I’ve been vegan for one year as of this month. In that time, I haven’t purchased any animal derived goods, but I do frequent secondhand stores and flea markets where there are all kinds of leather goods. That leaves me to wonder, is it ethical to buy secondhand leather?
I don’t think this question has a neat and tidy answer, so I want to encourage a discussion. I’m sure everyone will have different opinions and honestly, I don’t completely know where I stand on the issue.
I’ve always been attracted to leather. Even now as a vegan, I think leather/faux leather shoes or bags are aesthetically pleasing. Of course, I know where the former comes from and I’m not okay with that, so I will not purchase any new products. When it comes to used leather though, I don’t have a firm stance.
I continue to wear my non-vegan clothing from before I made this commitment because some of it is sentimental and I can’t afford to replace everything. Maybe this is too far out of a limb for most people, but I feel like the damage is done and the least I can do is use the items until they fall apart and make the most of it. I understand that some feel uncomfortable doing that, but I hope that if you’re in that camp, you donate the items instead of throwing them out.
In my opinion, you can be vegan and buy used leather. From a sustainability standpoint, wouldn’t it be better than buying new faux leather? Yes, there are sustainably produced (and sweat shop free) vegan options, but those are often more costly. If you don’t have that kind of money, I don’t see a problem in buying the real deal secondhand. It wasn’t sustainably produced either, but it’s already made and your money isn’t supporting the industry. I think it’s a matter of choosing the lesser of two evils.
On a scale of worst to best in terms of ethics, I’d say:
new leather < secondhand faux or genuine leather < sustainably produced vegan leather
That’s just my opinion. Although I don’t agree with the notion that veganism is a personal decision, I think purchasing secondhand leather might be. Share your thoughts below! I’d love to know what you think and buy.