Big companies join international Indian leather boycott, demand enforcement of animal laws
Submitted by: PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals)
Nike and Reebok, the world's top two shoe companies have joined the growing list. So have Peru-based Foresta International and top fashion designer Kenneth Cole. Add, too, the famous US Spiegel catalogue and Cole Haan, a company known for its upmarket shoes and accessories all over the US. Every one of these companies has pledged to PETA that it will no longer purchase leather from India. The companies reviewed documentation provided by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals revealing widespread abuse in the handling and slaughter of buffalo, cattle, sheep, goats and other animals whose skin is exported from India or learned from a PETA representative of the cruelty at the Shoe Market of the Americas fair recently held in Miami. These boycotts come at a time when the Indian leather industry is trying to open new markets in Peru and other Latin American countries.
These companies join retail giants The Gap, Eddie Bauer, Timberland, Casual Corner, Florsheim, J. Crew, Liz Claiborne, Nordstrom, Wolverine Worldwide, Clarks, Fiorucci, Travel 2000, Marks and Spencer and others in asking the Indian government to enforce basic animal protection laws.
"It is against the policies of these companies to support unlawful practices," says PETA president Ingrid Newkirk. "If the Indian leather industry wants to play in the world market, the least it must do is ensure India's own basic standards are followed in leather production."
Investigations by PETA have exposed the Rs. 12,000 crore leather industry's unlawful slaughter and transport of animals. In slaughterhouses across India, workers saw at animals' throats with dull blades and frequently begin dismembering and skinning animals even while they are still conscious. Animals transported to slaughter are crammed so tightly into lorries that some suffocate or are crushed beneath others. When animals collapse from exhaustion or dehydration, handlers smear hot chili peppers or tobacco into their eyes and break their tails to force them to keep moving.
To date, Indian Prime Minister Atal Vajpayee and Minister of Commerce and Industry Murasoli Muran have neither required the leather industry to comply with animal protection laws nor compelled officials to enforce the laws. Prime Minister Vajpayee's only action has been to send a letter requesting state officials fine violators of the law, but his lack of follow up has meant that police, some of whom are known to accept bribes, continue to look the other way. The leather industry, through the Council on Leather Exports (CLE) continues to subsidize the illegal transport and slaughter through its skin purchases.
In an effort to educate slaughterhouse and transport workers, PETA has funded trips of international experts in these fields to speak to government officials, presented training seminars to transporters and slaughterhouse managers and distributed educational materials on humane handling to state authorities. So far, officials have failed to act on our suggestions.
PETA is demanding that the Prime Minister and the Minister of Commerce and Industry issue a follow up directive to state governments demanding that animal protection laws be enforced; that state governments submit concrete action plans and progress reports to PETA, as they had promised-and failed-to deliver to the Minister of Commerce and Industry; and that penalties for animal abuse, which are now minuscule, be strengthened so that enforcement will be effective.