Leather is used extensively in the production of sporting goods. Just about every sport uses leather to some extent, with the exception of swimming. Gloves, balls, protective gear, and shoes are all made of leather making it virtually impossible for most athletes to completely avoid leather while enjoying their sport. Some sports, such as rugby and soccer (in most cases) have made the switch from leather balls to synthetic balls due to issues with water absorption causing balls to become too heavy. Despite these changes, leather remains ubiquitous in sports. Here are a few examples of how leather is being used in various sports:
Badminton: The shuttlecock in badminton is used from plucking feathers from live ducks and geese, which causes these animals great pain.
Baseball and softball: Baseball and softball players use gloves made of leather as the material provides the best grip for catching balls, especially when thrown at high speeds. Baseballs are made of a cork and rubber center that is wrapped in yarn and covered in leather. Similarly, softballs have leather covers but have a solid polyurethane core.
Basketball: Indoor basketballs are typically made from leather. Balls used outside are made from synthetic materials as concrete and other hard surfaces could damage leather over time. Basketball shoes are made from leather and canvas for the uppers and the soles are generally made of rubber.
Bowling: Bowlers wear shoes made of leather and rubber. The soles of the shoes are slick, allowing bowlers to slide when bowling in order to achieve a smooth motion.
Boxing: Boxers use gloves and punching bags made of leather. These products are capable to withstand impact from punches and will last longer than those made of synthetic materials.
Cricket: Cricket balls are made by covering a cork center with leather.
Cycling: Leather is all over a bicycle, including seats, handlebar tape, and tires. However, there has been an increase in recent years of vegan and animal-friendly bicycle parts.
Equestrian: Horse saddles, bridles, and girth straps are made mostly of leather.
Football: In American football, the football ball or “pigs skin” was originally made from an inflated pig's bladder that was covered in leather. Today footballs have a rubber or plastic bladder but are still covered in leather.
Formula One: F1 drivers typically dress head to toe in synthetic, flame-resistant clothing, but still prefer leather for their driving gloves since they are thinner and provide greater sensitivity when steering during a race.
Golf: Golfers wear gloves made of either leather or synthetic materials, or a combination of both. More expensive gloves have more leather and less expensive gloves will have more synthetic materials. Fully leather gloves are the most supple, providing the best feeling; however, they tend to wear out more quickly and stretch out.
Gymnastics: The pommel horse, used by male gymnasts is a metal frame covered with foam and leather and has plastic handles. Balance beams are also covered in leather or suede.
Hockey: The palm of a hockey glove is generally made from genuine and synthetic leather.
Lacrosse: Lacrosse cleats are often made of synthetic leather, however, genuine leather is still used from time to time.
Motorbiking: Motorcycle racers wear leather suits for protection should they fall off their bikes. Leather provides protection from abrasion and other injuries.
Tennis: While not made with leather, tennis balls are made of a rubber core that is covered in wool or nylon. Because the covering comes from an animal (sheep), some manufacturers have developed a vegan tennis ball that is made from synthetic materials. Tennis sneakers also contain animal products, even the ones that are labeled with no leather. Tennis rackets also have guts from animals.
There is a long process before leather on sporting goods equipment can be released in stores. Animals must be kept on a farm, which requires significant amounts of land. Then, they must be transferred to slaughterhouses, which not only obviously harms the animals but the environment as well because large amounts of energy are used. Once in a slaughterhouse, cows, for example, are tied to their feet and hung upside before the slaughtering process begins. According to PETA, many are even still alive when they are skinned and dismembered. Lastly, animal agriculture adds massive amounts of waste and greenhouse gases to the environment, contributing to climate change.
Leather has many advantages in sporting goods and is widely used in the industry, as it is versatile and can be adapted to meet specific requirements of each sport. Leather’s flexibility and durability make it an ideal component of sporting goods, but despite these advantages, leather is extremely harmful to the environment. The process of skinning animals to obtain leather is cruel and inhumane. The tanning process, which prevents leather from biodegrading, is highly toxic and uses known carcinogens. These toxins pollute waterways during the manufacturing process, and because they prevent end-products from biodegrading, products made of leather pollute the Earth for many years to come.