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May 16, 2000
Another win for PETA: British shoe firm Clark's may stop buying Indian leather
Paran Balakrishnan in London
Leading British shoe company Clark's has announced it is considering stopping purchasing leather from India after coming under fire from People for Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, an international animal rights.
Clark's is holding an in-house review of its buying policies after PETA stepped up its high-profile campaign against Indian leather exports. The firm has summoned its sourcing managers from around the globe for top-level consultations.
Clark's is the latest major retailer to feel the heat from PETA. Earlier this spring, Gap, one of the world's top casual clothing retailers, stopped buying leather from India after PETA demonstrators, led by The Pretenders band leader Chrissie Hynde, targeted the group. Gap subsidiaries, Banana Republic and Old Navy, have also stopped buying Indian leather.
Clark's spokesman Hugh Croad said the company is reluctant to stop buying Indian leather as it sees the country as a "good and growing" source. But Croad said the group "brought something to our attention that we weren't aware of."
PETA claims to have documented proof, including videotaped evidence, of cows being cruelly treated during lengthy, forced marches. It says that cows have their tails broken and chillies rubbed in their eyes and are killed in front of each other.
The organisation has recruited Baywatch TV star Pamela Anderson Lee as the narrator of a documentary called Indian Leather Expose.
The British shoe company sources about 10 per cent of its imported leather goods from India.
"We don't want to have our business policies dictated by pressure groups, says Croad. "The best outcome would be that these problems are sorted out. That would be better than being forced to look elsewhere."
It has asked its local representatives to take up the issue of cruelty to animals with the Ministry of Industry and groups such as the Council for Leather Exporters, or CLE, and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, or SPCA.
"We are keeping in close touch with the Indian authorities to see what transpires," says a Clark's spokesman. "The PETA report did open our eyes to what is happening. I can't say I am filled with joy about cows being ill-treated," he added.
US-based PETA, whose president Ingrid Newkirk lived for 10 years in India, has also singled out Hush Puppies in Britain in its campaign.
PETA has been stepping up its activities against Indian leather in recent weeks. PETA activists staged protests outside the Indian High Commission in London two weeks ago. They have also held demonstrations in Munich and Rome.
PETA demonstrators have also staged protests in Delhi and the group has set up an office in Bombay. "We feel India is a country we can really work in," said a PETA spokesman in London.
The organisation is headquartered in Norfolk, Virginia and has offices in London, San Francisco, Germany and Italy.
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