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Debate: Should Vegans Wear Second Hand Leather?

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…



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  1. shaneyshay on April 2, 2018 at 6:58 am

    I am contemplating purchasing second hand leather and I consider myself a vegan. This is simply because the faux leather I can afford, just isn’t durable.

    • Mihaela Ion on September 29, 2018 at 5:00 am

      True…same here…I ruined three pairs I bought and two I received…in a short time…all vegan…I recenty bought three pairs of awesome unique second hand leather shoes which I really love and cherish…the vegan shoes were ten dollars per pair…the second hand leather shoes were one dollar per pair…they will last a long time too…I am tired of cheap vegan shoes…

    • Sonia on February 2, 2019 at 3:39 am

      The other argument is that the process to create faux leather is even more taxing on the environment

      • John on July 25, 2019 at 4:15 pm

        This is actually not true, from a study called “the study of the fashion industry “, we can see that synthetic leather have 3 to 4 times less impact on the environment than regular leather 🙂

        • Wiley on August 10, 2019 at 10:31 am

          Faux leather isn’t the only vegan alternative. Some nikes are made with synthetic materials(plastic, rubber). The real question is do we contribute to a larger environmental crisis, such as microplastic pollution, just to avoid animal skin?

    • Alicia on April 25, 2019 at 8:09 am

      I consider myself vegan, I buy only cruelty free cosmetics, as natural as possible. I got myself a certified vegan leather bag, cork vegan wallet and I own faux leather jacket. But when it comes to shoes I just wear my old leather pre vegan times shoes. And I bought 2 more pairs second hand for work. I know they’ll last forever and buying cheap faux leather shoes just to throw them away few months later isn’t environmentally friendly. Not all faux leather items are vegan or biodegradable. Maybe one day, once vegan leather shoes will last and won’t be super expensive I’ll buy them.

    • Mark Twain II on May 18, 2019 at 2:21 am

      The argument that vegans can wear leather is as abundantly ludicrous as the very idea of veganism itself. It makes no sense to abstain from consuming animal products for ethical reasons and then turn around to wear items of clothing you know were derived from dead animals. It’s a clear, unarguable contradiction in terms. Since an animal – or, indeed, numerous animals – must die to produce meat and leather products, such as shoes, belts hats, jackets etc, a vegan must avoid all contact with these items. The “secondhand purchase” argument doesn’t pass muster because, in the final analysis, it doesn’t nullify the fact that an animal died at some point to produce that secondhand item. Veganism becomes laughable, if its true believers think it’s not ok to eat meat and other animal foods but ok to wear shoes, belts, leather jackets and wristwatches.

  2. Jess on April 9, 2018 at 9:40 pm

    Should real fur and real leather be considered differently?

    Would a vegan consider wearing second hand fur?

    If a faux fur or a faux leather looks near identical to the real thing, does this encourage or normalise the wearing of real fur or real leather? (If the onlooker cannot tell the difference?)

    This is the moral maze in my brain right now!

    • Luana on November 12, 2018 at 9:30 pm

      I had the same thought.
      I even got asked multiple times about jackets or shoes I wear if they are real fur or real leather. So I don’t completely understand the argument saying wearing secondhand leather is not good because you’re normalizing it, but still encourages to wear the faux version instead, which looks exactly the same.

  3. Julie Peck on July 22, 2018 at 1:16 pm

    I’m having this debate right now, with myself. Before I started living as a vegan, I bought leather shoes. Is it going to help anyone if now I get rid of those shoes? Should I burn them? Give them away? What’s the difference if I give them to another, or use them myself? Can anyone tell the difference between leather and fake, as way of advertisement? I know, from this point I will not buy leather, but quandary about the leather I already have.

    • Tom on December 20, 2018 at 10:49 pm

      In my opinion, there’s no point in getting rid of leather you already have. It’s still wasteful for you to get rid of a perfectly good pair of shoes (or belt, or jacket, etc) and go buy a new (non-leather) pair. Maybe give them away, or to charity, if you still feel uncomfortable owning and wearing them, but purely from the ethical standpoint I see nothing wrong with continuing to wear leather that you already own. Wear the leather out as long as it lasts, and then just don’t replace it in your wardrobe (or replace it with something non-leather).

    • Lynne on August 18, 2019 at 10:47 pm

      I feel the same way. I feel that I am disrespecting the animal that gave its life for the belt I already own. For me it is a reminder of who I was and how I have finally woken up to the meat industry. I will not buy any animal product again but I will respect and honour the deaths of those that already paid the sacrifice.

  4. Jessica N on September 28, 2018 at 12:54 pm

    I’m struggling with this as an irish dancer who has NO other option but to use leather shoes for performance and competition (hardshoes, not soft, soft are easy to find) I absolutely love dancing, and haven’t bought any shoes since becoming vegan 3 years ago, but my hards are dead and we have a competition coming up… I woukd get secondhand… but I still somehow feel so conflicted by it. I just so wish there were alternatives!!!!!

  5. Liza on October 1, 2018 at 12:20 am

    I am a vegan who once in a while will buy both secondhand leather (must be over 30 years old) and old cashmere. I try to find stuff no one cares about or would want- stuff full of holes and tears. The reason why is that I’m against producing more plastics through my consumerism, believe reusing stuff is important, don’t think most people care to use me as a fashion icon, and would rather donate the money I save from not buying expensive vegan replacement items to various charities. I know others have different views and I respect them all. I give a ridiculous amount of money to the poor and to animals and buying new stuff doesn’t support that goal for me.

  6. My on October 14, 2018 at 7:23 am

    Both points are right. But for example, what do we do for motorcycle gear? The most protective gear is made out of leather. What do you do if you like that specific Jordan’s sneakers? There isn’t nothing similar vegan. You need/want that item but refuse to Put your money there. Get it second hand, its ok!

