Last Christmas, I was chatting with my Dad, discussing the translation to Italian that I am working on of Eat Like You Care (by Gary Francione and Anna Charlton) and that he and my sister B. helped to edit. The topic turned to Christmas and to his perceived notion that somehow I’m now more complicated to get gifts for since becoming vegan. That I can be complicated, I’ll accept because it’s not a trait exclusive to vegans or anything new to me! But that being vegan has made me more so, I don’t believe that at all. Actually, it’s much simpler: if it comes from an animal, then no. It’s really not hard.
But let’s think about it a minute. Veganism is about doing what is right towards a fellow being. This might require you to think about what you’re buying and, hey, what’s wrong with that? We should all be doing that anyway. So, let’s make a (non-exhaustive) list of what might work and I’ll start easy and end BIG.
The I’ll-feed-my-vegan category
- Make a vegan meal for everyone. Don’t have anything animal derived that way everyone can enjoy it equally
- Take your vegan out for a vegan meal. I’m sure that there is a vegan, or at least vegetarian, place somewhere near you. Yes, even where you live
- Bake a vegan sweet or buy one from a shop. These aren’t hard to find and the internet is awash with recipes
- Cookbooks – vegan ones, please. It’s great to receive cookbooks, but if there are great big pictures of dead animals and ways to eat them… well, that’s not so great
- Chocolate. Yes, it’s vegan when dairy isn’t added to it. Just read the ingredients
- Cheese! There are now many many vegan cheese makers both in the USA and in Europe and every day amazing, talented people are coming up with new ideas. Just run a quick search and you’ll even find artisan vegan cheese shops (sadly, not yet in London)
- Vegan junk food: the sky’s the limit on this one… from vegan bacon made with coconut to cookies, mac n’ cheese, sauces, dips, crisps, ice cream, you name it. Find your local health food or even vegan shop and ask them. Your head will spin
- Wine/beer: some are vegan and some are not because the filtering process uses fish gills/guts and/or egg white. Gross? Yes. Why? I ask myself that all the time
- Spirits: many are vegan. Just take the 2 seconds to Google it and find out for sure
Again, we’re not talking expensive, extravagant stuff here. Just a little bit of thought, some Googling and willingness
The we’ll-shop-til-you-drop-vegan-or-not category
This one can be as inexpensive or expensive as you like and can afford.
The general, ethical point is that animals are independent, sentient entities. In our world today, we have no compelling reason to consume them as clothing, food or entertainment. And before you buy stop to think about where these items are made. Do they come from sweatshops? Who makes them? Where are they made? What’s the process? None of us want something made by a slave or that poisons our world.
- There are all sorts of wonderful textiles that don’t come from animals: lyocell, modal, viscose and rayon (all made from wood pulp), cotton, flax, jute, hemp and even bamboo. And there are all the manmade synthetic ones too. If you can find them recycled or up-cycled, then even better. Seriously, there are so many alternatives. Check out this List of fabrics – vegan or not for an exhaustive treatment on the subject. And check out this list of vegan clothing websites (it’s not exhaustive, but covers much in the US and the UK )
- Make something if you’ve got the time and talent
- There are many talented people who are designing and making vegan and sustainable clothing and shoes. They’re creating beautiful things and thinking about the entire process. Seek them out in your area. They’re there and there are many blogs (and one of my entries as well) dedicated to featuring ethical/vegan/compassionate/sustainable fashion for men and women
- Who needs leather? Vegan shoes are great. There are loads of styles that go from the conservative, to sexy, to punk to hippy. Again, use the internet and you’ll find them. If you’re looking for sneakers/trainers, the big manufacturers usually publish lists of what’s vegan and what’s not… surprised? Yes, there can be animal products in that glue
- Bath, beauty and body products (and related home products) are available that are not made with ingredients of animal origin and that are not tested on animals. Ask the vendor and/or look it up online. Don’t you want to know what goes into your face cream? Again, your 5 minutes of research will go a long way
- As for jewellery, you’ll know your vegan best on this one, but generally avoid pearls (yes, they’re an animal byproduct… oysters are animals). Some people object to gems because of how they’re mined, but if you’re contemplating that sort of thing, you’ll sort it out best by asking them and not reading about it here
The you’ll-make-the-vegan-weep-from-joy category
- Read a book about vegan ethics so you’ll gain understanding at your own pace and in a neutral setting. Two that come to mind as quick and insightful reads are Eat Like You Care and Mind if I Order the Cheeseburger by Sherry Colb. Even if you think you know the reasons and motivation for going vegan, read anyway. And then talk about it with your vegan
- Listen to a few vegan podcasts/videos for free by Prof. Gary Francione
- Go vegan. Yeah. That’s obvious. At least give it a try! Check out How Do I Go Vegan? for all the information you could possibly need
- Watch a documentary or two, with our without your vegan and then talk to them about it. Check out: PlantPure Nation, Cowspiracy, Earthlings, Blackfish, Food, Inc., Forks Over Knives, Foodmatters
- Donate to a no-kill animal shelter or an animal sanctuary that advocates veganism. Just make sure you do your research and vet that they’re good guys
These are, bar none, the best gifts ever.
What will these gifts cost you? Not much if anything at all in terms of money. They will cost you some time, true. What they will show is your thoughtfulness and willing to do the right thing. Who wouldn’t love that? And if and when you go vegan, your gift is one of life; and there is none better