Leather (and suede) is made from the skin of a wide variety of animals.

Kangaroos in the wild.

Animals commonly farmed in the UK such as cows, pigs, goats, and deer are used to make leather. Other animals whose skin is used for clothing, footwear, and accessories, which are often regarded as ‘exotic’, include kangaroos, ostriches, alligators, crocodiles, and other reptiles. Most of these animals will have endured life on farms, and inevitably, ended up in slaughterhouses, but some, such as kangaroos, are hunted, or as the industry describes it, ‘harvested’ from the wild. 

Leather is found everywhere. Countless industries use it in their products and the most common use is in the fashion industry. It’s often stated that leather is a sustainable by-product of the meat industry, but this is a common misconception, most likely originating from the industry who claim using as much of a slaughtered animal as possible reduces waste. Leather itself is a multi-million-pound industry and the production of it is more about maximising profit rather than minimising waste.


Vegan leather boots.

Faux leather products are widely available nowadays. It’s not so long ago we had to buy our vegan shoes from a limited number of online retailers, where the choice of products was also very limited. Today, we would still be struggling to find fully vegan High Street brands, but many individual faux leather items of footwear, clothing, and accessories can be found in mainstream shops. If you’re unsure if a product is real or faux, check the label and/or ask an assistant to advise you. Raising this question with companies and their staff, raises awareness that there is a growing demand for non-animal leather. This will result in more choice for those wishing to avoid wearing leather and suede, and inevitably less animal cruelty.

See our page for links to retailers selling vegan leather goods.

Vegan leather and the environment

Vegan leather bag.

Vegan leather can be made from artificial or plant-based sources, and certain artificial types may not be eco-friendly. ‘Pleather’ can be manufactured using PVC or PU, both are derived from fossil fuels and are damaging to the environment. However, these days re-cycled plastic is being used more often, and you can also find items made from a wide variety of more natural materials such as mushrooms’ mycelium, pineapple leaves, cactus leaves, and grape skin.

Plastic-free leather can involve cork, rice, natural tree rubber or coconut waste, and more and more companies are striving to make their products sustainable and eco-friendly as well as cruelty free.

The occasional use of plastics in the production of some vegan leather does cause environmental concerns, but the processing of real leather is no more environmentally friendly. Leather production is water-intensive, and the tanning process uses chemicals that are detrimental to human health. Add to that the environmental impact caused by the farming of the animals whose skins are used to make leather and suede. 

What can you do?

When shopping for footwear, clothing, furniture etc, buy alternatives to real leather and suede. We have provided a list of companies here who sell a range of vegan footwear and clothing.