Two high-tech sporting goods pioneers think so
Could be a contender
“Future materials of choice”
“I’ll be inquiring”
“Rocket scientist” likes the idea
Along the way Krishna became known as the only rocket scientist in animal welfare, because Aspick Inc., the engineering and manufacturing company he founded in 1974 with the proceeds from selling a motorcycle, went on to build radio telescopes and robotic satellite arms for the Indian space program.
The combination of Connors’ then-unique two-handed swing with the resilience of steel made him practically unbeatable from 1974 to 1977.
The aluminum racket
“In 1973,” Krishna recalled to ANIMALS 24-7, “I was manufacturing one of the earliest aluminum alloy tennis racquets. As an ethical vegan, I used the best synthetic strings available 44 years ago, but was stuck as far as the handle wrap went. All high quality grips were leather at that time.”
Cricket great helped
Synthetic grips took over
Basketball & football
“A nylon/polyester carcass is positioned in between the bladder and the cover of the basketball,” Goodwin adds, “in order to help maintain the shape of the ball and add needed durability.”
Zoa could replace leather covering
Footballs are mostly made by the same process.
As leather scraps are increasingly expensive, driving up the price of polyurethane leather, basketball and football makers have been energetically seeking and testing alternatives. Zoa, which is in effect “real” leather except that it is grown from yeast, not taken from an animal, appears able to fill the bill.
But is Zoa really vegan? Objects longtime Beauty Without Cruelty/India chief executive Diana Ratnagar, on the BWC web site, “Biofabrication is a process that produces a material that has the same flexibility, smooth texture and elasticity of leather through a tissue engineering technique, but it is not ‘completely animal-free’ as claimed by the inventors of Modern Meadow. The lab grows leather in two weeks from skin cells that produce collagen. It is falsely claimed,” Ratnagar alleged, that ‘no animals are harmed’ because via a biopsy on a living animal, skin cells are taken from which leather is grown in the lab.”
Ratnagar, however, appears to have an obsolete understanding of the biofabrication process.
“You could get all the animal cells we need from a feather,” Hampton Creek founder Josh Tetrick explained to ANIMALS 24-7 in July 2017, after similar allegations were made about the Hampton Creek effort to use biofabrication to produce “real” chicken without raising and killing a bird.
“You just cut off the quill tip of a naturally discarded feather, and there is all the cell structure we need,” Tetrick said. “Then we grow the product in a culture developed entirely from plant extracts. You could pick up all the animal cells we need just by picking up the shed feathers at a sanctuary.”
Biofabrication as Modern Meadow does it to make Zoa would most likely begin with flakes of dandruff, Tetrick suggested, though Modern Meadow has not disclosed all of the details of the process.
The portion of No animals skinned to make new Zoa “biofabricated” leather that piqued Scott Carpenter’s interest, and Chinny Krishna’s, was our mention that if by any chance Zoa products need reinforcement to wear as well as leather in products that receive high-stress use, such as shoes and car seats, Carpenter may have the answer.
For the benefit of readers who only peruse the sports section, the remainder of this article replicates the concluding portion of No animals skinned to make new Zoa “biofabricated” leather.
“From Carpenter’s perspective,” working out of a small shop near the Baseball Hall of Fame, “leather itself was an obstacle between players and better performance,” reported Steven Kutz of MarketWatch.com in 2014. “Carpenter had made shoes and sneakers for himself with synthetic material. He thought such material could improve on leather because it is stronger, lighter and more breathable.”
Non-leather has already made the majors
The first non-leather baseball glove used in the major leagues debuted with pitcher Brian Gordon of the New York Yankees, who had already played briefly in the big leagues, on June 16, 2011. Another pitcher, Michael Schwimer, had introduced Gordon to non-leather gloves when they were minor league teammates in 2010. Schwimmer debuted for the Phillies with his non-leather glove later in the 2011 season.
Gordon and Schwimer both used Carpenter Trade gloves hand-crafted from nylon microfiber. Neither lasted long in the major leagues, just parts of two seasons each, during which Gordon had a won/lost record of 0-1 while Schwimer was 3-2. Similar gloves have now been used by at least seven other U.S. professional players, and at least one professional player in Southeast Asia.
$560 vs. free
More major leaguers probably would use Carpenter Trade gloves except for the economic factors: Carpenter Trade gloves start at $560. Most major league players get their gloves for free as part of endorsement contracts.
Ten ounces lighter than conventional leather baseball gloves, the vegan Carpenter Trade gloves meet the strength and safety requirements of Major League Baseball Inc., meaning that they can stand up to hundreds of impacts of baseballs traveling at close to 100 miles per hour.
Non-leather vinyl baseball and softball gloves were introduced for recreational play by several makers circa 1990, but had a notoriously short useful lifespan and are now sold only for use by children who are just beginning to play ball.
“Quality of synthetics then was awful”
“The quality of synthetics back then was awful compared to now,” Carpenter told ANIMALS 24-7 after Gordon and Schwimmer made their brief major league marks. “I believe the tipping point for synthetics in professional baseball gloves is now–it wasn’t plausible earlier.”
Recently Scott Carpenter has experimented with combining the costly nylon microfiber components of baseball gloves, which flex the most and absorb the hardest impacts, with less expensive materials for the palms and backs.
Zoa could become one of those materials––and nylon microfibers could in turn reinforce Zoa in almost any high-stress application.