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.


Debate: Should Vegans Wear Second Hand Leather? 1

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.


Debate: Should Vegans Wear Second Hand Leather? 2

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?

          • Dee on January 8, 2020 at 9:10 am

            If wearing second hand leather is likely to increase its demand as a fashion item, then wearing faux leather does the same. I often receive compliments on my faux suede jacket and faux leather satchel handbag. People don’t know they’re not real animal skin unless I tell them. People are not empty minded fashion zombies. Every action includes a moral choice and personal responsibility. Faux animal skin is made to look and feel convincingly real. Is it then best avoided too?? If animal exploitation is ultimately the exploitation of humans, then how far will we go in avoiding visible signs personal destructivity? Is it acceptable for a vegan to be smoking in public or at all?? People are all-round visually intelligent. So if your against wearing second hand leather for fear of influencing other people’s judgement, then reflect what this means for other visible signs of being destructive that might be on show. We each set our own vegan benchmark and many non-vegans may see much more hypocracy than we are aware of.

      • Reyaan on November 9, 2019 at 8:10 pm

        Surely vegans dont believe in religion, or have they founded a new one? They twist all biblical scriptures to suit there livestyle. Not surprised.

        Dont eat meat or any bi product of it. But leave us meat eaters alone. We respect your choice even though we dont agree. Respect ours. Spead your gospel with wisdom and maybe people will like what you preach.

        • Nani on December 23, 2019 at 2:53 pm

          you came to a vegan centered website, what did you expect we’d talk about? taxes?

        • Samuel on February 1, 2020 at 10:46 pm

          Many people cannot turn a blind eye to the torture and evil that these animals endure in the slaughterhouse. They have a conscience. So if they believe it to be an absolute abomination, why should they stay silent? You would like that, wouldn’t you? It would make you feel very comfortable to not have to confront the suffering you may be inflicting on others by choosing to eat animal products.

        • Kim on February 28, 2020 at 11:36 pm

          AMEN. I agree 100%. Animals were put on this planet to serve the people on it, not the other way around.

          • Courtney D on April 4, 2020 at 10:11 pm

            Well, you say that humans are superior to animals. 1. You have to remember that humans ARE animals and 2. Superiors care for the inferiors.

          • orin bernard bee on August 6, 2020 at 3:42 am

            People are animals. We left Africa and moved around the world. Even if you’re religious as I am I realize that a person is an animal ,so if you kill other kinds of animals then you will probably kill human animals. Maybe that is why human animals kill other kinds of animals and then also spend a great deal of money and time killing their own kind of animal.

          • Carkos on October 12, 2020 at 6:12 pm

            To think that other animals were put on earth so serve us means that somehow we are more important or better or more necessary than other animals. By the way, we are animals by definition.
            It also speaks of some sort of creation, as in somebody PUT the other animals there for us.
            I’d you look at the damage we are doing to the planet you could could easily deduct that we’re not doing any good to the planet. If you see our planet as one living organism you can see how each being has a roll to maintain the planet functioning.
            We humans have evolved to have control over our planet and are very quickly destroying it.
            Other animals are not here to serve us. We should aim to live sustainably and in harmony with other living beings.

        • orin bernard bee on August 6, 2020 at 3:18 am

          But, in the eating of meat an animal is abused and then killed. This is what vegans are against. We have to speak out against such barbaric practices. I do not and never will respect the person who condones the abuse on the farm, factory farm and all farms, of an animal with feelings and even love for its young. I saw a mother goat care for her kid and then later the kid had its throat cut and was eaten. This practice is evil and sinful. Please become aware.

        • Jordan on March 3, 2021 at 4:56 pm

          Isnt commenting on an article on VEGANLIFEMAG.COM asking vegans to leave you alone with their beliefs a bit of a contradiction??? Also not everyone on the planet is religious?

    • 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.

      • orin bernard bee on August 6, 2020 at 3:29 am

        Saucony makes a great vegan shoe out of hemp and cotton canvas upper and rubber bottom. You can buy them on the web for sixty dollars with free shipping and on sale for forty eight dollars and free two day shipping. They come in a simple cardboard box you can use for something else. I bought my second pair yesterday. They don’t look leather, they look natural , are natural and vegan, and that is something we should be proud to show others we are wearing. And, no plastic to hurt the earth.

    • 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.

      • Gregory on December 1, 2019 at 3:24 am

        Something all us need to be aware of is that animal byproducts exists in all our daily life. From car tires to plastic bags. Unfortunately it is unavoidable not to be a recipient of animal products in this day and age. Just think of the farmers that grows our plant based diets. In plowing the fields they will kill field mice and insects. The grocery store we buy food from will hire exterminators to keep vermin from getting to the food. It’s unavoidable. In my opinion what is important is our intention. We will never achieve a hundred percent animal free lifestyle. However, if our intent is to do so we will do good. Regarding the leather issue one needs be honest with themselves as to what one’s intent is. If you are buying new or used leather because you think it looks good, then you will have to live with at decision. If you work in an environment where safe sturdy footwear it required, then you may need to consider wearing leather. And if so do it with the knowledge and reverence that something was sacrificed of which you are benefiting from.

