Discussion » Questions » Animals (Pets/ Domesticated) » Do you know that 290 million cows are killed annually for their skins?

Do you know that 290 million cows are killed annually for their skins?

"A rising global middle class means more crazy-a** consumption of bags – and more cows. Presently around 290m cows are killed every year from a global herd approaching 1bn. Projections tell us that in order to keep us in wallets, handbags and shoes, the industry needs to slaughter 430m cows annually by 2025. ("https://www.theguardian.com/fashion/2016/mar/13/is-it-time-to-give-up-leather-animal-welfare-ethical-lucy-siegle)

Posted - December 24, 2019


  • 46201
    Yes I do.  Leather is not important any longer. We have man-made materials that duplicate that look and feel.  We do not need to raise animals for slaughter of their parts any more.  

    They are also taking up land that can be used to feed thousands of people rather than a few hundred people.  This is good for the environment.  What is bad for the environment is the METHANE GAS being sent into the ozone by the cow's farts.  This is a serious problem and PRESIDENT TRUMP is ignoring.  OF COURSE.  PRESIDENT COW TRUMP ignores FARTS.  He is too busy explaining to his base what water does and how it flushes 10 times.

    There are currently approximately 1.3 to 1.5 billion cows grazing, sleeping, and chewing their cud at any given time on planet Earth. And these 1,300 pound (average weight for both a beef and dairy cow) animals eat a lot. Much like humans, when they eat, gas builds up inside of their guts and has to be expelled. (See Why Beans Make You Fart) Cows fart and burp… a lot. The result is a large amount of methane being introduced into the atmosphere.

    In a 2006 United Nations' Food and Agricultural Organization report, it claims that the livestock sector, most of which are cows, "generates more greenhouse gas emissions as measured in CO2 equivalent – 18 percent – than transport." According to a Danish study, the average cow produces enough methane per year to do the same greenhouse damage as four tons of carbon dioxide. So is this significantly contributing to global warming?

    Let's start with how and why cows produce so much methane gas. Cows, sheep, goats, giraffes, and deer belong to a class of mammals called ruminants. Most ruminants have four stomachs, two-toed feet, and store their food in the first chamber of the stomach, called the rumen, before regurgitating it. This regurgitated food is called "cud" and the animals chew it again to help further break it down to make it easier to digest. Inside of the rumen, over four hundred different kinds of microbes exist that also play a critical role in the digestion process. Several of these microbes create methane gas as a byproduct. Due to the sheer number of cows on the planet, along with the large size per cow, our tasty friends produce more methane gas than all other ruminants combined.

    Why could this potentially be bad? Methane is twenty one times more potent at trapping heat from the Sun than carbon dioxide. Though it is less prevalent in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide, it is, by unit, the most destructive of the greenhouse gases. Since the turn of the 19th century, methane gas emissions have increased by 150%, according to NASA's Goddard Institute.


    Methane gas, like all other greenhouse gases (which includes water vapor), acts like a blanket around our planet, trapping heat. The right amount and the planet has an average temperature of a life-supporting 59 degrees Fahrenheit. Too little and the greenhouse effect becomes weak, like on Mars. Too much and the surface of the planet becomes so hot "it can melt lead," like on Venus.

    Livestock is the largest source of methane gas emissions worldwide, contributing over 28 percent of total emissions. Wetlands, leaks from oil refineries and drills, and landfills also contribute methane gas to the atmosphere. In fact, unlike the ratios on a global scale, in the United States livestock is only the third largest contributor, behind the mining and transportation of natural gas and rotting landfill waste.

    In actuality it's not as much the farting that's the problem, cows' burping and manure contribute more methane gas than flatulence. According to researchers at New Zealand's largest Crown Research Institute, AGResearch, up to 95 percent of the emissions comes from the cow's mouth rather than its behind. It's estimated, through whichever orifice, that each individual cow lets out between thirty and fifty gallons of methane per day. With an estimated 1.3 to 1.5 billion cattle in the world today, this adds up fast.

    Exactly how significant this it to our global environment isn't something that anyone can easily put a number on, but the EPA, NASA, various global agriculture organizations, and the United Nations all recognize that this is a real problem. In recent years, several different solutions have been proposed. Scientists and experts have experimented with cows' diets to see if that could help cut down on the amount of methane gas. For instance, Welsh scientists studied the effects of putting garlic into cows' feed. According to BBC News, "Garlic directly attacks the organisms in the gut that produce methane." So far, results have been positive.

    Researchers have also studied adding plants that are high in tannins to the diet, which are believed to lower methane levels in ruminants. Another branch of study focuses on not lowering the amount of methane gas, but figuring out a way to contain it and repurpose it. Some farms have experimented with having their livestock live in a plastic bubble, which takes the expelled gas and converts it into electricity. But this process is both expensive, inefficient, and considered somewhat inhumane, forcing animals to live inside an artificial bubble.