  7. Maria on November 18, 2018 at 9:39 pm

    I am moving every day closer to a vegan lifestyle. Not there yet (occasional honey until home supplies are finished, and not strict vegan when dining at friends). But I hope to reach the vegan destination soon. However, I’ve decided to keep my leather shoes and woolen/cashmere jumpers which I bought before moving towards an ethical vegan stance. It would not help anyone if I were to refurbish my winter wardrobe with synthetic jumpers and boots. I have decided that I will take really good care of all the garments already in my possession to make them last as long as possible. Good quality shoes, resoled (with rubber soles) can last near enough a lifetime. Given that I am already in my early 60s they probably will! But I will not buy animal products again from now on and will look for alternatives if I really need something new. Although, I am also moving towards a non-buying lifestyle, since I have everything to live a modestly comfortable lifestyle.

  8. Eddie on December 30, 2018 at 3:01 pm

    I’m getting ready for 100% vegan on January 1st. Have been working towards it for awhile now but even a couple of days ago, munched a bag of cheesies before a friend said…’you can eat cheesies’ ? Never had given a second thought. Life goes on.. no more cheesies ha ha. I’ve decided to give my leather shoes and belts to Goodwill. Thanks for the suggestion above. Other than that I think I’m good to go…. bring on the New Year.

  9. Laura on January 29, 2019 at 6:47 pm

    I wondered about this too – having only decided to become Vegan/Vegetarian this year but my dog has a leather lead – i wear a pair of Dr Martins I bought years ago and I have a second hand goat skin satchel that I bought second hand –

    I realised that I have to stop worrying about defending my choices and worrying about labels

    I have extended my circle of compassion…. and will continue to do so – it is a journey

  10. jef Grace on February 16, 2019 at 5:56 am

    Veganism has become so watered-down. People say, “I’m a ve-gan.” because it’s easier to say than the five syllables it takes to say veg-et-ar-i-an. It’s ridiculous! When I ask these people, “So… you don’t wear leather or eat eggs or sleep on a feather bed?” They always seem confused, or if they know that they aren’t true vegans, they try to rationalize their lifestyle ‘claim’, or make me feel like I don’t know what I’m talking about. Sometimes they’ll state that there are ‘levels of dedication’ to which they are a little more lax with the ‘rules’. Veganism is symbolic, more that being a vegetarian, because the protest of the exploitation of animals is at the core of their belief system. There is no meaning behind ‘being a vegan’ if the tenet of the movement is not upheld. Most ‘vegans’ are phony, image-conscious posers.

    • Lex on July 30, 2019 at 8:06 pm

      I genuinely cannot understand why you care so much. If you’re concerned about animals and the planet, which I assume you are if you’re vegan, why on earth would you belittle people who are doing so much more than most? You have to be self aware enough to realize that behavior like this is what gives vegans a bad rep, right?

      I buy second hand leather. I also have a feather pillow from before I went vegan that I see no reason to give away. So I guess according to you I’m a vegetarian and should identify that way. Even though I am opposed to eating eggs and dairy and when I go out to restaurants or when my friends cook for me I want to be provided a vegan meal. How does that make sense? To me, vegan means not contributing to products that exploit and harm animals. Not nO tOucH AniMaL pRodUcTs.

      And, for the record, your narrow definition isn’t even accepted by the vegan movement. I’d imagine you’ve heard the definition, but here it is again for reference: “Veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.” If buying second hand leather doesn’t contribute to exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing, or any other purpose, it’s vegan. This definition also allows for plant based products that harm animals, like unsustainable palm oil, to not be considered vegan while your definition would still consider those products vegan. Seems to me like a more useful way of looking at things.

  11. Michael T on April 25, 2019 at 3:51 pm

    Just stumbled across this article and reminds me of a conversation from a vegan dinner I attended a few years ago when I was still considering going from vegetarian to vegan. The guests were “vegan” but it was apparent it was not for ethical reasons, as when I asked how many of them wore leather even the long time vegan said he did. The vegans I met that inspired me to slowly transition to vegetarian were very consistent in their approach in all aspects of life, so it was a high standard that was set. While I have some current friends who pick and choose how they apply their vegan lifestyle, when I finally made the switch to being vegan I knew it was all or nothing for me. It’s funny, when I tell people I am vegan the first thing they do is look at my belt and shoes – which are synthetic. While I happily donated by leather items to charities based on my core beliefs for the welfare of animals, some of my vegan friends like to rationalize certain decisions when convenient in the situation. The vegan lifestyle is a choice, but it gives other dedicated ethical vegans a bad reputation when someone raises red flags on some items, then blatantly ignores others. Wearing the skin (or fur) of an animal perpetuates the economy based on the slaughter of animals – no matter how you acquired it. It might not be “convenient” for some people to stick to purchases that do not include animal products, but it certainly wasn’t convenient for the animal to be brutally slaughtered for you to wear its skin.

  12. Evelyn on September 7, 2019 at 6:49 am

    I am vegan only since a couple of months, and was looking for a winter jacket – I live in the netherlands so there is not the biggest choice of vegan clothes here, if you’re not rich. And most of the times it has to be shipped from pretty far away.
    So my options are to buy a vegan eco friendly jacket for 200-400€ which I can’t afford BY FAR – or a secondhand Jacket from wool or filled with feathers, or other unvegan things going on with it.
    I was also thinking that animal products are more eco friendly than (cheap) synthetic products, and like I said, I really can’t afford the expensive eco friendly alternatives.
    So to not freeze in winter, my only option is to buy a secondhand product that contains as little cheap synthetic and as most eco friendly material as possible, which unfortunately most of the time is from animals.

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