Why Leather Car Seats Are NOT Vegan

I want to talk about why leather car seats aren’t vegan if you buy them second hand. This post explores a bunch of vegan issues. It touches on a whole bunch of side issues that affect vegans and should be considered if you are vegan or why veganism is the most powerful prescription for general physical, emotional, spiritual, mental and environmental health ever.

If any of you sauntering by this itsy bitsy blog are wondering what a vegan is or what does veganism mean then let me give a quick explanation. Merriam Webster gives this definition of veganism: a strict vegetarian who consumes no animal food or dairy products; also : one who abstains from using animal products (as leather).

The Oxford English Dictionary gives this definition of veganism: n. the beliefs or practice of vegans; abstention from all food of animal origin.

I want to be a little more clear than either of these definitions of veganism offer. For me, veganism is the exclusion of all animal products as well as products made from animals. So for me a vegan is someone who doesn’t eat animal products like meat, fish, fowl, seafood, dairy products, eggs as well as honey. But a vegan should go further and a vegan should exclude the use of products made from animals like leather, wool and silk. Vegans should also, where possible, exclude the use of products that might contain animal ingredients like soaps made from beef fat or cosmetics containing animal ingredients or tested on animals. This part is harder to accomplish for sure, but it is a worthy goal.

My veganism is not an anally fascist veganism. I won’t eat a cheese pizza, but I won’t move heaven and earth to find out if my cheese-less vegan pizza has some dairy in the pizza dough.

Coming to veganism from the perspective of ethics and animal abolition, I am more concerned on eradicating suffering than I am about being a purest vegan. To my mind, it is more important that veganism is seen not as some extreme sport in ingredient identification, but that it is seen rather as an easily adoptable dietary and lifestyle practice.

I believe it would be better for 10 people to go vegan who still eat a bit of milk chocolate on occasion or eat pasta marinara when they’re out even though the pasta might have some eggs in it, than it is for 1 person to become vegan because the other 9 people think it is too hard to ask about all the ingredients of all the products they’ll buy or consume.

So if you were to ask me my guiding rule of thumb on being vegan it is this. As long as there are no obvious signs of animal products or ingredients in the items I buy I’m happy to consider them vegan. Because after all, if a majority of the population becomes vegan in the definition I’m providing, then less and less animal products, ingredients and by products will be used.

Okay, so with my vegan overview and rule of thumb it is obvious I don’t drink milk, eat eggs, eat cheese pizza etc, etc. I also don’t wear leather, wool or silk as those are fairly obvious to determine with labeling and what not.

So it brings me back to why it isn’t okay to buy an SUV even used, if it has leather seats. Now I’m okay with a vegan having a Cadillac Escalade if that is what they want, because a vegan’s environmental footprint is so miniscule that you could be a bicycle riding, no car, recycling fanatic meat eater, and a wasteful vegan driving everywhere in their Escalade will still be doing less environmental harm because diet is such a huge part of our environmental impact.

But I still digress. Let’s say you wanted to buy an SUV that is a 7 seater but you’re looking at buying a car that is 6 months to a year old so you can save 10 grand or something like that. Oh yeah, and let’s pretend that this model only comes available in leather seats. If you think you’d feel less guilty about buying a car that is used because the animals have already been killed, then I think you are fooling yourself.

If you want to save yourself any guilt at all, then buy a new car without leather seats. Most if not all of the major car manufacturers will be happy to oblige.

But if you are trying to assuage your guilt by buying a used car with leather seats because you don’t think you’re directly contributing to the death of a half dozen or so cows I think you’re mistaken. Firstly, just because something has been bought new before you, does not mitigate the responsibility you have of contributing to increased suffering.

Most people when upgrading their vehicles are going for a better or higher end model. So it would be safe to assume that even more cows are being slaughtered and more leather is being used in more cars because you are making space for it by taking that leather seated car off the lot.

Now granted, the affect of vegans on this issue is small, but as more folks become vegan and don’t buy leather products there will be less demand for leather and less cows being killed.

Also, you are diminishing and diluting the meaning of veganism by buying a car with leather seats. You’re saying that my veganism is convenience based. So long as I can save X thousand of dollars I’m okay with contributing to animal suffering and slaughter. And really, if you’re more concerned about saving money than saving lives, you’re veganism is tenuous at best. Would 4 to 15 cows’* lives be worth saving a few thousand dollars? That’s an honest question.

