Whether taking an eco-responsible approach or championing animal welfare, more and more start-ups are looking to plant-based alternatives to leather. These innovative materials based on mushrooms, pineapple or even apples are attracting more and more consumers looking for substitutes for animal skins. But for leather manufacturers, one detail does not go through: their name. In Portugal, the government has just redefined what “leather” is in the eyes of the law and now prohibits the use of the term “vegan leather” to designate these alternatives. A controversial decision.
In Portugal, a new decree has just been issued aimed at regulating the commercial use of the term “leather”: vegetable alternatives to leather are not “leather”. Under the new legislation, terms such as ‘vegan leather’, ‘vegan leather’, ‘synthetic leather’ and ‘pineapple leather’ are now banned. The Portuguese government considered these terms to be technically incorrect and misleading to consumers, as reported vegetarian† Manufacturers using these designations are subject to fines and criminal charges.
A devious desire to protect the leather industry?
But if this decree a priori wants to create more clarity in purchasing decisions, some disapprove of other ambitions. Indeed, several manufacturers specializing in plant-based alternatives to leather have taken the floor to point out what they believe to be more of a roundabout route to curb the growth of this emerging sector, in favor of the industry: traditional leather. This is the case of Alicia Lai, founder of the company Boheme B, specializing in vegan shoes: “We are all familiar with the terms ‘vegan sausage’, ‘vegan chocolate’ and ‘vegan leather’. These terms are not intended to mislead consumers, but to show that the product contains no animal ingredients and that they are very good be accepted,” she said. Bee vegetarian†
Same story with Annick Ireland, founder of ImmaculateVegan.com, a platform specializing in vegan fashion and lifestyle.“The truth is that this has nothing to do with transparency and consumer protection, but rather is a desperate attempt by old industries to continue their cruel and disastrous practices for the climate, in the face of consumer awareness and change”does she argue with vegetarian†
Supporters of the decree, for their part, have pointed to the high plastic content of certain alternatives to leather, such as DESSERTO, a material based on cacti, or Pinatex, made from pineapple. These two replacements are experiencing exponential success and are widely used in the fashion, sports and automotive sectors, recalls vegetarian†
In France, “vegan leather” does not exist in the eyes of the law
Outside of Portugal, meat and dairy manufacturers in Australia, Europe and the United States have already fought similar battles to ban manufacturers of vegan products from using traditional food terminologies of animal origin. Laure Ducos, campaign manager at Greenpeace France recently denounced the influence of French meat lobbies in these decisions: “These lobbies know very well that these terms make people want to consume plant-based products and so they are fighting to limit this thriving appeal.”she said in an interview for Vegetarian†
In France, the use of the word “leather” is also regulated by law and can only denote animal skin. “Vegan leather” therefore does not exist in the eyes of the law.