af Anne Katrine Blirup
THE NECESSARY FILTER
Ihave worked with CSR/sustainability in the fashion industry for more than a decade. I have visited factories all over the World and I have seen my share of bad working conditions, child labour, untreated wastewater – you name it! When you see a lot – also just from travelling the streets in the country of production, you build up some sort of filter, in order to not take it all in.
And it doesn´t mean, that I do not want to make a difference, I have just had to come to terms with the fact, that you can only change this much on your own, and that is ok. I am doing my best.
AND I HAVE DEVELOPED A GALLOWS HUMOUR
As a CSR manager, it has always been my task to answer (critical) questions from consumers – either on social media or through a company e-mail. And it struck me, that these questions were always about animal welfare! Having seen how human suffers in this world, it seemed unreal to me to focus mostly on animal welfare.
Do not get me wrong – I love animals!
I once wrote an answer about “The happy cow”. It is very sarcastic and it certainly was not suitable for sending to the customer, but I kind of had to get it out of my system, so to speak.
I have decided to give the answer to you here. Maybe you find it funny, maybe you find it completely tasteless. Nonetheless;
HERE IS MY STORY ABOUT
“The happy cow, who became a pair of leather pants”.
Thank you for your purchase of the xxxx leather pants and especially for caring about the wellbeing of the animal. We have full traceability to the cow who´s leather they are made from. And let me assure you, that we also care a lot about animal welfare.
This is Mathilda:
And her sister…..
They both grew up in the Swiss Alps with a family taking them to the field every morning for grassing. Every night the family would sing a carol for the cows, to tug them in and they just generally grew up with a lot of love and cutlles from their family.
But one day, Mathilda became old, and she had to be “put to sleep”. The family cried for days for the loss of a beautiful and kind cow and waved a tearful goodbye as she was transported away on an open truck to the slaughterhouse.
The skin was taken off and dipped in pools of hazardous chemicals in order to remove grease and hair from the skin. No workers wearing any protective equipment during that process, by the way.
Then it was tanned using chromium salts, and the wastewater of that process, was let into the surrounding nature to the regret of both nature and the locals who were dependant on the water of that specific river.
THE SEWING FACTORY
It was then sent to a factory, that makes leather pants. The factory is a horrible place to work. First of all, it is not very safe, as the management does not care about fire safety or general safety of the workers.
The specific person who made your product was Pedro, he is a boy of 14, who does not go to school, because he has to make a living for his family.
TO THE SHOP
It was then packaged and sent to the specific shop where you bought the pair of pants.
We did not test the product for hazardous chemicals, so if you get a rash, please consult a doctor.
Again, for caring about the past life of the cow who supplied your newly purchased pants. Mathilda lived a lovely life, we can assure you.
…….. Her sister just passed away, if you would like a bag as well?
SORRY, IF I OFFENDED YOU
But, this is important. We cannot change the conditions of the animals, if we do not change the conditions of the humans as well. I really believe that this is very much linked.
I have often been in a meeting room at a factory talking about ensuring animal welfare. Outside are poor people who struggle each day to feed themselves and their families. And you kind of see the distant look of factory managers, when you talk about animal welfare. NOT because they are bad people, who do not like animals, but they just see it from a different perspective.
So yes, let us work our way down to the farms, where the animals live, but let us also ensure human- and labour right on our way there.
We all have to ask critical questions, as consumers, as buyers in the fashion industry, as suppliers to the fashion industry.
It is important! So keep ´em coming…..
Also check out my homepage to see what I offer of e-learning to the fashion industry: www.sustainawear.com