      • yaboy on September 8, 2020 at 3:28 pm

        Veganism is about reducing harm to animals where possible.

        Buying second hand leather from a charity shop is 1.) not supporting the harm of any animal 2.) reducing landfil 3.) giving money to people in need 4.) it is not producing more demand for the product.

        People who are vegan only for the animals have issue with this. Vegans who are vegan for the animals and the planet have no issue with this.

  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!!!!!

    • Izie on February 24, 2020 at 10:58 am

      I have this coat that my grandma bought in 1999 and now doesnt wear anymore even though it is in perfect condition. On the one hand i feel like if i give it to a charityshop there is a chance that no one buys it or that they just throw it away after a few uses because they didnt like it after all (unsustainable) i also dont want to promote buying leather to others. On the other hand i feel held back from wearing it myself because of what others might think. But i also dont just want to leave it hanging in a closet where it wont be worn because than i feel the animal died already for nothing and now its not even being used. i dont know what to do

      • Tessa on July 1, 2020 at 7:52 pm

        I have a similar dilemma! My mom gave me a leather jacket that she bought years ago on a trip to Europe. I want to keep it for memories sake, because I don’t know that others will buy it/ it will be used, etc. However I still don’t know if it’s morally right to wear it. I’m very conflicted.

    • Rachael on May 16, 2021 at 8:37 pm

      I’ve just taken up Irish dancing and I’m struggling to find vegan soft shoes. I would be so grateful if you could advise where you’ve sourced yours from. (I’ve been vegan for 20 years and not bought a single leather product in that time – I don’t want to have to now if I can help it). Thanks!

  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.

  13. Sara on October 19, 2019 at 4:12 pm

    As corny as it sounds, listen to your heart and do what’s best for you. There is this huge war between vegans and non vegans and everyone thinks they’re better than the other, honestly this needs to stop!

    Personally I would feel guilt wearing animal products, even second hand, I get all of the reasoning(more durable and good vegan products are expensive and hard to find, etc) but I would still feel like a hypocrite wearing it.

    We are all on our own journey, don’t worry so much about what other people think of you, worry about what your choices mean to you, be true to yourself and your beliefs.

  14. Anthony Joshua on January 12, 2020 at 12:38 pm

    Isn’t that like saying a vegan can eat the rest of my order of beef sliders.

  15. Rajesh Jain on March 11, 2020 at 1:42 pm

    I am thinking to be a Vegan and what I understood from above Yes or No debate is… Vegan means Vegan,
    No second hand leather product. Either I have to be a true Vegan or not a Vegan.. No Drama.

    • pez on May 1, 2020 at 10:24 pm

      Hello, I have been debating with myself for months and I need help. I have been wanting a punk looking oversized faux-leather jacket for so long. Mind you I am from a small town in a small European country and i can not find it anywhere to buy. My grandpa has his old leather jacket which I unvilingly tryed and saw that it is exactly what i was looking for. Its quite old and not the best looking and the charity here wont accept it. I am strongly against it, but my family and friends, some of them vegan themselves, keep telling me that it is okay to wear it so i started questioning it. What do u think??

  16. orin bernard bee on August 6, 2020 at 8:34 pm

    I finally came to a conclusion about what I should do with the leather products I own. I saw a photograph of a naked little girl a little in the distance and close up a kitten on a branch. Both were animals and should be treated the same. If it were the skin of a child it should be buried and not worn and the same goes for the skin of any of the other animals, too. So, I dug a hole in the woods and buried all my l skins in it. Now , never to buy skins again.

    • Peter James French on September 11, 2020 at 8:54 am

      I’m not a practicing vegan but I try to make ethical choices as much as possible. In the past six years, I have bought two faux leather jackets. Both of them deteriorated within a couple of years. I still have my second jacket but the thin ‘skin’ has peeled off the plastic underneath to the point it is no longer wearable. A proper leather jacket or any real leather item such as a belt or shoes are enduring. If I had bought a real leather jacket in 2014 instead of the faux one, I’d still have the original leather jacket instead of having got through two. Plastic alternatives to leather may be vegan but are not necessarily environmentally-friendly. So if I decide to buy another jacket to replace my current one, this time I shall buy real leather rather than rubbishy faux leather.

  17. Leather on November 18, 2020 at 12:33 pm

    Anything come out from animal from the cost of the animal life or health is a big no-no to vegan. Yes it’s that simple.

  18. Robert on June 20, 2021 at 6:14 pm

    I had two leather belts before being vegan. I then bought two vegan belts afterwards. The first vegan belt is currently in landfill after falling apart within weeks. The sharp plastic (!!!) on the second vegan belt cuts deep into my skin every time I try to wear it. However the 2 leather belts work as well as they day I bought them which was 20 (twenty) years ago!!!! In my case, wearing the leather belts make sense as do some second hand purchases. I guess cruelty v environment is a key factor on your opinion.

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