And for a 7 seater car’s interior I bet you’re looking at least closer to 8, 9 or more cow skins. And when you consider that perhaps a North American meat eater in their whole life eats the equivalent of only 8** cows, you’re doing greater to add to the suffering by just buying that one car! If as a vegan you can accomplish the mental gymnastics involved in convincing yourself that buying used cars with leather is still vegan. It’s not.

And most reasonable vegans that I know, including yours truly wouldn’t buy a used leather jacket, or how about a jacket with leather elbow pads. I don’t see the difference in buying a used car with leather seats. You’re still opening a void to be filled most likely with more dead animal skins. The idea that the damage has already been done is preposterous and frankly bullshit.

There are two choices as I see it, if you want to remain true to the vegan ideals. Buy a new car and negotiate for non-leather seats. Or buy a used car but a lower end model that doesn’t have leather seats. If you can’t afford the new car, then buy the lower end vehicle, if you can afford a new car then buy it or, if you want to save money, buy the lower end used car. But at the end of the day, there is no reason why you have to buy a used car with leather seats. At least as I see it, there are no viable and valid reasons as to how you can bend your vegan belief in order to condone buying a car with leather seats. Especially if you’ve been vegan for several years.

I know that many new vegans have leather shoes, jackets etc, that they are still making use of because they had them before they went vegan. I’m talking about already being vegan for some time and deciding that leather car seats are okay. There’s a difference there.

Yeah the animal is dead and you weren’t the first person to buy the car. But the same can be said for any animal product. What about those dozen burger patties that your neighbor bought for their barbecue but only used 8 of them. You didn’t buy them, why not take them off your neighbor’s hands because they aren’t going to eat them anymore. And besides, they’ve got their eye on that porterhouse steak, they just need room for it.

Think about that carefully, it’s exactly the same as buying a used car with leather seats. You’re contributing to the chain of death and violence. In the law they call it keeping the chain of custody intact. So long as you call yourself a vegan, you can’t allow yourself to be manipulated either by your own mental shenanigans or by social advertising and other propaganda into thinking that you can short cut hard choices. Yeah, it’s uncomfortable being a vegan sometimes. Sometimes you have to do without. Or to do without exactly what you want.

But we aren’t children, we’re reasoning adults who have made a difficult and determined stand against the status quo. Stand firm. Hold out and be accountable. You’ll be seen as a hypocrite if you buy a used car with leather seats. People just love to jump over vegans for “what about that leather belt you’re wearing” or “what about your leather shoes”. It’s easier to say they aren’t leather, than, well yeah, I bought a car with leather seats. You’ll be seen as a hypocrite and fairly so.

Don’t belittle your beliefs for a few thousand dollars. Seriously, you can do better than that, and you’ll be prouder too. Get the lower end model without leather seats and save even more money and more animal suffering. You don’t need navigation that bad that animals can be quietly and sadly bled to their death!

Peace out vegan freaks and wannabes.


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20 thoughts on “Why Leather Car Seats Are NOT Vegan”

    1. Many thanks. You’d think it was obvious, but I’ve received quite a bit of flak from it surprisingly.

  1. thanks alot, I`m a new vegan and was just shopping for a car. I didn`t even think of the leather issue, it would have cost me alot when i would have sold the car a week later after the guilt set in.

    you`d think it was obvious but i`m just not use to the clothing and stuff part, got the food down pat though.

    thanks again

    1. Glad to help Danny. It’s important we take care of the fundamentals associated with veganism rather than allow the waters to muddy. Enjoy your new car!

  2. Wonderful article! Really enjoyed reading it. My mom’s buying a new car next month, and I’m going to make sure it doesn’t have leather seats.

    1. Thanks very much, I’m glad it was helpful.

      Leather is an easy one to give up as a vegan, and an important one too.

      Hope your mom makes the right decision for the animals and the planet.

  3. Thanks for this article! I really enjoyed it and I agree. I do have an ethical question regarding cars with leather seats I’ve been pondering for a while. Can you give me your take on this matter? It’s rather hypothical at this point because I generally take the train instead of driving but I might want to make a decision at some point. Pardon me if it’s stupid but I would like to hear other peoples’ opinions about this and my non-vegan friends would probably think I’m crazy for worrying about this question.

