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Surprise, surprise! There's news from America that should warm the cockles of  the BJP and allied Hindutva forces that seek to protect the holy cow!

The National Football League (NFL) in the United States has come under fire from animal lovers because the footballs it uses during its seasonal tourneys are made from animal hide - to be precise, cow hide.

According to oxy.com, "It takes the hides of 22 cows to supply the footballs for a single NFL Super Bowl." Assuming that every other regular season game requires even half that amount of footballs — that's still close to 3,000 cows headed to the slaughterhouse this season, ozy.com calculates.

Naturally, animal-lovers who have made similar calculations are now griping and sniping at the NFL.

Every cowhide makes about 10 balls, according to Kevin Murphy, the general manager of Wilson Football, official NFL ball-maker since 1941. Wilson wouldn't say exactly how many balls it produces in a season, but the Chicago company said the Super Bowl alone requires 216 footballs — each team gets 54 for practice and 54 for game day.

Ozy.com quotes Wilson as favouring  cattle from the Midwest in the United States— Iowa, Kansas and Nebraska — but all the leather eventually makes its way to a factory in Ada, Ohio. There, the workers handcraft each and every one of the thousands of 'pigskins' (there are no pigs involved, it's just an euphemism for the hide) used in a season.

It takes exquisite skill to be able to make an NFL game ball; the best craftsmen are allowed to do it only if after some 20-plus years. Only two employees on the 120-person assembly staff make game-day footballs, Murphy says.

Amimal rights activists in the United States see the production of NFL footballs as a cruel business. "It's the 21st century. We have so much technology, every fabric can be replicated," says Edita Birnkrant, campaigns director of Friends of Animals, an activist group in New York City.

Murphy, ozy.com says, counters that argument. Leather mimics skin and adapts to weather changes by contracting and expanding depending on the conditions. He feels synthetics are useful for making balls for indoor sports like basketball but not for outdoor sports. However, he too thinks a day will come when leather might no longer be used to make balls.

Sports uses a variety of valuable leather products that are primary products and not byproducts. The best leather often comes from newborn calves. 

Watch a video of how an NFL football is manufactured at Wilson Football in Ada, Ohio here.

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