Leather Seats: The Beginning of the End?

2013 Audi Q7 interior

I don’t eat animals, but I’ll sit on them.

I’m a vegetarian, because I happen to believe that a life shouldn’t be taken so that I can eat. This isn’t nearly as controversial today as it’s been in years past, and it’s far easier now to go meat-free than ever.

This comes up in conversation quite often, and I have a canned response to inquiries regarding my beliefs. There’s one recent question, though, that tripped me up.

“Don’t you have leather seats in your Audi?”

Well… *pause* Yes. Yes, I do.

And in my Subaru.

Apparently I won’t eat animals, but I’ll gladly sit on their flesh.

How are vegetarian and vegan car shoppers supposed to handle this?

My wife and I both like nice cars. We enjoy high-end autos and try to pick vehicles with all the bells and whistles. It’s nearly impossible to find a car laden with goodies but lacking leather.

Leather tends to wrap the steering wheel and cover all seating surfaces in many new and used cars these days. It’s perceived as high quality and adds a level of comfort and luxury that cloth seats can’t match.

Are vegans supposed to stop liking upper trim levels and settle for econo-boxes with cloth or vinyl seating?

I started to research this and found an article about Tesla, which produced a leather-free vehicle for vegan buyers in Texas. That article said,

78 percent of 2015 model-year vehicles have standard leather seats on at least one trim level. In other words, buyers content with basic models can get cloth seats and plastic steering wheels, but as they add options like better engines, heated seats or upgraded speakers, they usually have to add leather seats.

It’s not economically feasible for most automakers to stop production lines and build custom vehicles. Since leather is expected, leather is what automakers supply.

It takes between two and three cowhides to cover a car interior with leather. The car industry as a whole used 45 million hides in 2014. Those are startling numbers for people who care about the lives of animals, and it’ll take influential companies like Tesla to introduce the idea of luxury leather-free interiors to the world.

What do you think: Is it time to start a conversation about removing leather from our cars?


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  1. This would be nice, but you hit the nail on the head. It’s too expensive to customize a car to this level. You would end up spending a fortune going way upmarket to find a car that let you do some of this tinkering with equipment.

  2. You and I share some core values.

    I feel terrible about sitting on leather, but we don’t have many viable options available to us.

    Maybe someone will create a synthetic material that’s perceived as being much more luxurious than leather and automakers will adopt that material.

    Dead animal flesh is not luxurious.

  3. I’m not a vegetarian by any stretch of the imagination, but I’d love to see leather as optional on all higher-end trims. It doesn’t last as long as cloth, weighs more, and isn’t actually that comfortable in particularly hot or cold weather.

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