Muffintops and leather vests

My husband asked me to join him at a motorcycle rally this weekend. He wanted to look at bikes and figured I would enjoy the people watching.

For the longest time I thought Rawlins, Wyoming was where fashion came to die. But now I know it’s at the motorcycle rally. Muffintops, black leather vests, ripped shirts and lots of bling everywhere. My husband rocks a wolverine-just-borrowed-the-old-mans-bike look, which looks so hot, so I was not prepared for this flashback to 1991.

But, what’s that got to do with my made-right-here lifestyle? Well, although riding a cruiser may be a great American past time, most of the merchandise bikers buy is imported. Yes, I was the crazy lady checking tags of things I would never buy (ripped leggings with sparkling crosses anyone?) to see where things were made. Pakistan and China, from what I saw, so no surprise there.

The majority of what bikers seem to buy and wear is leather. Black leather vests, jackets, pants and boots. So let’s talk about leather.

China is the world’s biggest exporter of leather and fur. Even when something is labeled as made here, the raw material is often untraceable for us consumers, thus most likely from China (or India). It is worrisome because there are no laws for animal welfare, or control of implementation of such laws if any. Mislabeling is often used to hide the origin and the type of animal used to make the leather. In India, where it is unlawful to kill cows, the key to get hides for leather is to malnourish and treat cows so badly that they die a slow death on their own. Sound like something we should support?

And you bet that if there is no control of animal welfare, there is little or no control over the chemicals and pollutants that come as a byproduct of processing leather. The list is long. Wastewater pouring out into the nearby lands always contain chromium, sulfides, mercury, dies, oils, arsenic and other solvents.

Studies have shown that leather processing industry workers are in higher risk of getting lung cancer, testicular cancer, soft tissue sarcoma, pancreatic cancer and bladder cancer to name a few.

In the US, though the harsh chemicals are definitely still there – a threat to the factory workers and the environment – it’s better controlled, and some or most (you will never know for sure) of the leather we process come from cows already used for dairy or meat. This is not the case in the Far East.

I googled and tried to find some recent numbers and hard facts about leather exports but it was very hard to get a good hit. Here’s a link to PETA, it’s short and direct on what is going on.

The best thing to do is to minimize the amount of leather goods you buy, in order to not support an industry where severe animal abuse and environmental damage is part of the daily routine. Just for kicks, check the tag of your purse. I bet I know where it’s made.

So thanks bikers for reminding me of this important topic!

What I was wearing for the event? Pink scarf, blue jacket, jeans and pink sneakers. I clearly didn’t get the memo, but this is an event where I am proud to not fit in.

Someone didn’t get the dress-code memo


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