The Second Hand Leather Debate: Vegan or Not?

It’s a popular debate amongst the vegan community, and it’s a controversial one. Several weeks ago I purchased a pair of pre-loved cowboy boots from an Op Shop. The comments I received as a result of this purchase were extremely mixed, and it really highlighted the controversial nature of this topic. As such, I wanted to clarify my stance and explain my thought processes around this divisive issue.

From my perspective, the root of the answer to this topic lies in your reasoning behind why you are vegan. I am vegan for the animals. I am also vegan for the environment. I do not believe in directly supporting the leather trade by purchasing new items and voting with my dollars to support that industry, however at this point in time I am comfortable with purchasing leather items second hand. I know that leather boots will last much longer than any plastic pair I buy, and decreasing my consumption (which in turn decreases my environmental impact) is definitely something I am consciously working on. I know that the initial production of leather goods is horrendous, and I disagree with it wholeheartedly, however I am currently of the view that my purchase of these goods does not further create demand or impact the industry – Op Shops do not track their products in this way or order more from the supplier once you have made your purchase.

For me, it’s a similar question to should I throw out all my leather products now that I’m vegan? The answer is clear to me – NO! By doing this, I would generate more environmental demand by purchasing new products to replace those I had thrown out. As mentioned above, something I am working on is trying to reduce my consumerism. If we threw out all our old leather products and they ended up in landfill, or in the ocean, is this really a better alternative?

For those of you who are a little more interested in the arguments of both the YES and NO sides, this is what I gather:

Arguments from the YES camp – it’s okay to wear second hand leather!

  • Buying second hand leather takes places outside the market of supply and demand. If the product is acquired in a way that creates no further demand or market for the item, then is there even a moral argument against the use of second hand leather?

  • It is always better to buy second hand where possible, regardless of what the item is. The costs (both monetary and environmentally) of creating and transporting a new item makes it more ethical to purchase items second hand.

Arguments from the NO camp – why would you promote what you don’t believe in?

  • Wearing second hand leather is not technically vegan – by definition, vegans do not use or consume animal products. Wearing leather perpetuates the idea it is acceptable to use animals for clothing.

  • It is unnecessary to still wear leather when there are such amazing synthetic products on the market.

  • By purchasing leather products, you are taking away from a non-vegan who may purchase it new if there are fewer second hand options available.

It’s a controversial topic, I know, but just as you’re entitled to your opinion, I am entitled to mine.

I know that over time change is inevitable, and of course my views and opinions may change. I am always searching for growth and educating myself on matters of importance to me and this world. If anyone has a convincing argument in regards to this topic, please do let me know below. Topics such as this are often the most interesting to debate – I love hearing how passionate people are about our animals and our planet!

Dara x

Dara HayesComment