PU leather – is it vegan?

This is from PeTA’s website:

“Read the label before you skip that cool-looking pair of boots—they might be vegan! Look for alternative, cruelty-free materials that imitate leather, including faux leather, pleather, synthetic leather, PU …”

This is from a different PeTA website:

“Obviously, on the “bad” list is anything labeled as leather, full-grain leather, genuine leather, fur, suede, or wool. But you also need to watch out for composition leather (made up of leather cast-offs mixed with other materials), aniline leather (soaked leather), and PU coated leather (unlike PU synthetic leather, this is real leather with a plastic coating).”

I tried looking up PU, but only came up with “bistack” leather, which is split leather (from an animal) backed with poly-urethane.

I think labeling is poor, and if you see PU on a product assume it is an animal product unless it’s clearly 100% synthetic. I have an ipad case that I bought before I was vegan. For the heck of it I checked the website and found it was made from “PU”. The company that makes it (Incase) sells other products labeled as vegan. My case was not, so I assume it’s made from animal PU.

A letter written to Ellen Degeneres about her leather footwear line by the Global Conservation Group recommends:

“Animal leather can easily be replaced by … pleather, synthetic leather, PU …”

They copied wording off the first PeTA quote above. But it’s not right, or at least unclear.

Confusing isn’t it.

18 thoughts on “PU leather – is it vegan?

    1. Polyurethane is a petrochemical resin, and its toxicity levels vary. I wouldn’t use it. PVC is even more toxic. Do your research before buying. Also, when they say “proprietary” pleather, it means they’re hiding chemical they don’t want you to see. Both of these chemicals have been linked to cancers.

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    1. Yes,the main issue with PU Leather is that this term is used to describe two different things. This can become somewhat confusing if you are new to veganism in general. PU Leather can refer to Polyurethane leather, which is 100% synthetic and is vegan in nature. However, it can also refer to leather that is fortified with a polyurethane backing.
      source: http://www.veggate.com/is-pu-leather-vegan/

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  1. Yes it’s confusing. After just buying a tablet case thinking it’s synthetic, I did some research. With all the info I therein now feel that my PU leather case may or may not contain animal product. I’m calling finite tomorrow to ask but if they aren’t positive I’ll probably search for another one and go though the hassel of sending this back. I do like the case otherwise. Dang animal products.

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  2. From wikipedia: “Production of synthetic, artificial/faux “leathers” has recently evolved so that a shell coating layer goes on top of a synthetic polymer blend, so…methods of production no longer necessarily requires composite leather blends”…. PU leather can be vegan it seems, I’d say it likely is if the product specifies “synthetic leather”. If you want to be 100% safe then yeah avoid it. I’m asking a phone case company if their PU leather has any actual leather and will try to update this when I hear back. Cheers

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    1. It’s used interchangeably by different companies. The only way to know for sure is to check. Let me know what they tell you I’d be interested to hear. Thanks

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  3. Please someone respond. I purchased a bag about three years ago and use it daily. I am now vegan and really confused by the material. It says main material is PU and decoration is Simulated Leather Texture. I don’t mind getting rid of the bag if it does contain animal products; however, I would like to keep it if it doesn’t. This is the link with the information. Thanks. https://www.aliexpress.com/store/product/PU-leather-clutch-men-messenger-envelope-clutch-bag-men-male-business-portfolio-bag-men-envelope-bags/1051130_1831223963.html

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    1. Brian, here’s the definition of “PU” from Wikipedia:
      “Bicast leather (also known as bi-cast leather, bycast leather, or PU leather, sometimes described as split leather) is a material made with a split leather backing covered with a layer of polyurethane (hence the term “PU leather”) that is applied to the surface and then embossed.”

      That bag “looks” like leather, and if the manufacturer is using the same PU leather definition as above, then it would contain animal products. The only way to know for sure is to contact the company and ask them.

      But … either way, getting rid of the bag only makes sense if you now have an aversion to an animal product. It won’t help the cow. Definitely give it to someone who can use it if you don’t want it, because throwing it away would really be a waste.

      If I were you I would just act as a vegan from now on and not worry about things you can’t change, like what you bought before you were vegan. 🙂

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  4. Hey There,

    I run an artificial leather wholesale company. I try to clear the fog about this topic.
    PU (Polyurethane) is a totally synthetic plastic. Artificial leathers usually made from a PVC or PU or PVC+PU foil laminated to a backing fabric. This backing fabric can be real leather (usually split leather), simple pes fabric or cotton fabric.
    It is true that In shoe industry they often use split leathers laminated with PU foil because it is obviously cheaper than the leather with its original surface. But do not afraid of buying a shoe with PU covered real leather accidentally. PU covered real leather about 10 times more expensive than a PU+PES backing leather. Factories will surely write that on the product, it contains real leather.
    About other uses: Most of the artificial leather furnitures made from PU based artificial leathers because it has a much softer touch than the PVC ones. Even most of the medical matress covers are made from very thin PU artificial leathers with PA backing, because only PU can have a breathing ability combined with fluid resistance.

    I hope this answers a few questions.

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    1. Thank you for taking so much time to respond. In my experience consumer products made from PU Leather do not state whether or not they are made with “real” leather, which is a source of confusion for vegans. People are not sure whether PU Leather means animal skin backed with PU or artificial leather made out of PU. The only times I’ve seen a company be explicit is when the product is vegan or “faux” leather.

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