Gift ideas for those on the animal-free path

Posted: December 13, 2013

'TIS the season of giving, and veganism increasingly shows up as a factor. I'm not just talking about Jay Z and Beyonce, with their "vegan till Christmas" stunt. Many of us have to buy for those on an animal-free path, and during this "Peace on Earth" time of the year, gifts celebrating nonviolence make perfect sense.

For foodies, a new cookbook may not be the most innovative category (see my top 10 vegan cookbooks for the holiday season), but these can be thoughtful if you target the personality of your recipient.

If she or he is leaning veganward for health concerns, you might give Happy Herbivore: Light & Lean, by Lindsay S. Nixon (BenBella) or Better Than Vegan, by Del Sroufe (BenBella). Nixon and Sroufe both occupy the healthier end of the spectrum - less mock meat, little or no oil - but find creative ways to keep the tastiness quotient high.

For those still hanging onto some favorite animal-based foods and wondering how they can be replaced, Vegan Pizza, by Julie Hasson (Andrews McMeel) and The Cheesy Vegan, by John Schlimm (Da Capo), can help with the transition.

For someone who says vegan eating is too inconvenient, Robin Robertson's One-Dish Vegan (Harvard Commons Press) fits the bill. Another helpful time-saver is Becoming Vegan: Express Edition, the guide from Brenda Davis and Vesanto Melina that spells out everything about the process, including recipes.

If you and yours already are trending plant-based and want to spread the love, give the full version of Becoming Vegan, with the help of the Vegetarian Resource Group (vrg.org). While supplies last, they're offering five copies for $45 (offer good only in the U.S.) - a huge savings that could mean one copy for yourself (it's a timeless resource, after all) plus more to pass along to individuals on your list or to libraries.

Walk the vegan talk

What if you're moving away from giving things and toward establishing new, more sustainable traditions? Science has shown that animal agriculture is a bigger climate problem than previously understood, so helping to reduce dependence on animal foods is a gift to the Earth, too.

Ditch the glossy catalogs that want you to "gift" animals for poor people to raise and slaughter. Instead, let your donation protect victimized animals and help open human eyes to animals' individuality.

My favorite farm-animal sanctuary is in Woodstock, N.Y., where Upper Darby's escaped cow, Kayli, wound up, in 2011. They have a per-animal sponsorship that can be given on behalf of someone else. Closer to home, Chenoa Manor, in Chester County, has a similar program.

Going further, how about sponsoring a potential new vegan? Inspired by a program in the United Kingdom, the Peace Advocacy Network Vegan Pledge started here four years ago and has expanded to other locales, including nearby Phoenixville.

It's kind of like Jay Z's 22-day "challenge" - participants pledge to eat vegan for 30 days, in this case - but with more discussion of the ideas that motivate plant-based eating, as well as mentoring on day-to-day, real-life issues. After 30 days, participants decide whether to stick with it for good.

Network spokesman Ed Coffin said those who sign up "are always surprised that we don't ask them to pay for anything." The cooking classes, nutrition workshops, food at meetings and so forth are made available "thanks to generous donors and volunteers," he said.

Of course, you shouldn't surprise someone with this kind of gift. People have to decide to join on their own; pushing somebody into a moral stance doesn't really work. But Coffin noted other ways to support the program "by signing up to volunteer, or by making a donation to help fund this and future Pledges."

"It's the thought that counts" is an oft-heard excuse, but it's true: Thinking about how your gift might help long term can make the giving memorable while putting people in touch with what they care about.

It's a seasonal win-win. If we hope ever to achieve peace on Earth, there's one thing we're all going to have to give. And that's a damn.


Vance Lehmkuhl is a cartoonist,

writer, musician and 12-year vegan.

"V for Veg" chronicles plant-based

eating in and around Philadelphia.

VforVeg@phillynews.com or

@V4Veg on Twitter.

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