The book is complemented by reports that show the reality of today's animal use industries, including sheep mulesing, a common procedure in the wool industry, or the deplorable husbandry and breeding conditions as well as killing practices involved in reptile leather production. In addition, the book aims to highlight the devastating ecological impact of animal exploitation globally. Apart from enormous water pollution caused by direct wastewater discharges from tanneries into rivers and lakes particularly in Asian countries, leather production is typically accompanied by unfair und unhealthy working conditions for both humans and animals living in these areas.
Alternatives to leather, fur, wool, and other animal materials already exist. They often score significantly higher in terms of ethics, ecological impact, and sustainability compared to traditional products derived from animals. Research into alternative materials is making significant progress across the board. Consumers can play their part by increasing demand for – and thereby reducing the cost of – substitutes, which could eventually drive out animal materials. Visionary ideas and innovations are not new. Records of alternatives for leather, wool, ivory, feathers, and fur exist from as early as the Victorian era (1837 to 1901). Images of earlier advertising posters show examples of non-animal fashion with titles such as "Humana Footwear" or "Fur Substitutes for Humanitarians."
Revolutionary inventions like spider silk, which does not involve the use of spiders, or leather substitutes made from mushrooms (mycelium leather), pineapple fibers, cactus and fruit waste, and keratin fibers grown to replace horn, aim to end animal suffering and save particularly endangered species, such as the rhinoceros. The durability and environmental footprint are impeccable, as it is an organic material and leaves little to no waste. However, the most common artificial leather is made of polyurethanes (PU for short), a plastic that is not recyclable or degradable, and leaves a suboptimal ecological footprint because it is usually derived from petroleum.
The preface was written by Canadian photojournalist and animal rights activist Jo-Anne McArthur. She is known for her evocative photo project "We Animals", which vividly documents our ambivalent relationship with animals. She describes her work in a touching manner and explains how she is trying to communicate the difficult images to the world in a way that people will not look away.
Joshua Katcher hopes to bring about a shift in the fashion industry, pointing out that it is not a matter of how animals are used in fashion, but of them being used in the first place. The violence inherent in the fashion industry is kept hidden, while the animals' sentience is ignored, or worse, romanticized. These facts should longer be kept a secret. The author remains optimistic and assumes that materials derived from the body parts of animals will soon be entirely replaced by substitutes from bioreactors or bioprinters that are both ethically and ecologically acceptable. Joshua Katcher is a fashion designer, activist, author, and teacher. He teaches at Parsons School of Design, The New School, and LIM College. He lectures internationally on sustainable and ethical fashion. Katcher launched the first vegan menswear label, Brave GentleMan, in 2010 and was voted "Menswear Brand of the Year" and "Most Influential Designer" by PETA.
"Fashion Animals" by Joshua Katcher is available in stores and can also be consulted with advance notice during opening hours in the TIR Library, which offers reading and working space. The latest additions to the TIR library are introduced in the TIR library newsletter.