    I have a small, low-end but cute car (without leather seats). My parents have two cars, a Ford with leather seats and an Audi without leather seats. I sometimes need to drive a few hours on the Autobahn (German car drivers are really crazy when it comes to driving speed). My mother recently suggested I could have the car with the leather-seats because it is safer than my car (especially on the Autobahn). I guess we would either permanently or temporarily swap cars (my parents get my car and I get theirs). The scenario is a bit different to buying a car with leather seats because there’s no money exchange involved, e.g. nobody profits when I swap with or borrow from my parents.

    Now, what would be the ethical choice? I don’t want to sit on leather seats. Period. Even though borrowing a car with leather seat doesn’t necessarily sustain animal exploitation because no money changes hands. I don’t know if I could warm up to a borrowed car with leather seats, I do find it disgusting. On the other hand, safety IS important. And my parents’ car really is safer than mine. So what do I do? Ideally, my parents would let me have their car without leather seats but they want to keep it. I guess the best solution (ethics and safety-wise) is to permanently take the train….

    1. Hi Bere,

      Thanks for the question and it is an important one, but not one that I feel is any different to the situation I described above.

      Here’s how I look at it. I’m assuming your parents know that you are vegan and I’m assuming you’re an ethical vegan because this bothers you enough to ask about it.

      If they do know why you are vegan and I assume they do know, then it is easy. Thank them for their kind offer and concern over your safety. But remind them that as an ethical vegan, using cars with leather is not something that is aligned with your views.

      Suggest that you’d be more willing to swap your car for their Audi (the one without leather) and if they are concerned about your ethical beliefs and safety they will hopefully understand.

      Alternatively as you suggest, the train is a good option as well. I understand it is not as convenient, but when we choose to be ethical vegans that very choice is not a convenient one to make.

      In my mind, convenience is not an excuse to renege on your ethics.

      If you go with the leather car, you are travelling a slippery slope with your veganism. But this is a personal choice you have to make.

      I hope my input has been helpful.

      Stay plant strong,

      Jason

  4. Hi Jason,

    Yes, your input was helpful, thanks. It wasn’t confused about how to proceed for the sake of convenience but because I couldn’t really see how accepting my parents’ idea could have negative repercussion (given that I wouldn’t actually pay anyone for giving non-vegan stuff to me). I find that seeing the negative repercussions of non-vegan things in a world that is so not-vegan or getting others to see them can be quite difficult. Having re-considered my question after reading your input, I agree about the comparability of the different scenarios. The car swap idea would be similar to accepting leftover sausages at a BBQ (which I’d never consider) and thus not in alignment with veganism. I somehow find meat more instinctively distasteful than leather (maybe because meat more obviously comes from an animal) so I had to think for a while before discovering the parallel to the leather scenario.

    Cheers,
    Bere

    1. Glad to hear it Bere.

      I like to think in terms of the abolition of slavery as the issues regarding abolitionism are similar.

      If you were an abolitionist in those times, would you accept a slave as a gift? Of course not.

      Now I’m not comparing humans to animals but I’m comparing the philosophical issues at play. Leather as you rightly point out is much easier to dismiss than meat. But if we wouldn’t accept meat to eat which is offered and the animal is already dead, why would we accept and use leather?

      I think the issue is similar. We must stand firm across the board. At least that is my opinion which others might not share. Folks are of course entitled to their own opinions even if they are wrong 😉

  5. Hi There,

    I am not even a Vegan yet. I started researching about this like three weeks ago after watching some horrible films about how animals are mistreated for us to eat them.
    I got to say that I feel really bad about them and I do not want to continue being part of the problem.

    On the other hand, I have always wanted to have a leather jacket and my father gave me one as a present 2 months ago when the summer was coming and they were on sale. I was really excited (and still am) about my new leather jacket that I have not gotten to wear it because I have to wait for the weather to get better.

    However, I now feel bad about wearing it (and I have not even worn it once). In your article, you mentioned that new Vegan should not feel about stuff they had before they became vegan. Can you expand on this thought?

    Thank you…

    1. The position I take is that if you decide to become a vegan then the choice is yours as to whether you decide to keep your leather or wool or silk products that you had or were gifted to you before you became vegan.

      Once you become vegan you should inform family and friends that you no longer wish to receive animal products as gifts.

      Personally, I would find it hard to wear a leather jacket. They will likely last a lifetime. It is one thing to continue using a pair of leather shoes that will wear out eventually that you received before becoming vegan. A leather jacket will likely last you a lifetime.

      However, you’ve always wanted one, even before you became aware of the cruelty involved. This is a personal decision you need to make. It might upset your father if you never wear it. You might choose to wear it on very limited occasions so that your father can tell you are grateful.

