Should Vegans Wear Second-Hand Leather?

Once you become vegan, different questions arise. Should you eat your family’s leftover non-vegan food before it goes to waste? Should you throw away the cozy, wool-knit sweater you received from your grandma years ago? Should you stop eating food that may contain animal ingredients from cross-contamination?  

These are some of the questions many of us face but often these questions are answered by the same reasons that led us to such a lifestyle change. My moral compass doesn’t allow me to exploit animals in any shape or form, so I don’t feel compelled to eat leftover animal food even it’ll go to waste. But like I have my own opinion, many other vegans have theirs.

With that being said, should vegans wear second-hand leather? According to The Vegan Society, veganism is a way of life that seeks to exclude (as much as possible) all forms of exploitation and cruelty to animals, be it food, clothing, makeup, or for entertainment purposes. By this definition, one can assume that using second-hand leather is not compatible with veganism.

However, while most vegans certainly sympathize with this definition, you’ll also find vegans that are completely fine with using animal-based clothing as long as it doesn’t involve generating more demand for animal cruelty.

Let’s look at a few colliding perspectives I’ve found being shared by various vegans.

3 Reasons Why Some Vegans Decide To Wear Second-Hand Leather

When you purchase second-hand leather, it means you’re reusing something that’s been used or worn previously by someone else. Second-hand leather can be available in many products, including boots, jackets, bags, belts, and many more.

In the past, using second-hand products was synonymous with being broke, but now it’s become a growing trend (even among vegans) for the following reasons:

1 – Helps Reduce Environmental Impact


Oftentimes second-hand products are in good enough shape to be reused, however, since we live in a highly consumer-based society, clothes that are no longer used (not because of their bad state) end up landing in a dumpster when they should be getting donated or resold.

Unfortunately, people throw away clothing or footwear after a year or two because it becomes unfashionable or it doesn’t fit anymore, and for a material that is as long-lasting as leather, it takes up valuable space in the landfill that should be occupied by non-reusables.

What’s more, products like clothing and footwear are often manufactured and dyed using potentially harmful chemicals that may end up polluting the air we breathe and the water we drink. By acquiring second-hand products (whether it’s in the form of leather or wool), you’re helping the environment by not promoting the demand for “new” products, and you’re also preventing unnecessary waste.

2 – Doesn’t Promote Exploitative Work

cheap labor

Even leather (which was originally a very expensive material) is now available in different qualities and price points, which means many of the cheap products (containing leather) may be manufactured in impoverished regions where workers produce clothing for a ridiculously low wage.

In the meantime, we are living in an outrageous paradigm where men and women are strictly worried about what jacket or boots they’ll purchase next week to make an impression.

The immediate impact second-hand products have in these impoverished regions can be debated, but some suggest it may help companies (within the fashion and retail industry) to revise their strategy, but more importantly, it may encourage consumers like you and me to make smarter decisions that limit labor exploitation.

3 – Allows People To Save Money

save money buying second-hand products

Yes, buying second-hand products may also allow you to save more money.

What’s more, you can find high-quality second-hand products from top-notch brands for a bargain. It’s not unusual for expensive buyers to barely wear a piece of clothing and discard it soon afterward. If you’re someone who appreciates expensive fashion, you’re likely able to spend less money buying more of those types of products than you’d be able to if you shopped new.

Some thrift stores practice more expensive prices than others, especially if you’re looking for high-tier brands, however, if you’re not particular about the clothing you wear, you’ll generally find good deals.

If you’re interested in buying second-hand products (particularly clothing), here is an amazing video by My Green Closet on how to thrift shop like a professional:

Why Other Vegans Are Against The Use of Second-Hand Leather

Vegans who are against the use of second-hand leather adhere to the Vegan Society’s definition of veganism we’ve mentioned at the beginning of this blog post. In other words, since leather isn’t vegan, they won’t use it.

Also, another argument I’ve spotted is that anyone who wears leather may perpetuate the idea that wearing leather is fine, which may influence or convince others that doing so is acceptable. While your leather jacket may have been acquired at a thrift store, someone else may be compelled to purchase one because they’ve seen you stylish wearing one.

Besides, wearing second-hand leather doesn’t change the fact that what you’re wearing is essentially the skin of a dead animal, therefore, from an ethical standpoint, that’s probably not compatible with the values shared by most vegans.

However, it can also be argued, that by not wearing the second-hand leather jacket, you’re going to simply allow it to go to waste (and end in a landfill), which may be regarded as “wasting a life”.

Final Thoughts

Quite frankly, I can sympathize with whichever argument, and it’s also true that while you have alternatives to leather (as in faux leather), those alternatives, at the moment, pale in comparison to the real thing and certainly lead to more waste since people have to replace them more often.

For someone that uses faux leather boots in a harsh work environment, finding solutions that are reliable in the long-term can indeed be difficult, and perhaps investing in second-hand leather boots may be ideal.

Personally, I believe that despite your choice, you should not be judged. Whether you want to wear second-hand leather or not use any leather at all, you’re already making a huge contribution by NOT purchasing brand-new animal products and increasing its demand.

I’m sorry I haven’t provided you with a “yes” or “no” answer, as it would probably be easier from a decision standpoint, but I still hope to have helped you decide upon something or at least relieve some burden off your decision.

Alexandre Valente

Hey there! My name is Alex and I've been vegan for more than five years! I've set up this blog because I'm really passionate about veganism and living a more eco-conscious life. Hopefully, I can use this website as a channel to help you out on your own journey!

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