VegNews Pro/Con Series

In a new online series, we tackle the tough issues. First: Grandfathering in non-vegan clothing.


Pro/Con is a new web series here on that will focus on hot-button vegan issues. We’ll explore the trickier points of vegan living, and delve into where the community stands on potentially contentious questions. By allowing respondents to answer anonymously, we’ll get honest answers from around the country.

First up: Fashion Grandfathering!
Veganism extends far beyond what does and doesn’t grace our dinner plates. Upon adopting a cruelty-free lifestyle, vegans are faced with many questions, including what to do with their wardrobe. Silk, leather, and wool are vegan no-nos, but does it make sense to get rid of clothing items purchased during pre-vegan days? Should non-vegan clothing get grandfathered into a compassionate closet? We asked vegans around the country to weigh in:

Pro: Keep Your Clothes
The money is spent. The animals who were used in the production of the clothes are likely long since departed, and by keeping the clothes we already own, we avoid needless consumerism. Just as we might hold on to a favorite tacky sweater or beloved pair of outdated acid-wash jeans, replacing the non-vegan items in our closets is wasteful and needless. Even producing a simple (and vegan) cotton T-shirt requires roughly a third of a pound of pesticides during production. Here’s what our interviewees had to say:

#1—“One aspect of the vegan lifestyle is conscious consumption, and waste is a deplorable thing, too, so unless the clothing is something egregious such as a fur coat or a leather jacket, I think using up your leather belt, wallet, and shoes until you need a new one is just fine. Many people don’t have the means to replace non-vegan items, so by no means should vegans be judging other vegans about their old belts. We’ve got much more important work to do.”

#2—“Transitioning to veganism is different for everyone, so you have to go with what makes you personally comfortable—and if you don’t have the means to buy all vegan items, add a piece at a time.”

#3—“It would be nice if answers to complex questions were black and white, but they’re not. Case in point, I still have (shudder!) a leather couch that was my ex-husband’s. I never would have bought a leather couch, even when I was just vegetarian, and I never liked it. But it’s still in decent condition—other than scratch marks from the cats. Do I toss this huge item in a landfill just because it’s not vegan?”

Con: Ditch the Duds
Wearing animal-derived clothing not only sends mixed messages about veganism (such as the idea that it’s OK to use animals for clothes, but not to eat them), but creates further demand for such items. If we truly believe that animals shouldn’t be used by humans, that choice should be reflected in everything we do. Plus, organizations such as Goodwill or Salvation Army will happily accept used clothing and redistribute it to people in need. Here’s what our interviewees had to say:

#1—“Even though wearing a leather belt you already have doesn’t result in the cows who died for that belt being hurt any more than they already were when they were killed for it, by wearing leather or animal products, you are still showing the outside world that it is okay to exploit animals. So eventually, over the course of, say, a year, the leather belt—and shoes, purses, wallets, etc.—should be replaced with cruelty-free alternatives. After the year, the grace period is over.”

#2—“It’s really up to personal choice and what you can feel good about, but if you’re representing veganism I say why not do it from head to toe!”

#3—“No. Sell them on eBay and use the money to buy new eco vegan items (or donate to animal-rights organizations). Unless the pieces have sentimental value, in which case save and wear.”

Where do you stand? Should all non-vegan clothing items be tossed? Is it appropriate to wear out wallets and belts? Let us know in the comments!

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