      At the end of the day, there are more pressing and daily choices that we can make to help alleviate animal suffering. The first is to choose a vegan diet. This is an opportunity 3 times a day to eliminate animal cruelty from your life. You might also like to choose the vegan lifestyle going forward which means not more animal based products and clothing.

      Hope this helps.

  6. Thank you so much for this article. I’m looking into buying a new car and I’ve been building some online. I’m having some issues with it because I absolutely will NOT get a car with leather, but at the same time, the cars with leather are also the ones that have, say, the GPS navigation feature, and all these other cool specs I want… I just wish I could get them without having to get leather seats too. Do you think this is possible?

    1. Hi Jenelle,

      It is totally possible to get cars without leather that also have GPS systems and other things like that.

      I know that Mercedes and BMW give you the option of non-leather seating. In fact, a recent article I read suggested that non-leather seating was becoming more the norm as synthetic fibers are becoming cheaper, more durable with a better feel than leather too.

      I’d contact your dealer or reach out to consumer sales for the car manufacturer you’re interested in and tell them that you want Car A with these options and non-leather seating. If they want your business, and who doesn’t in this economy, they’ll be happy to oblige.

      Keep us posted.

  7. thank you so much for this article. my car that my parents bought me a few years ago doesn’t have leather seats but the steering wheel is leather, and that really bothers me. right now it’s time for a new car but everything seems to have a leather steering wheel. do you know of anything? help!

    1. Many of the upscale car manufacturers are offering non-leather interiors.

      I would also ask the car manufacturer for a non-leather option in your
      steering wheel.

      I just looked at a new Ford Focus SE model and it doesn’t have a leather
      steering wheel. A leather steering wheel is an option you can add. Not
      sure about the shifter handle though, but ask.

  8. I am mostly vegan, but not die hard. I certainly would never count leather production as ethical and I don’t contribute to it. However, what I maybe disagree with a bit here is that I don’t think by buying a used car you’re “opening a void to be filled”, I think whoever trades in their car to buy a new one is the one opening the void and they are usually the ones to fill it right back up again by ordering a new car. The used one is really no more than a bi-product. You have it the wrong way round. Somebody purchasing a used car, unless it’s a very rare car that there is much demand for, is not opening a void. There are so many identical used cars of every make in every city in every part of every first world country. If I buy a used BMW with leather seats, it’s unlikely I’ve taken it away from someone who will now go and fill the void I’ve apparently opened by ordering a new BMW with freshly slaughtered seats.

    I wouldn’t count leather seats as vegan just because the car was used (surely the very use of animal products is the point of veganism rather than the market?) but saying that, another point that you’ve made that isn’t really fair is when you talk about “remain true to the vegan ideals”. To be honest, if you want to be a true vegan you shouldn’t own a car at all. It’s not just leather seats, most cars, even the cheap ones, have leather gear surrounds and steering wheels. And if you manage to find one that doesn’t, well done, but don’t forget to factor in that a lot of the various adhesives used in car interiors are still animal derived. Cars aren’t vegan, it’s such a shame, but you can’t make a big deal about leather seats being wrong and untrue to your beliefs and then ignore the rest for convenience.

    Back to the leather issue, to conclude, I agree that because you would be using the animal products it is not vegan, but I don’t agree that buying a used car with leather is nothing but a chain reaction to another new car with leather being built therefore making it just as bad. People who buy new cars were always going to and people who buy used cars won’t jump to ordering a new one just because you happened to buy the last BMW on the used lot that day, they’ll just try another dealer. So it isn’t vegan, but I think a lot of things that are supposedly vegan, sadly, often end up not being. But where ethics are concerned it is significantly better to buy used than new.

    I just look forward to the day when civilisation realises that, frankly, sitting on dead skin isn’t actually a very nice concept and stops using animal products for such pointless reasons. I don’t think some of your points quite work, but I’m glad there are at least people thinking about this.

    1. Thanks for your response Daniel,

      You’re mostly vegan, so your vegan ethics in my opinion are flexible or convenient. I’m not going to discuss the minutiae about veganism which everybody jumps all over as an argument against veganism. Yes, many adhesives, inks, paints etc., contain animal by products, as do the tires on vehicles.

      But if veganism was about purity it wouldn’t be practicable. And perfection, in anything, is asinine and unachievable. So, I’m not going to entertain the idea that just because the wheels on the car have animal by products then that means it’s okay to buy a used car with leather seats if you’re an ethical vegan.

