Can Vegans Wear Leather Shoes?

In the leather industry, innocent animals like cows, pigs, sheep, and even “exotic” animals like crocodiles and snakes, are murdered for their hides. These poor animals are killed in brutal ways. 

So, back to our question: can vegans wear leather shoes?

Veganism means not eating, wearing, or using anything that comes from an animal. That’s why vegans don’t wear shoes made from animal leather. We consider wearing leather shoes unethical for a variety of reasons.

The way that animals are raised and treated in the leather industry is cruel and inhumane. Cows are kept in crowded and confined conditions on factory farms, where they’re denied basic needs like space to move and access to the outdoors. 

These conditions can be so unsanitary that cows are forced to stand in their own waste and suffer from diseases and infections. People incorrectly assume that leather is just a byproduct of the meat industry, but the leather industry is a $350 BILLION dollar industry! 

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, over 2.29 billion cows, calves, buffaloes, pigs, and goats are killed every year by the global leather industry. The leather industry is so big, that the hides of animals killed for their meat are not enough to meet the global demand for leather. Billions of animals are killed for leather every year.

China produces 25% of the world’s leather, making it the biggest exporter of leather in the world. Factory farmed cows used in the leather industry in China are raised in crowded and inhumane conditions. 

The leather industry in China has faced criticism for its lack of animal welfare regulations and enforcement, leading to widespread animal abuse and mistreatment. This often includes over-crowding, lack of veterinary care, and brutal slaughter methods.

In China, cows used for leather production are typically slaughtered in abattoirs using methods that do not meet international animal welfare standards. 

These methods can include stunning with blunt instruments, painful shackling, and slitting of the throat while the animal is still conscious. These practices result in significant suffering for the animals, and have led to calls for greater regulation and oversight of the leather industry in China.

Also, because the dog and cat meat trade is a legal and thriving business in China, leather made from cats and dogs is also legal. Peta uncovered some shocking footage of dogs being killed in the dog leather trade. 

Even though countries like the U.S. have banned dog and cat leather and fur from being imported into the country, there’s simply no way to know how much of the leather imported from China is cat or dog leather. So, you might be wearing cat or dog leather without knowing it! 

If you’re grossed out by the idea of wearing cat or dog leather, you should be equally grossed out by wearing cows, sheep, or pigs. Vegans don’t believe killing cats or dogs is worse than killing typical farm animals. We’re against speciesism, which means that we believe that all living beings deserve rights. One species is not more important than another species, including humans.

As if the leather industry is not cruel enough, there is also the fact that leather is terrible for the environment. The production of leather requires the use of harmful chemicals, like chromium, which can pollute water sources and harm local wildlife. 

The tanning process also releases pollutants into the air, which contributes to environmental degradation and climate change. Producing leather requires a lot of water and energy, which can put a strain on resources in areas where leather production is concentrated. 

This chart from the Higg Sustainability Index is a helpful guide to see which textiles emit the least to most greenhouse gas emissions. You can see that producing cow leather emits more than twice as much greenhouse gas emissions as synthetic leather and is the second most environmentally unfriendly textile in the world, second only to silk.

But what about second-hand leather shoes? Some people who call themselves vegans believe that it’s ok to wear secondhand leather shoes and other products because they’re not actively supporting the production of new leather products, which can be harmful to the environment and to animals. They also argue that by using secondhand leather products, they’re preventing those products from ending up in a landfill, which can contribute to environmental degradation.

Wearing animal leather, whether new or secondhand is not vegan in any way shape, or form. While it may seem like wearing secondhand leather shoes doesn’t directly contribute to harming animals, it’s still promoting the use of animals as commodities, something that we as vegans want to end. 

It would be like wearing secondhand fur. When you’re walking down the street looking like a pimp from the 1970s with a dead fox on your back, are people going to be like “Oh, it’s fine, that’s just secondhand fox fur?” Or will they think, “That 70s pimp thinks wearing a dead fox is ok,”? It’s going to be the latter!

By wearing leather shoes, you’re supporting an industry that views animals as mere commodities, rather than sentient beings with their own wants, needs, and desires. This not only contributes to the exploitation of animals but also reinforces the idea that it’s okay to use animals for our own purposes. Animals have rights including the right to be free and to not be exploited or killed.

Veganism is about rejecting the use and exploitation of animals for any purpose. Wearing leather, whether it’s new or secondhand, goes against the core principles of veganism.

If someone identifies as a vegan but still wears leather, they’re not following a vegan lifestyle. Veganism is about making a commitment to reduce harm to animals and the environment, and wearing leather products goes against that commitment.

If you’re a vegan, it’s important to make a clear and conscious choice to not use or wear animals or animal products for any reason. By doing so, you’re upholding the core principles of veganism and reducing harm to animals and the environment.

For vegans, wearing secondhand leather shoes isn’t the solution. So, if you’re interested in going vegan and want to reduce your impact on animals and the environment, consider switching to alternative materials that are both cruelty-free and environmentally sustainable.

By switching to alternative materials like plant-based and synthetic leather, vegans can reduce harm to animals and the environment, and send a message that animals should be treated with respect and dignity, rather than as objects.

So, what do vegans wear instead of animal leather shoes? There are plenty of alternatives! 

Here are a few types of eco-friendly, plant-based leather alternatives:

Desserto: Made from cactus leaves.

Piñatex: Made from the fibers of pineapple leaves.

MuSkin: Made from the caps of mushrooms.

Cork leather: Made from the bark of cork oak trees.

Apple leather: Made from apple waste.

Kombucha leather: Made from fermented tea.

These alternatives and are biodegradable and more environmentally friendly. Plus, they’re produced without the use of harmful chemicals or animal exploitation.

Synthetic materials like polyurethane can be made to look and feel like leather and are much cheaper than animal leather. Vegan leather shoes can be found in most malls, shoe stores, and online stores. 

Check out my article, ”Your Guide to Vegan Shoes (That Actually Look Good!)” for some vegan shoe recommendations!

The leather industry is horrible for the animals and the environment, so if you want to become a vegan and you want to reduce your impact on animals and the planet, buy vegan shoes! The animals will thank you!

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