How to shop for a vegan at Christmas

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Despite popular internet memes and dated stereotypes, vegans on the whole really do not like to cause a fuss. Yes, our beliefs are very important to us and we often want to encourage others to make the connection between the products they consume and the suffering of non-human animals (we want to see the end to this suffering after all!) but that doesn’t mean we relish being ‘difficult’ or ‘fussy’. 

For a vegan, avoiding animal products becomes almost second nature; we know what to look for and where to look. But we know that for non-vegans it’s not always so simple, which can make gift giving a little more complicated. I for one hate the thought of my loved ones struggling to buy gifts for me over the festive period and really wouldn’t want to put them out during what already is a pretty stressful time. Equally so, I wouldn’t want to deal with the awkwardness of receiving a non-vegan gift, and having to balance not wanting to hurt my loved one’s feelings (who usually have the best intentions) with the reluctance to compromise my beliefs.

I would happily forgo Christmas presents if it meant avoiding such a situation, but my grandmother is going to buy me a gift regardless of my protests, as grandmothers do, so I might as well make it as easy for her as possible. So if like my Grandma, you have a vegan in your life that you want to buy a gift for, here are some tips to make the experience a little easier.

Remember it’s more than a diet

You’ve probably already struck the milk chocolates and the cheese selections of the ideas list, but don’t forget that veganism extends far beyond diet. We want to avoid the exploitation of animals in any capacity, which means things like silk pajamas and woolen jumpers are also a no-go. Beyond this, we also consider the not so obvious components of a product. You may have double checked that a pair of shoes is made from faux leather, but did you check the glue that binds them isn’t made out of animal products too?

Rather than conducting your own research into each component of a product, why not make it easy on yourself and go for products that are already labelled vegan? Look for the Vegan Trademark first and foremost, the internationally recognised symbol that a product is safe for vegans.

When it comes to clothing, look for specialised vegan retailers who will have done all the hard work for you.

The answer isn’t always at the bottom of a bottle

You may be thinking you’ll dodge food related gifts and go for a simple bottle instead, a popular gift choice that’s often well received (in my household at least anyway). The good news is that there are a lot of alcoholic drinks which are safe for vegans; the bad news is the drinks industry is notoriously bad for labelling such products!

Be extra cautious when it comes to wines and ales, it’s possible that the drink doesn’t include animal products as an ingredient, but the manufacturer does use animal products, such as isinglass, during the filtering process. If this is the case, it’s unlikely they will have it explicitly stated on their packaging.

If you’re set on giving a bottle this year, check out www.barnivore.com, a brilliant resource which will help you navigate alcohol that is safe for vegans.

Double check smellies

Perfumes and toiletries are often a failsafe choice, and is it even Christmas if you don’t receive at least one gift set featuring some fancy bubble bath?

The difficulty here is that while it’s often easy enough to distinguish if a product is free of animal products, you have to be sure not to get caught out by products which are tested on animals, which isn’t always so clear. Companies will often state if they are against animal testing on the product packaging and schemes like the leaping bunny symbol help to certify this. However, bear in mind that if a product is labelled ‘cruelty-free’ or states it is not tested on animals, frustratingly this does not mean it does not contain animal products. Again, it's a good idea to look for The Vegan Trademark, as this certifies that a product is both free from animal products and has not been tested on animals.

If the packaging makes no mention of animal testing at all, it is probably safer to assume that animal testing is involved.

Make it personal

For many vegans, their compassion for animals and commitment to veganism is something they hold very dear. Why not give a gift in recognition of this; perhaps a portrait of their favorite animal or a piece of jewelry to represent veganism? Etsy often has lots of unique pieces that perfectly capture a vegan sentiment.

You could also check out The Vegan Society clothing store for some fun vegan-themed t-shirts, sweatshirts and hoodies.

If your vegan loved one is anti-consumerism it may be a good idea to make a donation to an animal sanctuary in their name, or sign them up for a Vegan Society gift membership.

These types of gifts would be particularly poignant to receive from a non-vegan as it demonstrates a respect and understanding of our beliefs.

Let them choose

If all else fails and you really want to take all the guesswork out, why not ask directly what they would like? It may detract a little from the festive spirit but at least you know they’re going to be happy with their gift.

Alternatively, ask them to set up an Amazon wish list so they can choose a variety of ‘safe’ gifts, but still be surprised as to what they will actually receive. Gift cards to shops that stock a lot of vegan products are another safe bet!

Overall it’s important to remember that it’s truly the thought that counts at this time of year and perhaps the most thoughtful and touching gift you can give to a vegan loved one is the promise to consider a vegan lifestyle. Why not commit to watching a vegan documentary with open-mind, or even sign up to the free 30-day Vegan Pledge.

If it plants a seed and a vegan lifestyle ends up resonating with you, then your gift could ultimately end up impacting so many lives for the better. Isn’t that a much better gift than a bath bomb?

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