Urging for the top cricketing body to switch from using real leather balls to synthetic balls, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has written to Sharad Pawar, president of the International Cricket Council (ICC).
Poorva Joshipura, chief functionary, Peta says, “As the so-called ‘Gentleman’s game,’ cricket should be gentle on animals and the environment by making the switch to synthetic balls.”
She writes in her letter, “You are in a unique position to create a change that would alleviate massive suffering and destruction. Won’t you please step up to bat for animals and the environment by using your influence to ban leather balls and replace them with synthetic balls instead?”
Animal rights activists say although millions of fans across the globe are currently enjoying the World Cup, cricket is anything but fun for the animals whose skins are used to make balls for the sport, and leather production wreaks havoc on the environment.
Synthetic-leather balls can be more durable and water repellent than their leather counterparts, and sportspersons have said to have reported such balls to better play. Given the superiority of composite leather balls, other sports have already switched over to their use.
In the US, both the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) play with synthetic-leather basketballs. Activists point out that many animals who are slaughtered for their skin endure extreme crowding and deprivation; castration, branding, tail-docking and dehorning without being given any pain relief; and cruel transport and slaughter.
The process of obtaining leather from animal skins has been reported to be cruel and inhuman. “The animals are marched to slaughter for days without food or water. When the animals collapse from exhaustion, workers often smear the animals’ eyes with chilli peppers and tobacco and break their tails in an effort to keep them moving,” says Joshpuria.
“At abattoirs in India, animals are often skinned and dismembered while they are still conscious. What’s more, turning animal skins into leather requires massive amounts of toxic chemicals, and runoff from leather tanneries poisons rivers and streams,” she adds.
A report by the Central Pollution Control Board found that Vellore, Tamil Nadu, which has about 6,000 tanneries is alarmingly polluted. Tannery workers are exposed to chemicals that have been linked to cancer, respiratory infections and other illnesses.
Studies of leather-tannery workers in Sweden and Italy found cancer risks between 20 and 50 per cent above expected levels.