Ask the Vegan: Can I Still Be Vegan If…

This statement is a controversial one. There is a fine line between sticking to a plant-based diet and avoiding animal products and byproducts entirely. I am going to refer to this as the “vegan line.”

There are tons of reasons why individuals choose to adopt a plant-based diet. It could be for animal cruelty advocacy, health concerns or complications, environmental issues, etc. However, more often than not, further research and acquired literature usually is enough to make someone want to go completely vegan. That is when the “vegan line” is crossed.

A vegan comprehends the suffering that animals endure not only for food but for clothing and everyday consumer items as well. Notice I said, “comprehend” and not “understands” for it is almost impossible for one to understand how that feels. Although by wearing fur or leather, you’re not admitting hormone-injected, stressed and sick animals into your body – but you would still be funding the production process, which unfortunately includes mass amounts of cruelty to animals. I don’t know about you… but that is not the pot where I want my hard-earned dollars to go into.

For your own sanity, please understand that delving into a vegan lifestyle is commonly done by taking baby steps. It’s OK to pace yourself — especially when you have endured an entire life blindly supporting factory farms.

Luckily, there are guides to help us.

  • Leaping Bunny: look on the labels of detergents, cleaners, toiletries and cosmetics for the Leaping Bunny logo. Sometimes a product will also blatantly say, “not tested on animals.”
  • Pledge: Make a personal commitment to eliminate animal testing by signing the Leaping Bunny Pledge. Join the collective voice that will drive more companies to go cruelty-free.
  • PETA: Check out PETA’s ultimate Shopping Guide to Compassionate Clothing.
  • Sign up for our newsletter eblast on our homepage for weekly vegan foodie, health and pop culture updates.
  • If you’re ever unsure of something, you can ALWAYS ask your trusty iEG staff. Share your thoughts and questions in a comment. Otherwise, don’t ever hesitate to email us at

If you’re into longer (but easy-to-read) literature, pick up one of these helpful books: The Kind Diet, Skinny Bitch and The China Study.

Answers are all around us; make sure you learn about your surroundings. It’s not out of sight, out of mind, anymore. We’re smarter than that. Whether you adopt a plant-based diet or embrace a vegan lifestyle – both choices are a step in the right direction to help eliminate animal cruelty and a better planet.

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6 Responses to Ask the Vegan: Can I Still Be Vegan If…

  1. Zoe says:

    What about thrifted clothing? I’m putting this argument out here because I don’t like synthetic materials, and I don’t want to see them in the landfills upon my behalf. Leather and that is still a durable material, in a way that polyurethane isn’t, and other more earth-friendly vegan materials, for an artist lifestyle at least, aren’t really in my pricerange of about thirteen dollars.

    • elyssa says:


      Great point! Second-hand store apparel is always a better choice than purchasing directly from the retailer. This goes for clothing, shoes, bags, etc. Buying used leather sneakers is incomparably less corrupt than purchasing a brand new leather handbag or car with leather interior. There definitely is a gray area and that is when your personal judgement call comes into play.


  2. Kezia says:

    This might depend on how much of an animal advocate someone is. I only ask that people don’t say they’re vegan if they’re wearing leather shoes or carrying a leather bag. It makes you, and by extension all of us, look like hypocrites, because non-vegans tend to want to peg us as either hypocrites or extremists. (Given those choices, I’ll pick “ethically consistent.”)

    Honestly when I consider what leather is and who/where it comes from, I wonder why any vegan would want to wear it. And sometimes it helps to replace the non-human animal with a human animal to see where your ethics lie: if shoes or a garment was made from the skin of a tortured, murdered human victim, is it OK if it’s secondhand?

    • Elyssa says:

      Fantastic point, Kezia. When the situation is put into perspective — it can be viewed differently depending on who is looking at it.

      Some may feel that using second-hand leather and fur is avoiding wastefulness or perhaps even holding on to a legacy of some sort (extreme?). Some may feel that if one is wearing second-hand leather boots than you are advocating leather boots and if a passerby loves the boots — they might go out and purchase a pair.

      Individual thoughts are different even when put into the same perspective.

      Thanks for sharing!

  3. Kelli says:

    I do feel some guilty when I wear a leather coat or belt that I’ve had for years before I went vegan but I have to weigh my budget with my intent to be vegan. When these items wear out, I’ll replace with a vegan option.

    • elyssa says:

      It’s an understandable feeling. We all have our own standards and we can only hope to live up to our own expectations. A close friend gave me a designer handbag that had leather straps for my birthday one year. After I chose to adopt a vegan lifestyle, I continued to use the bag. Ironically enough, my dog chewed up the straps one day. Instead of sending the bag to be repaired (how unethical and anti-vegan would that have been?) I opted to order a new bag inspired by the designers which was completely cruelty-free and of the same quality.

      However, I do debate how I feel about inspired-designer bags because then I am a walking billboard for the brand name. On the other hand, whenever ANYBODY asks about my bag — I ALWAYS tell the truth and weigh in on how it is a better option by explaining how it is a completely durable and cruelty-free alternative.


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