Exotic Leather Blog

Ethics and Sustainability of the Reptile Skin Trade: Ratings

Posted by PanAm Leathers on Mar 4, 2020 1:26:06 PM

Following last week's blog post detailing how our Sustainability and Ethics Rating System works, this week we are coming back to you with the first official ratings for all the different types of skins that we offer. It is effectively a report card, assessing how each specie performs in the categories that matter to us. We are constantly working with our suppliers and other industry participants to improve in these categories and we will update the ratings over time as things progress.

We understand that everyone values things differently so this should be a good tool for you to evaluate the things that matter to you, as you make your purchases of exotic skins from us. It is important to note that these ratings only apply to our supply chain. We cannot speak to how others source their exotic skins.


Product Animal Welfare Biodiversity Conservation Meat Use TOTAL
Alligator Skin 1 2 2 2 7
Anaconda Skin 0 2 2 2 6
Arapaima Skin 0 2 1 2 5
Beaver Tail 2 2 4 2 10
Bison Skin 1 2 3 2 8
Blesbok Hide 0 2 3 2 7
Caiman Skin 1 1 2 1 5
Calf Skin 1 1 4 2 8
Carpincho Skin 0 2 3 2 7
Deer Skin 0 2 4 2 8
Eel Skin 0 2 3 2 7
Hair Sheep 1 1 4 2 8
Haircalf 1 1 4 2 8
Hartbeest Hide 0 2 3 2 7
Karung Skin 1 2 3 2 8
Lamb Skin 1 1 4 2 8
Leather 1 1 4 2 8
Lizard Skin 1 2 2 2 7
Nile Crocodile Skin 1 0 2 2 5
Oryx Leather 0 2 3 2 7
Ostrich Skin 1 1 3 2 7
Peccary Leather 0 2 2 2 6
Pig Suede 1 0 4 2 7
Python Skin 1 2 2 2 7
Salmon Skin 1 1 4 2 8
Sea Snake Skin 1 2 3 2 8
Shark Skin 0 2 3 2 7
Shearling 1 1 4 2 8
Shell Cordovan 1 1 4 2 8
Springbok Hide 0 2 3 2 7
Stingray Skin 0 2 3 2 7
Whip Snake Skin 1 2 3 2 8
Zebra Skin 1 2 1 2 6


We hope that you find this useful. Feel free to let us know if you have any questions, concerns or feedback.

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Topics: Ethics, Sustainability

Ethics and Sustainability of the Reptile Skin Trade: Rating System

Posted by PanAm Leathers on Feb 26, 2020 12:00:00 PM

It is supremely important to us that our business is sustainable and ethical. The trade of exotic skins has been around long enough now that we have had plenty of time to figure out how to do good and well at the same time. We want to make sure that the net result of our trade is that people, animals and places are better off. If animals are going to be sacrificed, it needs to be for a greater good.

For some people, no amount of “greater good” justifies the sacrifice of an animal. This is a disconnect between people who live in cities in the developed world and people who live in more remote and less developed areas where they need to protect their loved ones, lands and livelihoods from the threats posed by animals. Animal rights are important. But so are human rights.

To date, we have been proactive about implementing ethics and sustainability standards in our supply chain, but we have not been as good about communicating on it with our customers. When we sell, we communicate about our quality, selection and service; and our customers have always made their buying decisions accordingly. But it is becoming increasingly important to our customers that we deliver on sustainability and ethics as well.

To address this, we have come up with a Sustainability and Ethics Rating System, based on the factors outlined below. Over the coming weeks, we will grade each of product that we offer and place that grade on the product page of our website, so that our customers can factor that into their buying decisions. We hope this is useful for you and we welcome any feedback or questions.

Sustainability and Ethics Ratings

Animal welfare is graded 0-2. Are there scientifically backed standards for how the animals are treated and are they enforced as effectively as possible?

0: There are no standards in place, nor any effort underway to develop standards;

1: Standards and enforcement are being developed;

2: Standards and enforcement are already in effect.


Biodiversity is graded 0-2. Are these animals captive or wild bred? Closed-circuit farms (where animals are bred on the farms) do a lot of good for conservation, preservation of land and economic fairness. But wild-bred animal programs have all the same benefits, plus they have a more direct positive effect on biodiversity. Hunting and egg collection programs are government programs scientifically designed to maintain healthy population levels, so that other species and land preyed on by the species being hunted are protected. Grading is as follows:

0: Captive-bred species from farms that we have not personally visited and are not certified by an organization like ICFA or SARCA;

1: Captive-bred species from farms we have personally visited or are otherwise certified Good farms personally inspected by us or that are certified get 1;

2: Wild-bred species.


Conservation is graded 1-4. It is important that wild populations flourish. Nearly 6,000 species of animals and 30,000 species of plants are protected by CITES. Depending on the degree of protection they need, CITES species are broken into three categories and we grade them based on these appendices:

1: Appendix I contains species threatened with extinction under which trade is only acceptable under extraordinary circumstances. We do not grade this a 0 because the problem has been recognized and steps are being taken to address it;

2: Appendix II species are not as in danger but must be trade-controlled to prevent exploitation.;

3: Appendix III fauna and flora are protected in at least one country, and so CITES countries participate in controlling its trade;

4: Non-appendix species do not require CITES control because there is no credible threat to their survival.


