Introduction to leather
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Leather is a by-product – the main sources of raw material for the leather industry world-wide are cattle (including buffalo), sheep, goats and pigs, which are reared specifically for the production of meat, wool and/or dairy products. Hides and skins from other species account for less than one half of one per cent of global leather production. Typically, the value of hides and skins represents in the region of 5-10% of the market value of an animal.
The leather industry utilises hides and skins, which, if the industry did not exist to process them, would create an enormous waste disposal problem, with the attendant health hazards. Leather is a renewable resource – if leather was not produced, it would have to be replaced by largely synthetic materials derived from non-renewable resources. Leather is used in a wide range of products from children’s shoes, where it is most important for foot health, to oil seals in aircraft. Leather makes a contribution to the quality of everyday life and has done so for centuries. Virtually everyone wears or uses one or more leather products on a regular basis. The primary sources of raw material for the tanning industry are hides and skins from animals that have been accepted as fit for processing for human consumption at approved slaughterhouses, where the handling and treatment of cattle fully meets the appropriate animal welfare and hygiene requirements. The tanning industry understands that the quality and value of leather that tanners produce depends depend very largely on the quality of the hides and skins that they source. The industry recognises that the quality of the hides and skins they receive generally reflects the health, welfare and husbandry conditions, which have applied during the life of the animal. Therefore, the quality, efficiency and profitability of tanners’ operations depend significantly upon the quality and consistency of the raw materials that they source.