Levi Strauss has a new shareholder: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).
Following the denim giant’s ballyhooed initial public offering Thursday, which marked the first time Levi’s has traded publicly since 1985, the animal-rights organization snapped up the minimum number of shares required to submit shareholder resolutions and secure speaking rights at annual meetings.
It’s part of a campaign, PETA says, to persuade Levi’s to switch from leather patches made from cow skin to cruelty-free ones.
“Gentle cows are beaten, slaughtered, and skinned—all so that Levi’s can tack a small, completely nonfunctional patch on the back of some of its jeans,” wrote Katherine Sullivan on PETA’s blog last week. “The company claims to prioritize sustainability, but we know that using cows’ skin has at least three times the negative environmental impact that using most vegan leather does. So we’re heading to Levi’s boardroom to urge the company to stop peddling these patches, which cause cows immense pain and suffering and damage Mother Earth.”
Cows killed for leather, Sullivan added, often endure extreme crowding, electroshock prodding, frequent beatings and castration and tail-docking without pain relief. Animal agriculture, under which the leather industry falls, is responsible for 14 percent to 18 percent of all greenhouse-gas emissions, she noted.
Vegan leather typically comprises petroleum-based synthetics such as polyvinyl chloride or polyurethane. Other, bio-based versions are at varying levels of scalability, such as Piñatex, a hide-like textile made from the waste leaves of the pineapple plant, and Mylo, a faux leather cultured from mushroom roots. There’s also Modern Meadow’s Zoa, an alternative derived from yeast fermentation.
Levi’s, in a previous statement, told Sourcing Journal leather plays a minimal role in its business.
“Less than 10 percent of the raw materials in our supply chain are from sources other than cotton, and a small fraction of that percentage is leather,” a Levi’s spokesperson said. “Nevertheless, Levi Strauss & Co. strives to source all materials responsibly. Our goal is to ensure that wherever materials derived from animals are used in our products, their health and welfare are protected, in line with international animal welfare standards.”