What’s the Deal With Vegan Leather?
Vegan leather is becoming a commonly used material made from synthetic sources and is completely cruelty-free when compared to the manufacturing of authentic leather. While vegan leather is definitely a plus when it comes to abstaining from any form of animal cruelty, there are other factors to be considered.
Vegan leather is produced using chemicals with a completely different industrial process than real leather. It is often made by bonding various types of plastic coatings to a fabric backing. Polyurethane is a common plastic used to produce vegan leather and has been used since the late 60’s. Clothing made with vegan leather will often have a glossy sheen and can be easily dyed to achieve a wide variety of shades that normal leather could not imitate.
Proponents for vegan leather are attracted to the animal cruelty-free process that real leather obviously lacks. Every year, billions of cows, pigs, goats, sheep, alligators, and other animals are killed for their skins. Many of these animals are slaughtered with little regard, sometimes while they are conscious, or without the use of painkillers.
So is vegan leather inherently superior to real leather? The answer to this question isn’t so simple, as they both products negative characteristics with wide-reaching implications. While real leather is steeped in the slaughter of animals and is a true symbol of animal cruelty, the production of vegan leather delivers serious consequences for another important aspect of our lives: the environment.
The manufacture of vegan leather is highly detrimental to the environment due to the toxins in the plastic used to make them. Polyurethane production has been linked to extremely hazardous toxins that are known to cause a variety of health issues, including reproductive problems and cancer. Another issue is that plastic, as we all know, is not biodegradable and will eventually trickle down to affect not just our environment, but the health of animals. Since vegan leather is nowhere near as sturdy as real leather, they are purchased at a much higher rate and adding pollution to the environment.
This poses a critical issue for our establishing a sustainable future that will keep our environment clean and healthy. The fact that vegan leather poses such an issue to sustainability, many argue that it indirectly contradicts the central philosophy of veganism. However, it also presents us with a difficult choice to make. Does the vitality of our environment not hold as much importance as reducing animals cruelty? In the end, without getting too twisted up in regulation, it falls in the hands of the consumers to decide whether fashion trends are more important than the aforementioned issues.