Is It Vegan To Buy Second Hand Leather?

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It’s typically considered vegan to continue wearing leather clothes if you already had them before going vegan.

That raises another question: is buying and wearing second hand leather also vegan?

It can be hard finding certain types of vegan clothing (although getting better) that fits your budget, so it’d certainly be convenient.

It’s a tricky issue, but there are some important differences.

I’ll lay out both sides of the argument, and we’ll try to come to a reasonable conclusion.

Arguments for and Against Second Hand Leather Being Vegan

I’ve read just about every online conversation I could find on this topic, and here are the main arguments for and against second hand leather for a vegan:

For… Against…
It doesn’t seem to contribute directly to the animal industry Many vegans find wearing animal skin gross
It can be really difficult to find vegan alternatives for certain types of clothing in certain places. You may be normalizing them. I.e., others see you wearing them and think that leather must be “okay”.
  A non-vegan might buy the particular item instead of buying a new product made of leather (so you can be affecting overall demand).

I don’t think either side is obviously correct here, but personally I fall on the side that says buying hand leather isn’t vegan.

Here’s where I take issue with the 2 arguments in favor or it:

Point: It doesn’t seem to contribute directly to the animal industry

  • My issue with this point: Buying second hand is still part of the supply chain, even if it’s way down. If people can resell their leather goods, it will encourage them to buy new ones before fully using old ones. If you absolutely have to buy second hand leather, the best case scenario is to buy it from a charity thrift store that does not make a profit (and therefore has no incentive to search out more leather products).

Point: It’s hard to find vegan alternatives for certain clothing

  • My issue with this point: This is a valid point if you live in some remote area. But chances are, you can find a vegan alternative online of similar quality. It may be more expensive, but a core part of being vegan is putting the welfare of others above your own convenience.

Ultimately, unlike something like vaccines (which contain animal products but are seen as vegan) clothing is not a life threatening thing if you can’t wear exactly what you want.

I can’t speak for everyone, but while buying second hand leather isn’t the worst thing you could do (by a mile), I do not believe it is vegan.

About the author

Dale Cudmore

Your friendly neighborhood vegan from Toronto. Chemical engineer turned semi-professional soccer player and freelance nutrition writer. I've been vegan for years and try to make life easier for others by sharing what I've learned.

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