    Methane gas emitted by cows and other livestock does have a significant impact on the amount of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere, which are the main culprits behind climate change and global warming. While farts aren't the only way cows are expelling methane, it is, at least, accurate to say that cow farts play a part in our planet's climate growing hotter.

    Bonus Facts:

    • In 2010, the United Nations proposed a "global levy on livestock methane emissions," or as the press dubbed it, "the fart tax." This didn't pass… but it is something that has continued to be discussed.
    • According to the Food & Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, livestock also cause phosphorus and nitrogen over contamination. This contributes to biodiversity loss in marine ecosystems, most dangerously at the moment in the South China Sea.
    • In the early to mid-20th century, dairy farming started becoming big business in America, England, Australia, Argentina, and New Zealand. The number of cows in the world first doubled, then tripled. In order to feed this massive influx of cows that natural growing grass and flowers could no longer handle, pastures were reseeded with perennial ryegrass. This grass lacks the nutrients and is difficult digest, which causes even more methane gas to be expelled from cows.
    • Feeding cows maize silage and fermenting corn shuckings can mean a thirty three percent decrease in methane gas emissions.
    This post was edited by WM BARR . =ABSOLUTE TRASH at December 24, 2019 5:36 PM MST
      December 24, 2019 10:04 AM MST

  • 1175
    The flippant Dick Cheney-esque retort would be "So?"

    The more complex thoughtful response would be "So?"...

    The more complex, thoughtful,  and useful response would be to question the basis for objecting to this practice (and I am NOT saying that there are no legitimate objections).

    But what would giving up leather accomplish? OK, farmers would raise fewer cows for leather hides. Is this a good thing? Is the non-existence of 290 million cows a net moral good? What if, to replace the leather, we have to make synthetic substitutes out of petrochemicals, requiring vast energy inputs, lots of greenhouse gases, and massive faux leather waste ending up in the mid-Pacific gyre? Should we then, instead, raise and slaughter the cows for leather (assuming the cattle husbandry has less environmental impact than Naugahyde production)?

    Now, if the leather-providing cows are being severely mistreated during their lives, and we can give them comfortable humane lives before we ruthlessly slaughter them for their skin, that's a separate issue. And I would be very much in favor of requiring that cattle be treated with some reasonable standards of humane care  (BTW, I've read cows raised for high-end leather goods are actually treated pretty well, because high-end leather requires excellent cow hides incompatible with the animals being abused).

    In short, I would need more information about the issue before I could make a reasonable inference about what, if anything, should be done.
      December 24, 2019 10:15 AM MST

  • 2853
    I am going to cut right to it.
    I do not care. 
    I like leather goods.
    I love the smell and feel of leather.
    I love the taste of beef including veal.
    The good Lord gave us cows to eat and damnit, I will eat them

    This post was edited by Jon at May 31, 2020 7:31 PM MDT
      December 24, 2019 11:13 AM MST

  • 1175
    We all have to eat and wear something. So, in principle, you have a perfectly valid stance.

    My only quibble would be that there might be ways to eat and wear the things we do, while simultaneously being more humane to the animals we exploit. I think that's a goal worth pushing for.

    (Except the veal. I'm not aware of any humane way to produce that...
      December 24, 2019 11:59 AM MST

  • 2853
    "more humane to the animals we exploit."

    I take umbrage to that statement. Human beings are omnivores and hunter/gatherers. Whether we go to the supermarket for our meat or hunt in the field, we are still hunting. The methodology to which we procure our meat may have changed. Still, there is truly no difference between a hunting rifle, a bow & arrow, or a shopping cart.

    The rational way to produce veal is to not keep it confined in a small area before slaughtering it. I can see where the slaughtering of a young calf might trigger the emotional senses of some.
      December 24, 2019 3:16 PM MST

  • 6457
    Yea and too bad cows are also so tasty.
      December 24, 2019 12:03 PM MST

  • 13585
    Talk about the USA and I'll join the discussion.  
      December 24, 2019 3:06 PM MST

  • 14893
    Maybe that's why they all to beef about what's going on in Abattoirs ,there is actually a lot at steak for many of them going there for an "Away Day"..plus it is as well a very cut throat business,,, :(
      December 24, 2019 3:51 PM MST

  • 33280
    Do you own even ONE piece of clothing made from leather? Or a purse or wallet? Or shoes? If so, your question is invalid. Were Jesus' sandals made from rubber and plastic?
      December 24, 2019 5:42 PM MST

  • 10966
    No, they're not. They're killed for their meat, we make use of the leftover skins rather than waste them.

    Minks are killed for their skins, as are sable, chinchilla and foxes. Cows and horses are not.
      December 24, 2019 6:39 PM MST

  • 23037
    We eat the meat. It is good we do not waste the hide. 
      December 31, 2019 6:42 AM MST

  • 1775
    Yes and what is your point?  They are a factor in the economy, if there was no profit they would not exist - seriously
      December 31, 2019 8:34 PM MST