Are Second Hand Items Vegan?

Something which is of great debate in the vegan community is whether certain items such as leather car seats or wool jackets are vegan when they’re bought second hand. This is a complicated question to answer as it isn’t a simple yes or no question. Since animal products bought second hand like at a garage sale or a thrift store do not benefit the companies that hurt animals, it’s up for debate. I believe that since the purchase of these items doesn’t actually directly hurt animals or benefit people who do hurt animals – it’s entirely up to personal opinion and deciding what you, as an individual, believe regarding the matter.

 

Most vegan issues should not be considered personal choices. For example, when someone claims that eating animals is a personal choice they’re completely disregarding what this “choice” of theirs does. The massive environmental impact like I discussed in last week’s post “Animal Agriculture & Climate Change” and severe animal cruelty, world hunger, are just a few things that happen when people eat animals. This makes eating animals not a personal choice as even if someone believes animal lives don’t matter – eating animals affects humanity and the entire planet. So when something isn’t vegan, but doesn’t hurt anyone, what then?

 

The fact is that, technically, they’re not vegan since they originated from an animal… But are they wrong? I think the answer to this is also no, creating a dilemma. A similar situation happens with truly cruelty-free eggs/other animal products. Not vegan on a technicality, but not something which hurts animals. This is why I believe that while second-hand non-vegan items can’t be considered vegan at their core: a person should still be considered vegan if they are a vegan person who uses items that are second-hand

 

(Note: the reason why I don’t consider second-hand non-vegan food items okay is due to the personal health issues that arise with consumption. I consider this a different area of concern and this as well as the problems with food waste will be discussed in the future on my blog, be sure to follow to keep up with all my latest posts.)

 

The only valid argument that I’ve seen against second-hand items not being vegan is the theoretical situation that someone will see you wearing such an item and buy the same exact one not second hand. However, as stated, this is a theoretical situation that is not guaranteed to happen and likely will not happen. Ways to get around this possibility is to outwardly discuss where you got the item and your opposition to how it was made, to begin with, if someone asks about the item. Labels can also be removed or covered if it’s a brand such as ugg boots. I used to have ugg boots but decided to replace them due to their recognizability even though I believe it’s okay to use second hand/old non-vegan items as a vegan. This displays the importance of making personal choices for yourself based on what you believe and are personally comfortable with.

 

Do I buy/use second-hand animal products?
For the most part, no. I avoid most things and check thrift store items to see if they’re vegan or not almost always before purchase. Besides one sweater I bought (pre-owned) before I was vegan, all my clothes and accessories are vegan. There are some options I don’t have a choice in and others that are personal decisions.

  1. I have leather seats in my car,
    1. My car is from 1999 and has had multiple owners.
    2. I barely use it anyway: I only use it on trips I can’t do on my bicycle.
    3. Leather seats weren’t a reason I bought the car.
      1. This is important as it displays intent; the seats just happened to be leather rather than me wanting leather seats.
    4. Cars are something that can’t just be replaced out of the blue unlike a pair of shoes, and many old cars have leather seats & other interior options.
  2. I have some antiques that are not vegan.
    1. Books especially are a common antique item that are often not vegan.
  3. If I see a non-vegan gift I would like to buy for someone else who isn’t vegan available for purchase second hand, I would consider it.
    1. Example: Say my dad wanted a new leather wallet or maybe a wool hat for his birthday. If I could find one second-hand rather than another family member buying a brand new one for him, it would not directly hurt an animal.
      1. The other option would be to find a vegan version of the item of request – but second hand items have other benefits such as the environmental aspect of reducing clothing/item waste. Both are good options for their own reasons. Neither actively hurt animals.

 

Another thing I think is important to discuss is the fact that many people have items that are from before they were vegan. Everything from a baby blanket or a stuffed animal to a sweater to an old leather wallet. Does continuing to keep & use these items mean that someone isn’t a real vegan? If someone wants to keep being a vegan do they need to get rid of these items (which hurts the environment)? The answer which I’ve hoped to answer here today is no.
Ultimately, I truly think that whether or not an individual believes non-vegan second-hand items are “okay” for vegans is entirely of personal opinion. If someone does not feel comfortable using pre owned items which are not vegan, that’s okay, so long as this is an opinion that they formed by themselves and they also do not force this opinion on others who believe differently. There are a number of animal products I’ve replaced with vegan options after going vegan and some I have decided to keep for multiple reasons. As discussed earlier, second-hand items don’t hurt animals and they do not benefit people who do hurt animals, so this is a matter of personal opinion and choice.

The main purposes of veganism when looking beyond personal health is to stop environmental destruction and injustice for animals, and second-hand items greatly reduce environmental impact as well as don’t hurt animals even if they originally did. Let’s not forget that while trying to be perfect vegans and remember that we (most of us) as vegans are all just doing what we can to help people, the animals, and the planet. We are all on the same team even if we have different methods and opinions for certain things.

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Categories: Green Living, Veganism

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8 replies

  1. Well said. I think when people get into the debate of second hands items or of using past items that were non-vegan it becomes more of an issue of personal identity or really caring about the message your sending. If you are practicing veganism and someone knows of you as being a vegan then sees you in a leather jacket or whatever it could be sending mixed messages. This reminds me of the Catholic church’s stance on premaritial sex and scandal. So basically the church says you can’t have sex before marriage so cohabitating and having sex wouldn’t be ok but cohabitating without having sex would. This might cause scandal to others though because they would assume you were having sex and then disregard you and your religion and consider you a hypocrite even though you aren’t. So this wouldn’t be recommended especially if you we’re someone who really represented the church and more in the religious “lime light”. That being said, I have been having this dilema over a pair of sandals I bought online used. I just liked how they looked and they ended up being leather but they are so comfortable and the only pair of sandals I own. Now should I throw them out since I don’t believe in using leather or buying it for myself or should I honor the cow that was already killed and use my secondhand sandals with pride knowing that someone else saw these sandals as trash and would’ve just thrown then away? If so the animal died for nothing. The first person supported the company I feel like I would be supporting the animal. The animal gave it’s life because of that person and company so how dare someone just throw it out like trash disregarding it’s life?! Soooo as you can see I have mixed feelings about this. lol

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree with everything you said, thanks for taking the time to write such a great comment! Also, the religious reference is a really interesting stance and it makes a lot of sense. I think it gets a bit tricky when an item is clearly not vegan and a vegan has it (which is why a vintage fox tail keychain I have doesn’t see the light of day; I keep it to honor the fox, just like you talked about) – but all I care about is people not hurting animals and the environment. I think everything else just remains a personal choice, a personal debate that only we can answer for ourselves as individuals. Until the whole world is entirely vegan, we have to keep making these choices.

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  2. I totally agree with you. I was going to write a post about this but you beat me to it:)

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m really glad that other people have thought about this! I was scared to post this to begin with because I wasn’t sure if I could portray what my opinion was well enough. I would also love to read your stance on it as well – so don’t feel like I beat you to anything! I’m sure you have some great opinions I didn’t mention on the topic as well. Thanks for commenting!

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  3. I never thought about this angle of veganism before. So refreshing to see someone address an important ethical issue like this head on, and with an open mind. I will definitely be more open to second hand non vegan items now 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much! I’m really glad that this helped and opened your mind to something – I was very nervous to put this opinion out there, but it’s really important to me since I consider myself an eco fighter and item waste is a huge problem for the environment – which is why I land back on the opinion that this is really a personal choice.

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  4. Thanks for writing this post! This is such a big debate amongst vegans that I know. I appreciate your perspective.

    Liked by 1 person

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