Photo by Sandra Cohen-Rose

The Punjab government in India is urging schools to ban their students from wearing leather shoes. After receiving a letter from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals in April, Punjab’s director of education issued a memo advocating a switch to cruelty-free canvas footwear. “It is strongly recommended to stop the atrocities against such innocent animals…by reducing the consumption of leather,” he wrote on Friday. Although black leather shoes are mandatory in most Indian schools, the neighboring cities of Himachal Pradesh, Chennai, and Chandigarh are in the process of swapping cowhide brogues for canvas ones. Animals, according to anti-leather lobbyists, are not the only ones whose well-beings are at stake.

India, students, leather

Photo by Brian Glanz


Indian politican Maneka Gandhi has been campaigning to ban leather shoes, not only for being relics of British colonial rule but also because they’re ill-suited for the tropical climate. Describing them as “unhealthy and uncomfortable” and “destroying” the feet of India’s students, Gandhi appealed to several major school boards with a modicum of success.

Cows used by the leather industry are often forced to march for miles in the heat, according to PETA India.

Cows used by the leather industry are often whipped and forced to march for miles in the blistering heat, according to PETA India. “Many collapse from hunger, exhaustion, injury, or illness,” says Himani Shetty, a spokesman for the animal-rights group. “Other animals are transported in lorries, which are often so severely crowded that many suffer serious injuries or die when they are crushed or gored by the horns of others. At abattoirs, many animals are skinned and dismembered while they are still conscious.”

Turning the skins of livestock into leather also requires vast quantities of toxic chemicals, which poison local water supplies and leave workers vulnerable to nervous disorders, respiratory infections, and even cancer.

“By taking a step towards reducing violence against animals, Punjab—like Himachal Pradesh—is proving that it is a progressive state that cares about the welfare of animals and the environment,” Shetty says. “We are confident that more states will follow their example and that we will continue to move towards a day when all schools in India are leather-free.”

+ Press Release