Can Vegans Wear Leather?

By Divya Kashyap. Updated: July 2022.
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Maybe you’re new to veganism or have lived a vegan lifestyle for years. But if you currently find yourself wondering whether vegans can wear leather, then you have come to the right place.

There is no easy way to answer this question. Like most matters involving lifestyle, there isn’t a single binary answer. There is definitely room for nuance here and we aim to cover it in this article.

Can Vegans Wear Leather?

The simple answer is both yes and no, based on the context, of course. 

In practice, veganism seeks to exclude all forms of exploitation and cruelty towards animals, as far as possible. This philosophy isn’t just reflected in a vegan individual’s diet. It is also mirrored in their clothing and ways of living. 

Most vegans choose not to wear traditional leather at all. This is because it is derived from animals and the process involves cruelty and exploitation. 

To them, wearing animal leather is equivalent to wearing a dead animal. They are in complete alignment with the principle of no animal use.

But, here’s the deal! There also exist vegans who disagree with this to some extent. They are of the opinion that it is okay to use old worn leather.

If you’re going to be a vegan, you should know your options when it comes to clothing, as there are different types of approaches to wearing leather. There are also different types of leather to be found on the market at present time.

Can Vegans Wear New Leather?

This is an absolute no-no. All vegans are against the animal industry and the cruelty involved in producing leather. Cruelty not only to animals but also to the laborers who are exposed to toxic chemicals in its creation.

The main issue with buying new leather as a vegan is that you financially support the industry you’re against. The industry sells leather to generate earnings. So removing fresh leather from your life eliminates another source of profit for the company.

New leather is also an issue because it raises the demand for animal goods. This means some animals are murdered only for their leather which perpetuates the problem.

The act also maintains the status quo that wearing leather is okay. And of course, vegans are consciously trying to change this narrative through their choice as consumers.

Can Vegans Wear Used Leather?

Can Vegans Wear Used Leather

There is a critical feature in the debate on whether vegans can wear used leather. It is around promoting the belief that animal leather is fashionable. This can not only maintain the status quo but it might also indirectly support the leather industry.

Most vegans believe in setting a new status quo. One that is based on using only vegan materials to set an example towards an ethical approach to fashion.

To them, wearing used leather defeats the purpose of trying to bring forth a different paradigm because it upholds the status quo.

But there are also vegans who refute this logic. Yes, they are against buying new leather. But their opinion is that it’s okay to use the leather items you owned before turning vegan. 

Many people cannot afford to replace leather furniture and articles that they already own. In this case, it is much more practical to use them until they wear out.

This is because the leather industry is quite hazardous. Unused leather that is chemically treated generates even more toxic waste in landfills.

These vegans would rather use worn leather to the end of their cycle. They might also wear secondhand, thrift/, or upcycled leather as they believe it’s a much more sustainable thing to do.

Their reasoning is that through circular use, existing leather won’t end up in landfills prematurely. Compared to using plastic-based faux leathers that pollute the oceans, they feel that this is a much better approach.

According to them, these items already exist and it’s more sustainable to use them for the duration of their life.

The resale market is considered an excellent option for purchasing used leather. A growing awareness of sustainability and climate change has greatly influenced vintage shopping.

Vegans who are uncomfortable using existing leather items donate them to charity or their local furniture upholsterer who may recycle their old items.

What About Vegan Leather Substitutes?

Most vegans choose to go for vegan leather alternatives that are ethical in nature. This implies that no animals are harmed during its creation. 

Today, there is an increasing number of faux leather and vegan leather alternatives on the market. It is becoming easier for vegans to choose plant-based materials that are durable and stylish. 

Faux leather is the most accessible but least sustainable fabric as its fiber is based on plastic. 

Washing garments, such as an acrylic sweater, a poly-blend pair of pants, or nylon gym gear, has been found to be a major cause of microplastic pollution.

But there are a growing number of vegan leather alternatives that are sustainable and biodegradable. Pinatex, cork leather, coconut leather, and mushroom leather are only some of the options being explored.

Although they are currently at a higher price point, with growing demand and scalability, the future looks promising.

Summary

So there you have it. Vegans don’t buy new leather, but some vegans believe it’s more practical and sustainable to use existing or worn leather. 

Most likely, this is bound to change in time as eco-friendly vegan leather alternatives become an accessible standard. 

It’s important to remember that ethical leather doesn’t equal sustainability. It is easy to label vegans hypocritical for wearing vintage or upcycled leather. But perhaps, there is room for nuance and understanding that a global paradigm shift takes compromise and time.

If every individual on the planet went vegan tomorrow and replaced their leather items with PU leather, we’d have an equally major problem on our hands. One that we are not yet prepared for.

In the end, all vegans stand for the end of animal exploitation and cruelty. Some vegans have a different approach to living an ethical lifestyle. And perhaps it is an equally conscious attempt towards creating a better planet.

Divya is a content crafter at Vegan Avenue. She is a long-term happy vegan who is also enthusiastic about slow, mindful living in the company of cats.