago - virtually no improvements in the treatment of animals have taken place.

Abattoirs continue to be unsanitary and to pollute the environment.
unlicensed, illegal abattoirs remain in operation; animal-transport conditions remain deplorable; and even though it is required by law to do so, the government has failed to form enough branches of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to enforce the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act of 1960 and its rules governing the transport and slaughter of animals.

___Blatant Crime
India's own minimal animal protection laws regarding transport and slaughter are blatantly ignored, and although it claims to have an Animal Welfare Reform Programme, the Indian Council for Leather Exports (CLE) refuses to take any action to prevent leather-selling businesses from obtaining hides and skins from unlicensed, illegal abattoirs.

Animals of all ages, including small calves, are illegally killed and used in the leather trade.

___The Supreme Court
PETA India has a case pending before the Indian Supreme Court against the Union of India, each state-level government and the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) for their failure to enforce animal protection laws and for allowing the unnecessary and extreme suffering of animals who are used for leather and meat. The Court has publicly expressed its shock at the evidence of cruelty that PETA India has submitted.

In fact, more than one year ago, the Supreme Court directed the AWBI to inform it, within a month, about steps that the Board was taking to prevent cruelty to animals.

The AWBI was then to set up an inspection plan for abattoirs throughout the country. To date, there is still no suitable abattoir-inspection system in India. The Supreme Court has also directed the government of Tamil Nadu to address and rectify the illegal abuse of animals used for meat and leather there, but it has not done so.

___The Skin Traders
The CLE's supposed Animal Welfare Reform Programme lacks the vigour and commitment that are required in order for concrete and long-lasting improvements to be made in animals' lives. Almost one year ago, PETA India and its affiliates called upon the CLE to come to the negotiating table by offering it a draft Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).

The MoU raises issues that are considered crucial to animal welfare. It asks that the Indian leather industry end its support of abattoirs that are operating illegally; end its support of municipal abattoirs that have been condemned for animal welfare violations; undertake at least three reform projects a year in order to improve the animal-handling process from the market through transport and slaughter; and move towards procuring hides and skins only from markets, transporters and abattoirs that adhere to India's animal protection laws.

After sitting on the MoU for nine months, the CLE ultimately refused to even negotiate with PETA.

___Support for Animals Abused in the Indian Leather Trade
When PETA's campaign to alleviate the suffering of animals used for leather was first launched in 2000, about 40 major companies stated that they would not use leather sourced from Indian animals. An estimated US$68 million was reportedly lost by the Indian leather industry as a result of these companies' decisions not to support unlawful cruelty. The campaign also gained the support of celebrities all around the world, including His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Sir Paul McCartney, Pamela Anderson, Jackie Chan and others.

Recently, US retailer Liz Claiborne -- which has annual sales of US$4.8 billion -- has assured PETA US that it will not use leather from India. Kenneth Cole, another US retailer, which has annual sales of US$518 million -- has also weighed in, giving its commitment to PETA US that it will not sell leather produced from Indian animals.

***You Can Help !

The best thing that you can do to help animals is not to eat or wear them.

Let others know about the abuse that animals endure and ask them to say no to meat and leather too.

Yours truly,

Chantal Buslot
Belgium (EU)

Fair Use Notice and Disclaimer
Send questions or comments about this web site to Ann Berlin, [email protected]