Just saw on Amazon a product with vegetable tanned leather. Is vegetable tanned leather plant-based or animal-based? If it is animal-based, so that I will not buy it, because I am against animal slaughter.

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    vegetable tanned leather implies that the leather was tanned by using vegetable derivatives ... it makes no difference how animal skin is tanned ... it is still animal skin
    – jsotola
    Mar 14, 2021 at 22:22

1 Answer 1


It's animal-based.

As @jsotola said in the comments, "vegetable tanned leather" means animal hide tanned with plant substances rather than with, for instance, chromium sulphate. "Vegetable-tanned leather", in other words, rather than "tanned vegetable leather"

There are, in fact, some very successful vegan leather substitutes available now, some made from plant materials and some from plastics. Leather substitutes seem to have come on a lot in the last few years. There are still some on sale that are really not much good, but, for instance, I have a very good pair of ankle boots from Will's Vegan Shoes that really are indistinguishable from leather (in breathability as well as looks) and were still going after a couple of years' hard wear. From the rather unclear explanation given on their website, I think those are an example of a plant-based one rather than a petrochemical one:

Created with Italian vegan leather made with plants using bio oil sourced from organic cereal crops grown in Northern Europe in a carbon neutral process.

As far as I know, however, none of these require any process that could be described as "tanning", so, if you see the word "tanning" on a leather product, like the backpack you asked about, that in itself indicates that it's ordinary animal leather.

  • The way I understand your quote, that vegan leather is plant based in the same way that a PET bottle is plant based - the plants were processed into oil and the oil into plastics. The difference is just that the plant-to-oil step was done in a factory instead of through geological processes.
    – Nobody
    Apr 8, 2021 at 13:46
  • Thinking about it, you may be right, could be vegetable oil made into plastic. I can't find it now, but I'm sure I remember the website saying something about "microfibre" before, which sounds polymerish. In which case there'd still be some advantages renewability-wise over making it from fossil oil, if they're doing the biofuel production right, but chemically the result would be made of plastic. Works, anyway, whatever it is.
    – A. B.
    Apr 10, 2021 at 1:04

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