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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…

  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.

  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.

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