VWPA Advice #018: Leather Wearing Vegans = Hypocrites?

But you wear leather!

Aren’t vegans who wear leather, or wool or fur for that matter, hypocrites!? How can they wear animals and call themselves vegan!?


Slow your roll, bra. The Vegan Society defines veganism as:

Veganism is a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose

“As far as possible and practicable” is the key here. You don’t need to have everything figured out before you start calling yourself vegan! Some vegans buy and wear leather, or other animal products. Some people take clothes from friends and family and wear them without, some people shop at second-hand and consignment shops. Some people (*cough* me! *cough*) still own leather boots that are in great shape and don’t see the purpose of throwing them out or donating them in order to buy new vegan ones. A lot of vegans are also conscious consumers, and sometimes our desire to upcycle, recycle or not consume conflicts with our veganism.

I would rather wear my leather boots until they fall to pieces and then buy a new vegan pair than get rid of them right now. That seems reasonable to me. I no longer buy apparel that contains animal products but for many years I still bought leather shoes and, occasionally, things with traces of silk or wool. I bought beauty and cleaning products that were not cruelty-free and were made of god-knows-what.

For a long time, just getting my diet right was what I could handle. My veganism started for health and environmental reasons, and then it expanded. Now, I’m a far more conscious consumer and I put a lot of time into making sure I’m not supporting the exploitation of animals with my purchases, but it took me a while to get there. Some people purge of all animal products the second they go vegan, and kudos to them, but it’s eliteist and short-sighted to expect everyone to have the ability to do so, whether financially or emotionally.

If I had not been able to call myself vegan back when I was still buying leather shoes, I may not be here today – a vegan blogger, podcaster and leader. I may not have influenced so many people, I may not have stayed on this path.

It’s important that we realize veganism is a journey, and that we support each other in that journey. Ignore the vegan police who tell you you’re not doing it right. Ignore the carnists trying to convince us that because we can’t do everything, we should do nothing.

You don’t have to be perfect to start doing good. Just do good as best you can and blaze your own path.


Ugh this question… I know as vegans we get this question (and variations of it) a lot but it just bugs me LOL. It bugs me because it’s such a ‘gotcha!’ question. Most of the time when someone questions you like this it’s because they are trying to show veganism is impossible. That if you can’t be a perfect vegan than there isn’t any point in trying. This is such bullshit! Because you know who it matters to, the animals that are saved because of your efforts… Like Nichole said above, most people can’t totally change every aspect of their lives overnight, and downplaying the changes they have made just because they haven’t reached perfection is just a diversion tactic. The next time a carnist wants to question you like this ask them who does the most damage? Who causes the most death? You who is vegan and strives to not use any animal products every day or them?¬†Until they are making the effort that you are, they don’t really have a leather soapbox to stand on.

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  • Hi! I was introduced to your blog today at a talk about intersectional veganism at the university where I work…so after a request to show hands who was vegan I then felt quite self-conscious about my woolen jacket (goodwill), cashmere sweater (goodwill) and newish leather shoes. It is comforting to know this issue is a struggle for others. During the past 5 years I’ve had like 99% success trying to be totally vegan with my diet (after about 3 decades of being a vegetarian), but this summer I just decided to relax! It was just too stressful for me to scrutinize everything I bought and food at restaurants or parties. I am doing the best I can…I’m not going to beat myself up about it any more. I do wonder at times if I really should say I am vegan, since I still have animal-based clothing (I still buy leather shoes and woolens from goodwill) and some furniture, etc.

    • Jennifer, thank you for reaching out! I love that you guys were talking about intersectional veganism, that makes me so happy!

      I still have animal-based clothing and (possibly) furniture, but I definitely call myself vegan. If you feel it in your heart, then you are. There’s no way I could get rid of my animal-based stuff right now (I have been slowly working it out over the last few years but there’s still a good amount I have left) and I would hate to think that the haters are right and that veganism is truly elitist – I can’t imagine that many people would be able to afford to ditch all their animal-based stuff all at once.

      Kudos on conquering your diet and for thinking about these things critically. Veganism is a journey and we’re glad to have you by our side as we all take it together.

      Rock on, vegan warrior princess!


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