As A Byproduct
We, well most of us, can pcik up a leather item and look at it and think it looks nice. I can do that, but when I found out about the whole leather/meat industry I was put off for a while. If you love leather you should know what you are getting into.
Leather is a byproduct of the meatpacking industry.
On a lot of hides, especially fullgrain hides, you can see some small scars that the animal accrues over time.
However, The really high-end calfskin comes from actual calves, aka baby cows. Their meat is called Veal. They are chained to the ground and overfed with fatty foods for their whole (short) life. This causes the meat to be extra delicious and tender and also prevents the animal from scarring its skin which would decrease the value of its hide.
Theres also slunk skins, which refers to stillborn/miscarried/aborted fetuses (and is soft but also ridiculously expensive), and fallen skins which come from animals that die of natural causes (but is near impossible to source).
Its also important to realize that even though cow leather is a byproduct, theres lots of other animals (pythons, alligators, lizards, stingrays, etc) that are factory-farmed solely for their skins, and lots of other animals that are hunted, often by people who dont care about or are ignorant to conservation.
Theres also lots of toxins that go into making leather and they are often dumped out in the open, polluting groundwater and rivers, and ruining the health of the low skilled laborers.
So know that.
Just know that good leather doesn’t come cheap, and that theres lots of pain, cruelty, and injustice involved in cheap leather. So avoid that, and buy from companies that provide some info on their supply chain.
If they cant, chances are its from a shady source.