First off, let me begin by saying this post isn't titled "Oh No, I Couldn't Possibly Give Up Leather!" for a reason. Even as a child, before the word "vegetarian" entered my vocabulary, I detested leather and what it symbolizes. The thought of donning an animal's skin for my own personal comfort or style is gross to me -- and most readers of The Flaming Vegan, I'm sure. Still, it has come to my attention that some vegans see no problem with wearing second hand leather. How could this be? you might ask. Here's the reasoning:
1. The cruelty has already been done.
Buying a used pair of leather shoes at Goodwill, to some vegetarians and vegans, is acceptable because the act of cruelty has already been committed. Second Hand Rose, when she picks up a $20 pair of thrift store Manolo Blahniks, believes she's done no wrong because her dollars aren't directly feeding the leather industry. Besides, she gets a sweet pair of shoes that will arguably hold up better than their man-made Payless counterparts any day of the week.
2. Synthetic materials harm ecosystems.
The manufacture (and eventual disposal) of some synthetic shoes can cause pollution that harms ecosystems and, ultimately, animals. This is due to the synthetic materials and chemical adhesives found in manmade shoes that are either a) not biodegradable, or b) hazardous when absorbed by the earth. Some vegans in second hand leather would argue that supporting a synthetic industry that harms ecosystems is actually worse than purchasing a pair of already-dead leather boots.
And now for the counterarguments, which I'm sure many readers have already conjured up in their own minds:
1.) Why promote what you hate?
Although it's true that the cruelty has already been committed in the case of second hand leather shoes, why promote the material by wearing it when there are plenty of awesome shoes in thirft stores that are made of alternative materials?
2.) Synthetics will become more humane. Leather will never be humane.
Synthetic shoes may contain materials that harm ecosystems, but the demand for leather results in the cruel slaughter of animals for their skins. Vegan shoe companies continue to make positive advances toward the construction of cruelty-free shoes, but leather shoe companies never make any positive advances in the slaughter of animals for their skin. Animals still die.
If you're not sure about the contents of a shoe, you can always read its "ingredients" label before purchasing. It's not hard to find synthetics these days; they're cheaper to manufacture than leather and therefore becoming much more common in stores.
If you're looking for a pair of cruelty-free shoes, consider purchasing manmade footwear from any one of these 28 popular brands (once again, however, remember to read the label first):
Adidas, Avia, Capezio, Converse, Crocs, Dansko, Dexter Shoes, Fashion Bug, Hot Topic, JC Penney, Keds, K-Mart, Kohl's, Life Stride, Liz Claiborne, Mudd, New Balance, Nike, Nine West, The North Face, Payless, Puma, Reebok, Target, Teva, Timberland, Victoria's Secret, Zappos.com.
What about you? Would you/do you wear second-hand leather? Leather that has already been purchased? Leather from your non-vegan days?
Image credit: Tobias Akerboom (at hutmeelz)