Use of meat is graded 0-2. Reptiles and exotic species are a source of protein for over 2 billion people worldwide. With that said, not all meat is suitable for human consumption for health reasons. In other cases, when governments start nuisance programs for species that have become a problem in their area, there isn’t always a market for the meat to start. This takes some time to develop. So the grading system is as follows:

0: Meat isn't used for human consumption for no good reason;

1: Meat isn’t used for human consumption for one of the reasons described above;

2: Meat is used for human consumption.


We don’t grade for veg-tan versus chrome tanning. Yes, veg-tanned leathers are generally biodegradable but they also don’t last as long as chrome-tanned leathers, so they are more likely to be discarded. Chemicals are bad. But so is waste. So in our book, this is a wash. 

We don’t deal in any species that get a 0 in any of the above criteria. Even if they score perfectly in all other criteria, if they score a 0 in one, we don’t work with them. The best possible score is a 10. You will see the ratings begin to appear on our website product pages in the coming weeks.

This grading system may evolve over time as we learn more and receive feedback from our customers and the broader community. Meanwhile, we hope this will give you some relevant insight. Feel free to contact us with any questions or comments.

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Topics: Ethics, Sustainability

Ethics and Sustainability of the Reptile Skin Trade: SARCA

Posted by PanAm Leathers on Feb 12, 2020 12:00:00 PM

SARCA’s mission is to improve the responsibility and transparency of the Southeast Asian supply chain of reptile skins, primarily python skin, lizard skin and snake skin. Members include luxury brands, manufacturers, tanneries, farmers, trade associations, non-profits, academic and government institutions. SARCA’s research guides corporate and public policy on population controls, animal treatment through the supply chain, habitat preservation and human welfare.    

SARCA is based in Paris. It shapes supply chain policies on how the animals are captured, transported, kept (both short term and long term), raised (in the case of farms) and killed. At the heart of this guidance are general animal welfare principles, animal welfare principles specific to these species, sustainability as it pertains to both the species and their environments, as well as human considerations.

The general animal welfare piece is based on the five freedoms established by the Farm Animal Welfare Council of the United Kingdom and adopted by national veterinary associations like WSAVA Global Veterinary community and animal cruelty groups like the Animal Humane Society, as well as the World Organization for Animal Health. These five freedoms are:

  1. Freedom from hunger or thirst by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigor;
  2. Freedom from discomfort by providing an appropriate environment including shelter and comfortable resting area;
  3. Freedom from pain, injury or disease by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment;
  4. Freedom to express most normal behavior by providing sufficient space, proper facilities, and, as appropriate, company of the animal’s own kind;
  5. Freedom from fear and distress by ensuring conditions and treatment avoid mental suffering.

The animal welfare guidelines specific to these species is based on years of research, SARCA insists that the following additional considerations are taken for pythons, lizards and snakes:

  • These reptiles should never be thrown, dropped or dragged. Even minimal impact from these activities tends to cause severe internal injuries.
  • These reptiles are stressed by vibrations, chemical pollution (including petrol from vehicles or boats) and human activity, so limit their exposure to these things.
  • These reptiles cannot regulate their own temperature so they are dependent on the ambient conditions for this. So it is crucial that air, light, temperature and humidity conditions are well managed. These conditions should vary slightly for feeding, mating, nursing, general living and the reptiles’ other various stages of life.
  • In times of distress, most reptiles seek shelter in dark and confined spaces. So it is important to mimic this environment in situations where the animals could become anxious.
  • Don’t mix sizes and species. Cannibalism is common among reptiles, so it is important to keep them separated by size and specie.

In addition to limiting the stress on the animals, sustainability is paramount. That means that the hunting and farming of these animals must not compromise the survival of the species or their environments. To protect the species, SARCA research informs quotas to make sure the animals are not over-hunted and size limits which ensures that females are allowed to grow to an age where they can reproduce. Research shows that the populations of these species are at stable, abundant levels.

From an environmental standpoint, these species are super-predators which means they tend to dominate their ecosystem in a way that negatively affects biodiversity. In other words, they eat other species into near extinction in their ecosystems. So controlled culling of these super-predators actually protects biodiversity. In addition, when humans can generate income from hunting or farming these species, it gives them an economic incentive to preserve the land and protect the habitat.  

The human element is also interesting. Most of these reptiles are hand-caught by natives in remote parts of Southeast Asia and are sold to distributors or processing facilities for approximately $30 each. For someone who earns just a few dollars a day, this is a substantial economic boost. Also, in these areas, the abundance of these aggressive reptiles threatens human safety. The rules on the ethical ways to handle the reptiles also factor in the human danger involved.

SARCA literature goes into greater detail on all of these topics. Go to the contact page on their website should you want to reach out to them to learn more.

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Topics: Ethics, Sustainability