Do vegans wear leather?
This is a question that is asked often, and I believe there is more than one answer. Becoming/ being vegan looks different for each individual person, and I feel very strongly that we are to respect where everyone is on their journey. I know that some vegans feel adamant that you absolutely do not wear leather or any other animal product, but that’s not where I stand. Personally, I don’t wear anything leather, fur, with feathers, etc. but that’s my personal decision and it took a little while for me to phase out those things.
I still wore leather for a little while after becoming vegan, but wasn’t fully comfortable doing so. My favorite boots (pictured above) were the hardest thing to stop wearing, but every time I put them on, all I could think of was the cow that they came from. I now have strong bonds and relationships with rescued cows and can’t imagine wearing their skin. Another thought is that I don’t want to wear something that someone else would see as appealing and want to go out and buy the same thing. For example, my leather boots were purchased (years ago) solely on the fact that my friend had a pair and I loved the way they looked, so I bought a pair. I wasn’t vegan yet and had no connection whatsoever to what had happened to the animal I was buying…. I just knew I wanted the boots. This is one of the reasons that my personal decision is not to wear animal products. In no way am I judging anyone else for wearing animal products. My friend Kelsey who is vegan, is a business owner of a wonderful vintage shop in Wilmington, NC, (The Wonder Shop) and sells vintage leather, silk, etc. This is a great way to shop and not buy into fast fashion, while also supporting small businesses. There has been controversy in the vegan world about selling these products, but again, I believe we all need to respect where people are on their journey and not judge. Buying into fast fashion is worse on many levels than buying used/ vintage clothing, and this is something to think about before going out and replacing everything we have. There are many ethically sourced cruelty free products, but we have to be diligent about finding those companies.
In 1944 Thomas Watson wanted to come up with a word other than vegetarian for those who didn’t consume dairy or eggs. He coined the term “vegan” along with some friends from The Vegan Society, and they defined the word as this: “Veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.” – The Vegan Society
When we become vegan (unless we are born vegan) we usually have products that are not cruelty free. For most people it can be a process to eliminate things from our wardrobe, our pantry, and our household. It’s not conducive to everyone to just get rid of everything “non” vegan right away. The words “as far as possible and practicable” are important to remember, as well as the fact that no one is perfect and hopefully everyone is doing their best with what they have to work with. We live in a world where we can find a cruelty free item to replace anything made from animals, yet some of these products can be pricey, and worse, some are not environmentally friendly. Not everyone can afford to replace everything they have with vegan items, and to shame them for not doing so doesn’t exude compassion, which is to me, the tenant of veganism.
What do we do with items that are not vegan? This too can be a very complicated subject. I once heard someone say they burned their leather sofa when they became vegan. I’m not here to judge anyone for their choices, but feel strongly that I personally do not want to waste, burn, or throw away something that was made from an animal. To me that is just throwing more disrespect to the animal that has already been exploited and killed for human use and deems their life totally worthless. There are so many thrift stores that we can donate items to, and finding a homeless shelter to donate old coats, boots, and blankets is also a great way to pass on the items you no longer wish to use.
In a nutshell, there isn’t an easy answer to this question. The bottom line is to do our best and to be compassionate and non-judgmental towards all living beings.