      And it is an important point. Because if there is a lack of a market for used cars with leather seats then a) folks will get less money for those vehicles, or they’ll keep them longer and b) they’ll think more carefully about buying their next car if it has leather seats. So yes, there is an effect involved here, whether you choose to see it or not.

      Additionally, there are plenty of vehicles available with non-leather steering wheels and gearbox covers. Additionally, many upscale cars, if you can afford them, like BMW and Mercedes, will build you a new car without any leather.

      Listen, veganism was never about being easy, but it is about making decisions to reduce as practicably as possible the suffering caused to sentient beings. Eliminating leather from your life if you portend to be vegan, is not only relatively easy, but also and important step. Regardless of whether that leather was bought new or used.

      You and I both wish for a society that eventually sees the use of animals skins as barbaric and cruel, as it is. However, you’re making allowances for vegans to buy used leather, in cars in this instance, because you don’t see the connection to the thread of cruelty involved.

      Not only does this harm the vegan argument and make it difficult for others to take you seriously as you talk about animal cruelty while driving them around in your leather seated car, but it also makes for a slippery slope where your veganism becomes susceptible to the whims of convenience, like it is in this example.

      As for your argument that cars aren’t vegan, vegan being an ethic, can only be used in identifying sentient humans. Many cars are acceptable for use by a vegan as I’ve mentioned above. Just because cars might have by products of animals in the paints or tires, doesn’t mean they can’t be part of a vegan’s lifestyle.

      You can’t perfectly eradicate cruelty from your life, but in fact you can be a vegan, which does NOT require the total eradication of cruelty. If it did, you might as well kill yourself, because to live does in face cause some suffering to many organisms. It’s a ridiculous and nonsensical argument to suggest that because a product has some small amount of animal products in it then it can’t be used by a vegan. There would be nothing a vegan could do then. You couldn’t ride a bike or take public transportation, or even walk on the roads, let along where shoes.

      Vegan is about reducing the suffering of animals in particular. Not eating flesh, fish, fowl, dairy and eggs, as well as not wearing or using leather, silk and wool and not partaking in circuses, rodeos etc., are simple things to do. That’s the basis and the foundation, from there you can try and move further down the spectrum to eradicate more cruelty as you can.

      Just because purity is impossible, doesn’t mean we can’t make great inroads into eradicating cruelty in our own lives. And lastly, I’m not the vegan police. But for the movement to continue intact and gain wide societal understanding, it is important that folks know what the fundamentals of being vegan are all about, and using leather is not part of being vegan.

      If you use leather, you’re not vegan, you’re a strict vegetarian and that difference is important.

  9. Hello, I don’t know if you are still responding to comments, as this entry is from a few years ago. BUT, I have been vegan for about a year now. I have slowly eliminated leather goods from my life. I just came into some money and I am now looking to upgrade my 1981 vehicle. I have my heart set on a VW TDI for fuel economy, and amazingly enough VW has replaced their leather seats with V Tex Leatherette (basically vinyl). So, no worries there. The problem comes in with the steering wheel and shift knob, which are leather wrapped on all the cars I can find. Most dealers I have talked to about it have offered to make some alteration to sell me the car. If I insist that the leather is removed before I purchase it, would you still consider this vegan? Though, the damage has still be done, and now the animal parts are going to be discarded. I am not sure how I feel about it.

    1. Hey Peyton,

      Sorry for the late reply. This is a tricky question. Unbeknownst to me, when I bought my car it had a leather steering wheel and shift knob. Strictly speaking this isn’t vegan. However, my veganism is based upon ethics and as such I try to limit the harm and suffering caused to animals.

      Foregoing leather seats is a gimme, just don’t buy a car with leather seats. I know you’re not, I’m just explaining for others. Leather steering well and shift knob is a more difficult decision. My father, who is vegan, recently purchased a car with a leather steering wheel and shift knob. Not ideal but I’m okay with it.

      So yeah, if they’ll remove the leather from the shift knob and steering wheel, your car is basically vegan. I try to do the best I can, not to be a perfect militant asshole. Hope that helps. For others out there. Do the best you can. It’s easy to forgo leather seats, it might not be possible to forgo leather shift knobs or steering wheel. Make the best decision you can. I’m okay with leather steering wheels and shift knobs if you’re doing the best you can and your heart’s in the right place.

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