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Welcome back to our weekly Debate Thread! It was supposed to go up yesterday, but better late than never. :)

So, as the title asks: should vegans wear or use second-hand leather, wool, or other reusable animal products? Do you wear leather boots that you bought before you went vegan? Would you use wool yarn for a knitting project if you inherited the yarn from a friend who didn't want it anymore?

This is more of an intra-vegan debate. There are good arguments on both sides. What do you think?

Welcome back to our weekly Debate Thread! It was supposed to go up yesterday, but better late than never. :) So, as the title asks: should vegans wear or use second-hand leather, wool, or other reusable animal products? Do you wear leather boots that you bought before you went vegan? Would you use wool yarn for a knitting project if you inherited the yarn from a friend who didn't want it anymore? This is more of an intra-vegan debate. There are good arguments on both sides. What do you think?

7 comments

I always buy vegan if I am buying new items, but I do buy second-hand leather or wool items from time to time. I think that once it has been created, the harm has been done and the item may as well be used. I don't think that buying second-hand clothing or furniture contributes much to demand. Most people don't buy their furniture and clothing based on the resale value - selling the item is more an afterthought once they're done with the item.

Buying secondhand is a reasonable ethical option especially for certain products that are hard to find in vegan versions. I have leather seats in my used car and I think it would have been difficult to find a good used car without leather. Likewise I don't think that there is any reasonable vegan substitute for a down sleeping bag for winter camping or a down jacket. Synthetic bags and jacket are really only suitable for 3 season use.

[–] Cat 2 points (+4|-2)

Back when I was vegan I did buy leather and wool from second hand stores and clothing swaps. Leather really is better quality than most synthetic leather substitutes, especially ones you'll find in a second hand store. There's also the environmental impact of buying new clothes and the ethical consideration that a lot of textiles are produced in sweatshops or under abusive conditions such as American Apparel's sexual abuse of models.

I think in the end you should do what you like. If you're just vegan for the food but don't really care to purge your leather sporting goods, just do you.

[–] margerydaw [OP] 5 points (+5|-0)

Quality and durability are definitely the main drawbacks when it comes to vegan leather. I do buy synthetic leather boots and I end up having to replace them once every two years or so.

I don't think most vegans would accept such a thing as "vegan for the food" - we tend to call those people "plant-based dieters". Obviously everyone is free to do what they want, but the question that vegans usually consider is whether that action is the most ethical option.

[–] fae 2 points (+3|-1)

I don't see why not, the harm is already done. Vegan leather is terrible quality, too; replacing pleather jackets/boots/belts every couple of years gets expensive. The environmental impact of all those purchases is worse than buying leather goods once every few decades (preferably thrifted, but even if bought new).

[–] shewolfoffrance 2 points (+3|-1)

Hey, I hope it's ok that I comment here. I'm a vegetarian, but not a vegan. If it's not ok, I apologize and please delete!

I'm interested in reducing food waste and limiting the environmental impact of the fashion industry. The textile industry and fast fashion are environmentally filthy, so I buy almost all of my clothes second hand. That said, I do use second hand wool and leather. I don't want to have a role in killing animals for textile production, but I also don't want the materials harvested from them to go to waste. I have a couple second-hand leather purses and wool sweaters that have lasted me for years, and are still going strong. I personally think it's better to make the most out of existing materials and products to reduce waste. I'm not ironclad in these beliefs and I am very interested in other opinions.

[–] margerydaw [OP] 4 points (+4|-0)

Yes, it's absolutely ok! Our "Debate Thread" series is open to anyone. :D

I think if someone is dead set on having a leather or wool item, second-hand is the way to go. However, my own belief is that it's better for vegans to eschew buying animal products even second-hand because it still creates demand for them in the second-hand market that reverberates to new clothing manufacturers and takes away an opportunity for a non-vegan who might have purchased the item used if they could find it but would buy a new one if they couldn't. Also, I kind of worry that sporting animal fashion lessons the stigma associated with wearing those items, which is why I waffle over whether wear them at all. I don't want to make them look cool, not that I'm any kind of fashionista trendsetter lol.

[–] InvisibleWoman 0 points (+0|-0)

I think in many cases, buying second hand leather and wool is a more ethical choice. As others have already said, the harm has been done, and I feel it is better that it is used rather than discarded. Second hand fashion has gotten extremely popular and many brands are now copying the looks and silhouettes, but I don't think this is happening because of us or that we can really stop it. Those brands would have used unethical materials and labour regardless. We shouldn't buy from brands that use these materials, and should always be vocal about our boycotts. Everyone should be more mindful of who they give money to, including second hand retailers. Many of them are owned by unethical parent companies.

That being said, I have stopped buying animal materials because I don't feel comfortable paying for animal body parts. I do own 4 items made of either leather or wool. I bought all of them second hand when I was already vegan, and I feel I am morally obligated to respect them. Maybe that's ridiculous but it means a lot to me to know I respect them. If I gave them away, they might be discarded, or someone might be careless with them. I am ensuring that they get worn out and recycled when they are no longer wearable, if possible. Besides the shoes have moulded themselves after my feet, I doubt anyone will benefit from them as much as I do.

I'm currently not buying any clothing, new or otherwise, and trying to see how much I can do with what I already have. It's quite an interesting challenge and really brings into focus ethical questions of consumption like this one.