The cows are still being slaughtered for their beef, which appears to be profitable enough for the practice to carry on even if the leather hides are now just dumped on landfills:
"Cattle hides, an obligatory byproduct of beef and dairy consumption, will be around as long as Americans like cheeseburgers, steaks and ice cream. And while dairy producers have been under pressure from declining milk demand and dairy alternatives, the rise of meat substitutes has yet to dent America’s taste for the real thing."
The implication would seem to be that products like these boots might have less environmental benefits than one might think.
Consider an alternative scenario: demand for beef falls, but demand for leather doesn't. In that case the price of beef would plummet, and stock would pile up and eventually spoil, but the supply of cows continues unabated because of the existing leather demand.
In both the real and hypothetical cases, the reduced demand for one material should result in an increased price for the other material, since the price of producing a cow is independent of the sale price of its byproducts. This would eventually reduce demand of the popular product (to a degree depending on how elastic its demand is), which eventually reduces supply of cattle all on its own, which--in the case of people who already avoid meat but are now additionally avoiding leather, thanks to popularized alternatives--was the original intended objective.
[Disclaimer: I eat meat and am wearing leather right this very moment, but I've been slowly reducing my demand for each for a few years now.]
Strictly speaking this is a reduction (left-shift) in supply of beef, which results in lower quantity demanded as the equilibrium moves left along the static demand curve (as you said, in degree corresponding to its elasticity).
Interestingly I can't think of a word for that sort of positive cross-price elasticity of supply, despite cross-price elasticity of demand being an Econ 101 topic (substitute/complementary goods). Here's a neat writeup on the dearth of attention given to that concept: https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/0f78/7d112ad2bd54ee6e604af6...
It could be the case that leather usage is such a small fraction compared to beef that even if you reduce beef consumption 90%, you still have excess cow hides.
I don't know the actual numbers, but your scenario won't always be the case is my point.
Is that so? From what I remember, vegetable tanning is just as toxic as chrome tanning. Just because something is "more natural" it is not necessarily better.
> No significant differences were found in the footprint of vegetable and chromium leather processes
I've generally moved gradually more and more toward a vegan and vegetarian lifestyle, not with some single big decision, but through unanticipated shifts in my decisions over time.
Shoes and boots are one area where I still regularly buy leather though, even though I've tried not to. I've had a lot of trouble finding shoes and boots that have the same durability, design, and breathability of leather. Not saying leather alternatives aren't out there, just that for many things the choice isn't the same.
I still eat dairy products, and many of the arguments in that article have always been on the back of my mind -- if I eat animal products, isn't it best to make full use of the animal? But for me the leather industry's problems aren't all about animal welfare, it's about the environmental effects and working conditions. It's hard to spend years reading about poor environmental and labor practices in the leather industry and feel ok about buying leather.
In the end, I've ended up purchasing leather that's traceable in some way, preferably vegetable tanned, or if not, produced somewhere I trust.
Maybe this is all naive but all one can do is try their best to make decisions they feel comfortable with, one at a time. If the leather industry wants people to buy leather again they have to convince people of the reasons for doing so, and I suspect increasingly that will have to include environmental, social, and animal welfare reasons as well. I'm not saying that those reasons aren't there, just that they have to make the case, or someone does.
Or is this one of those cases where people latch onto one side of an issue, and can't see the other?
For vegans: no.
To remind you, it was believed by many early vegans (like before 1995) that being vegan would have a negative impact on their health — and they were still vegan!
The understanding that a vegan diet can be perfectly healthy, and in many cases is more healthy than a typical omni diet, came fairly recent (like after 2000).
So vegans will rarely trade ethics for some "benefits".
On one hand, the hope is that you're making the margins slimmer on animal products. On the other hand, as you mentioned, you're buying new (often petroleum-based) materials versus (arguably more renewable) repurposed material.
If you have $500 to spend on boots, it's probably easy enough to find whatever you want. If you have $100-$200, doc martens pull away quickly for the vegan crowd.
Might be a result of Free People launching a line with that term in July 2011: https://blog.freepeople.com/2011/07/vegan-leather-fp-debut/
Some earlier examples include Matt & Nat ca. 2008: https://www.kqed.org/bayareabites/27914/vegan-fashion
I.e. it's an additive manufacturing process like a 3D printer rather than a subtractive process.
I've been rocking Bogs Turf Stompers for the last five years or so, but they've been discontinued I think (at least the steel toe version has been).
Anyone else have good luck with non-leather steel/composite toe lace up workboots?
As an alternative: I like to wear wooden clogs whenever I am working outside or doing some heavy lifting or other stuff around the house that might hurt my feet.
Timberland has several safety shoe models with canvas or synthetic uppers.
Ask anyone who's ever tried to get way with plastic 'patent leather' boots and regretted it with the first scratch they get!
It start off as shiny but eventually developed minute scratches and turned quite matte and more plyable. It does not, of course, have that earthy leather smell and will forever smell somewhat of rubber inner-tubes.
Sadly it seems like they no longer make the backpack I own but here is an example (https://www.alchemygoods.com/collections/upcycled-backpacks-...)
I own Vegan Docs and I love them. Every bit as good as the leather versions. However, I thought I was helping save cows but it turns out they are dying anyway. Sad.
The company that originally made them for Doctor Martins now sells direct under the name Solavair  made in the same original factory.
I have no connection to the company but I have a pair of their monkey boots and they’re great.
Oh and I _think_ they might make DMs “made in the UK” specials but I’m not 100% on that.
I seem to remember DM had at least one vegan boot around the early 2000's. The article says the "line" started in 2011, but I'm pretty sure I had a pair well before that. I think there were earlier attempts to sell a model of the vegans, and one model doesn't qualify it as a "line."
At around 2011, I started to buy vegan docs exclusively as an everyday shoe. They were amazing. One lasted about 4 years. However, my last pair which I bought in late 2017(?), didn't last eight months with both soles splitting. This current pair is a bit better (10 months now?). The sole on one is starting to split, but at least the soles is pretty worn down.
At the time, Vegan was an option, but why skimp on the real thing?
But I take issue with this quote:
> The holy grail of sustainability is a closed-loop system. “With leather, nature has created its own sort of closed-loop system,” says Hustvedt. “The carcass of an animal can decay in the ground and nurture plants that are eaten by the next generation of animal.”
Yes, and that's great for the environment if you look past all of the environmental harm created by raising the animals needed for that leather. But CO2 and methane production, deforestation, runoff from factory farms... all of these consequences take a serious toll on the environment.
There are a lot of bad choices for clothing - cotton is notorious for requiring a lot of pesticides to grow as well. And that many clothes are made in sweatshops in poorer countries, not uncommonly made with child labor. And it's all shipped across the ocean using fossil fuels.
It doesn't have to be this way though.
It's not just a simple "Oh, it's a byproduct." It's a byproduct of an industry that is seriously contributing to climate change.
And market interest in non-leather clothing will drive companies to make better non-leather clothing.