Have a Vegan Friend? Avoid Making These 10 Common Mistakes When Buying Gifts This Season

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With the
growth of the world’s vegan population, sooner or later you are going to be
faced with the need to buy a gift for a vegan. If you are not a vegan yourself,
this can be daunting.

Here’s
some guidance about how to avoid common pitfalls, so that your gift can be
exactly what your vegan recipient wants.

“May Contain Traces Of”

As a rule,
vegans don’t eat meat, fish, gelatine, lactose, casein, egg, cheese, yoghurt,
etc. That isn’t too complicated, usually, but you may see the words “may
contain traces of milk” (or some other non-vegan food).

This means
that the product has been made in a factory where non-vegan food is produced. It
is possible then, that there may be minute traces left over in the
manufacturing equipment from whatever non-vegan product was made immediately
before.

If you are
buying for someone with an allergy to that substance, minute food traces can be
of concern, but most vegans don’t follow this path because of allergies. So, go
ahead and buy them it.

Chocolate

Don’t automatically
assume that dark chocolate will not contain any milk products. If it’s produced
along with milk chocolate, traces of milk may be found in a dark chocolate bar,
so you need to check carefully.

If you
want to avoid all traces of milk, bet on artisan chocolate. There are now some
amazing chocolate bars made by small artisan vegan companies. Many of them
trade online.

Honey

Honey
comes from bees. Most vegans don’t eat honey, because they believe producers
are taking something from the bees that is rightfully theirs.

This is particularly
true for most commercial honey production, where the bees are fed white sugar
during the winter rather than using their honey stores. These honey stores are then
taken and sold to consumers.

In a way,
it feels like the bees are being treated as machines for human convenience,
rather than as organisms in their own right.

Suet

Suet is
animal fat, so vegans won’t want to eat it. Suet is found in some mince pies
and Christmas puddings, so make sure you read all labels.

Fortunately,
there are now some excellent vegetable suet substitutes you can use if you are
home-baking. If you’re looking at bought baked goods, check for the information
that they are vegan.

Alcohol

Alcohol is
often given as a gift, but it may surprise you to know that it may not be
vegan. Wine can be filtered and clarified with egg white or gelatine (animal protein)
or isinglass (fish bladders). Check the label or look online for vegan wines.

Beer makers
also may use gelatine or isinglass, so once again, do check before buying beer
for vegans.

Bone China

Bone china
includes bone. This may make it strong and translucent, but it also makes it
unsuitable for vegans. Check the bottom of any china you are buying. Don’t buy
if it says, “bone china.”

Personal Care and Cosmetics

When it
comes to personal care and cosmetics, it can be a minefield. A real concern is
animal testing. The European Union, for example, bans animal testing for
personal care and cosmetics. The US and China are two of the countries that allow
animal testing.

Vegans
wouldn’t want to be given products that have been tested in this way. In
countries where testing is allowed, look for the PETA Cruelty-Free and Vegan
symbol, or other symbols indicating the products have not been animal tested.

In
addition to animal testing concerns, there are many ingredients that are not suitable
for those who follow the vegan lifestyle.

Honey,
glycerine and lanolin are usually not acceptable. Lip balms often contain
beeswax. Squalene from shark liver oil may be used in moisturisers. Casein
(from milk) may be used in hair conditioners.

Some
colouring, particularly in lipsticks, can be a problem. For example, cochineal
(also known as natural red 4, E120 and CI7470) is a common ingredient in
lipsticks, particularly vibrant red ones. Shellac, made from bugs, is often
used in nail varnish.

Keep in
mind that these are not all the problem ingredients. Listing every single one
would take far too long. The simple solution if you want to buy cosmetics as a
gift for a vegan is to look for ones that are labelled vegan, or better still,
buy from a vegan company.

Silk

In order
to obtain silk, silkworm cocoons are usually boiled. You can see why most
vegans wouldn’t want you to buy them something that includes silk!

Wool

Some
vegans will accept wool, as the sheep or goat is not killed to produce it. Many
feel (like I do) that it is unacceptable. Because sheep and goats are prey animals,
they have evolved not to show pain, as predators tend to prey on the weak.

If an
animal shows pain, it is more likely to become a target of the predator. We
cannot assume that when sheep and goats are sheared, they don’t experience any
trauma, just because they don’t show any distress.

Often,
shearers are working to tight targets and will accidentally nick sheep. The
sheep are generally bred to produce a lot of wool, even though it may not be appropriate
for the climate. It’s also hard to believe that having a thick woolly coat one
minute and no woolly coat the next can be anything but stressful.

Leather

Leather obviously
comes from dead animals, so most people wouldn’t buy vegans leather shoes or a
leather briefcase or handbag. Still, some items have a small amount of leather,
and it’s easy to miss these. A typical example is a coat or jacket or bag with
a leather pull on the end of the zip.

Many Suitable Choices Are Available

There’s
lots of things to avoid, but the choice of gifts suitable for vegans is
increasing all the time. Follow these guidelines, and you won’t cause your
vegan friend distress by giving them something they really don’t want to
accept.

In
addition, if you’re not a vegan yourself, one of the best gifts you can give is
listening with an open heart and mind while your vegan friend explains why they
have made this decision.

If the
explanation makes sense to you, try going vegan for a month – many charities
such as Veganuary
offer email support and lots of resources to help you. If you don’t want to go
the whole way, try introducing more
plant-based meals into your diet.

When
you hear the word ‘vegan’, what is your first thought? Do you know people who
follow the vegan lifestyle? Have you given gifts to vegans before? How well did
you do? Please share your stories with our community.

Let\’s Have a Conversation!

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