We pick out some popular debates in the vegan world and tackle them head-on. We ask whether or not vegans should wear second hand leather
Should vegans wear second hand leather?
This issue we’re looking at the arguments for and against second hand leather – should vegans wear it? It’s not technically a vegan material, but if it’s acquired in a way that creates no demand or market for that material then is there really an ethical argument against second hand leather? The YES’s and NO’s are presented here so that all angles can be considered, we’re not advocating for one or the other, just trying to bring you both sides of the argument.
Saying vegans can’t wear second hand leather because ‘vegans don’t use animal products’ is simply arguing from definition. It doesn’t take into account the reality of the world we live in, and it doesn’t acknowledge the reasons for being vegan. If someone is vegan because they don’t wish to support or be a part of animal cruelty, and we accept that no actual animal cruelty takes place because of someone wearing second hand leather, then where is the problem?
Plenty of people may find, inherit, or otherwise come by a leather garment without any transaction having taken place. Only ‘first hand’ purchases create the demand for more leather – there shouldn’t be any ethical quandary around second hand leather because it doesn’t contribute to that demand.
Even purchasing something second hand doesn’t feed the demand for more of that product or material, therefore buying second hand leather does not directly contribute to the death of more animals. Purchasing second hand leather takes place outside of the chain of supply and demand. A charity shop, car boot sale, jumble sale etc doesn’t order more of the same item from a distributor once you’ve made your purchase. It only works that way when you buy brand new. Buying brand new leather creates a demand that second hand leather simply does not.
It’s always better to buy second hand where possible, no matter what the item. The material costs and footprint of creating and shipping a new product make second hand purchases the clear ethical choice. You might not like to wear leather because you’re uncomfortable with the idea of wearing something that’s come from a dead animal, but that’s a matter of what you feel comfortable with – it’s not a reason for other vegans to not wear or use second hand leather.
Leather is an animal product. By definition, vegans do not use any animal products – wearing leather, second hand or not, is not technically vegan.
Wearing leather perpetuates the idea that it’s desirable or acceptable to use animals for clothing, no matter where or how you got it. If you wear leather, you effectively become a walking advert for items made from that material. Yours might be second hand, but others may be influenced to buy brand new leather garments because they admired yours.
Vegans wearing leather will confuse others about what veganism stands for. It’s enough of a struggle to get most people to understand what veganism is about as it is, if vegans go around wearing leather then it just makes our cause harder to understand.
There’re plenty of great items of clothing and accessories made from synthetic or natural non-animal materials these days; even if you’re buying second-hand you should be able to find a truly vegan version of what you want. Leather is the skin of a dead animal. How could anyone feel comfortable wearing that knowing where it came from and the cruelty those animals had to endure?
When you buy second hand leather you risk removing the option for a non-vegan to buy that item. A non-vegan may purchase a new leather item if there are fewer second hand ones available to them. This could indirectly contribute to the demand for more new leather to be made, and ultimately more animals to suffer.
If you find or inherit a leather garment, you can give it to a charity shop – this is an ethical and vegan choice. You no longer own an animal product, and you’ve made a positive contribution to a worthy cause.
We have presented you with two sides of the argument, but what do you think?
Have your say below…