Lab-Grown Leather: What Will PETA Think?

Screen shot 2013-07-01 at 4.56.23 PMInstead of using tissue engineering for medical purposes, one company is using the technology to generate lab-grown leather and eventually meat. While the meat is still years from being distributed to consumers, in the coming months the company plans to produce larger swatch samples of their leather, ultimately collaborating with designers for next years’ clothing and accessory lines. If successful, this means that animal products will be available without having to kill living creatures and designers opposed to the use of animal products have options beyond faux materials. We asked Zintro experts how this innovation might affect the fashion industry.

Debora Pokallus, a fashion industry sales, marketing and branding expert with a focus in ethical and sustainable fashion, discusses the process and the possible implications for the industry at large. “While ‘growing’ animal skins means that the industry does not have to kill animals for its supply, it will take a considerable amount of time to provide sufficient materials to feed the industry. In the meantime, the technology will become available to more suppliers; and unless there is a way to certify that skins were ‘grown,’ abuse of the technology [in the form of companies falsely claiming to use it] will be rampant.”

Pokallus points out that “One of the major problems in the ethical sector is certifying that materials truly are ethically produced. As an example, organic cotton is a very small percentage of current cotton production; yet the number of end products marked as ‘organic cotton’ far surpasses the available supply of organically grown and produced cotton.”

“There is also the question of ethics along the entire production,” Pokallus explains. “It is unlikely that any company developing the process of fabricating skins in a lab setting will be willing to subject their process to scrutiny: [It] will most assuredly be protected as proprietary, so there will be no way of knowing if the entire process is truly ethical.” She asserts that, “The most important principle of ethical fashion is transparency – ethically produced goods require auditing of every step of the supply chain to ensure claims (like ‘lab-grown’) are based on facts. An ethical supply chain is transparent and always open to examination. While I applaud this technology as an animal rights supporter and look forward to hearing more about it, I withhold the ethical approval of this technology until more is known.”

By Gabriela Meller

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