Is Animal Leather Ethical for Handbags?

Written by José Max Lin
Last updated
May 6, 2022

As animal leather bags' manufacturing methods and styles have advanced over time, these leathers are more elegant, powerful, and luxurious. Today trending leather bags include leather shoulder bags, leather crossbody bags, and leather backpacks.

The quality of leathers from animal skin is undeniable. It's durable, strong, and stylish. But is it ethical? With the growing movement to ban testing cosmetics on animals and outlawing leather products, many people wonder what to do. Should they continue to buy leather products? Here, we explore the ethics of animal leathers and help you make a decision.

Is Animal Leather Ethical?

animal leather ethical

There are a few key factors to consider when thinking about ethical leather:

  1. How is the animal treated during its lifetime?
  2. Is the slaughter process humane?
  3. What happens to the skin after the animal is killed?

Unfortunately, there is no easy answer regarding whether or not animal leather is ethical. It depends on various factors, including the treatment of the animals and how the leather is harvested.

The Pros and Cons of Using Animal Leather for Handbags

There are a few key arguments for and against using animal leathers.

The pros:

  • It's a by-product of the meat industry
  • It degrades

On the one hand, some people argue that animal leathers are a byproduct of the meat industry and would be wasted if we didn't use them. They also point to the fact that leather is a natural material that biodegrades, unlike synthetic fabrics.

The cons:

  • The treatment of animals
  • The slaughter process

On the other hand, others argue that the animal leather industry is cruel. They point to the fact that animals are often treated poorly and slaughtered inhumanely. They also argue that they can use plenty of synthetic materials instead of animal leather.

The Future of the Leather Industry

Lucy Siegle, an ethical living journalist for 'Is it time to give up leather?' from The Guardian, suggests that many of us won’t necessarily be avoiding the industry in the immediate future:

‘In the past 12 months, 31% of Britons bought a handbag or manbag, making them our favorite accessory, with UK sales reaching £1.34bn last year.

To fans, leather is the ultimate heritage material in which the patina only becomes more interesting during its long life. That’s the trade off, if you like, for killing an animal (that and the fact that the skin is a byproduct of the meat, like the tallow — cow fat — used in cosmetics and toothpaste). But the leather handbag is no longer a bag for life. To luxury fashion houses, leather goods are the rocket fuel of their huge expansion over the past decade. To high street fashion brands, they represent an unrivaled cash cow. To consumers, they’re just another disposable fashion product. The fact that they are made from the skin of a beast is incidental.’

How to Choose the Right Animal Leather for Your Handbag?

If you've decided that you want to buy a leather handbag, there are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. Make sure to choose a quality product.
  2. Research the company to make sure they treat their animals well.
  3. Look for sustainably sourced animal skin leather.

The Different Types of Animal Leather Used in Handbags

There are some different types of animal leathers used for handbags in the market, including:

  • Cowhide
cowhide leather

Cowhide is the most common leather from animals used in handbags. It's tough and durable, making it ideal for the everyday use of bags, wallets, belts, and many accessories. It has an elegant look that can find in various colors and thicknesses to match any outfit.

  • Calfskin
calfskin leather

Calfskin (from baby cows) is similar to cowhide, but it's a softer, more supple, and more flexible texture with fewer wrinkles. As the quality and durability are higher, the price also.

  • Pigskin
pigskin leather

Pigskin is another popular type of leather from animals. It's softer and more pliable than cowhide, ideal for dressy handbags.

  • Lambskin
lambskin leather

Lambskin is the softest and most delicate type of animal leather. It's often used for high-end, larger luxury handbags. Unfortunately, lambskin is not as durable as cowhide.

  • Goatskin
goatskin leather

Goatskin is a tough and durable animal hide close to the lambskin in size and hand. It is popular for small accessory applications such as gloves.

  • Alligator and crocodile
crocodile leather

Alligator and crocodile leathers are some of the most elegant animal hides. They both preserve and wear extremely well. As they are strong hides, only artisans with experience know how to sew and cut.

  • Ostrich
ostrich leather

Ostrich leather is known for its bumpy texture and tough, strong, durable, soft, and pliable. It is one of the finest and most durable lightweight types of skin that resists cracking and stiffness.

  • Fish
fish leather

Fish leather is a strong and water-resistant material mostly used for small accessories such as wallets and purses. It is made from fish skin and has a distinctive scale pattern.

Which are Alternatives to Animal Leather for Handbags?

When it comes to purchasing a leather bag, you may think of real leather from animal skins. But now there are many companies replacing it with alternative leather or vegetable tanned leather to produce vegan leather bags. Here are the leather alternatives:

  • Synthetic leather

Synthetic leather is one option. This material is made from plastic and usually looks and feels like real leather. However, it's not as durable as real leather, and it doesn't biodegrade.

  • Plant-based leather

Another option is plant-based leather. This material is made from leaves, bark, or other plant materials. It's environmentally friendly and sustainable, but it's not as strong as real leather.

  • Recycled leather

A final option is recycled leather. This material is made from scrap leather that would otherwise be thrown away. It's a sustainable option, but it's not as durable as virgin leather.

The Bottom Line

Whether or not to buy real leather bags or vegan bags is a personal one. There are pros and cons to using animal leathers, and it's important to weigh all of the factors before making a decision.

Vegan leathers are helping reduce environmental impact. However, if you decide to buy animal leathers, make sure to choose a quality product from a company that treats its animals well. Alternatively, there are a few synthetic and plant-based options that are environmentally friendly and sustainable.

HANDBAGIO product specialist
José Max Lin
I am product specialist and content marketing specialist for Handbagio. If you want to wholesale vegan handbags or vegan related products, feel free to ask me any questions.
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Is Animal Leather Ethical for Handbags?

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