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Veg-tan leather and the vegans: COTANCE clarifies confusion

The leather industry’s representative body in the European Union, COTANCE, has issued a statement to clarify what vegetable tanned leather is.

It said it felt the need to share the information because of confusion that has arisen between vegetable tanned leather and synthetic alternative products misusing the term ‘leather’ and juxtaposing it with ‘vegan’.

Vegetable tanned leather is leather produced with tanning agents from the bark, fruit or leaves of certain trees and plants, COTANCE explained. These transform the hide or skin of an animal into durable, attractive leathers.

Vegetable tanned leather can be called ‘vegetable leather’ or even ‘veg leather’ for convenience, the statement continued, and some have “seized on this to court a new audience, shaped by the growing trend for veganism”.

COTANCE pointed out that, while there are certainly vegan materials coming onto the market, whether of petroleum or vegetable origin, there is no such thing as ‘vegan leather’.

If materials manufacturers or brands insist on misusing the term leather in this way, they are certain to cause further confusion in the minds of buyers, who may conflate falsely labelled synthetic materials with vegetable tanned leather.

They may also fall foul of the law. “Some European countries have decrees and regulations on the use of the term leather,” COTANCE continued, “and the labelling of leather articles.” It pointed out that France, Italy, Spain, Belgium, Greece and Estonia are countries that have these regulations in place already; Portugal may join them in the near future.

Only footwear enjoys uniform labelling legislation in the EU, even this still does not prevent “misleading descriptions and deceptive promotion or marketing practices” that could affect the leather industry, the statement said. However, there are not yet any specifications for other leather products applicable at European level to protect leather from “misleading oxymorons” in which the word leather is associated with pineapple, mushroom and so on.

“Europe’s leather industry organisations are working hard to lobby for protection for the term leather within the European Union,” COTANCE said.




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