Singer Leona Lewis has condemned the export of cows from India to Bangladesh, where they are subjected to extreme cruelty to produce leather goods. The X Factor star also revealed the extent to which children and the environment are impacted by the leather industry.
Lewis revealed that an estimated two million cows are transported from India to Bangladesh every year "in order to circumvent Indian slaughter bans". Working with animal rights group Peta, Lewis stated that the cows in India were subject to mistreatment while being transported between the two countries. Video footage captured by Peta has revealed the lack of veterinary care given to animals along the way and the extensive physical abuse they face by the time they reach Bangladesh.
"The animals are bound and thrown on to truck beds on top of each other and many arrive in Bangladesh with injuries and open wounds," said Lewis. "[This] shocking footage shows who is paying the highest price for leather."
The footage reveals how cows and goats are illegally slaughtered for their skin on the streets at night, with their throats being slit as other animals are forced to watch. In some instances, the cows are also skinned alive to create the leather goods that many buy.
The investigation also uncovered the conditions that the cows face on the journey between India and Bangladesh, with many being emaciated, exhausted, and malnourished by the time they reach their destination. Peta said that some cows did not have the energy to stand when they were unloaded off the trucks.
Jason Baker, vice president of international operations for Peta Asia, said: "I can see sores, I can see broken tails, I see bones, I see ribs. I think if consumers walked down the path that I just walked to get their pair of shoes, they wouldn't be wearing leather shoes."
Furthermore, the investigation also revealed the dire conditions that workers in the leather industry face, with many of them being children. Peta documented that children operate machinery while unprotected workers stand barefoot in cancer-causing chemicals, using acids that cause skin diseases. The animal rights charity also said that an estimated 90% of these workers die before the age of 50.
The Peta investigation concluded that one area with more than 150 tanneries had no sewage plant, which meant that toxic chemicals were being dumped in the river. Apart from killing animals in and near the water, the chemicals also posed a threat to the environment and to public health.
In a final plea, Lewis said: "Please consider the impact that your purchases have and please buy only cruelty-free, synthetic, natural fibre and other vegan clothing and accessories."