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Leather is a strong, flexible and durable material obtained from the tanning, or chemical treatment, of animal skins and hides to prevent decay. The most common leathers come from cattle, sheep, goats, equine animals, buffalo, pigs and hogs, and aquatic animals such as seals and alligators.
Leather can be used to make a variety of items, including clothing, footwear, handbags, furniture, tools and sports equipment, and lasts for decades. Leather making has been practiced for more than 7,000 years and the leading producers of leather today are China and India.
Animal rights groups claim that modern commercial leather making and the consumption of its products is unethically killing animals. According to the life-cycle assessment (LCA) report for the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, 99% of the raw hides and skins used in the production of leather derive from animals raised for meat and/or dairy production.
Critics of tanneries claim that they engage in unsustainable practices that pose health hazards to the people and the environment near them. The processing stages of tanneries use thousands of liters of water for one hide or animal skin and release toxic liquid waste into the environment that can cause soil depletion and health issues related to the human skin, respiratory system and more. However, advancements have been made in the amount and treatment of water used by tanneries to reduce impact.