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CHRISTMAS WITHOUT CRUELTY - Tips for a cruelty-free Christmas
Posted 1 November 2003
Approximately 10 million turkeys will be killed to meet Christmas demand, as will many other animals. The vast majority will suffer miserable short lives in factory farms, where the object is to mass produce and fatten them as rapidly as possible; all will endure a violent and painful slaughterhouse death. There is no need to kill animals in order to make our Christmas food special. Here are a few simple cruelty-free ideas.
To begin a Christmas meal, why not try a light soup? If you don't have time to make your own, sample one of the many vegetarian and vegan soups on sale in high street outlets or health food stores. Or try our recipe for homemade tomato soup which could hardly be quicker or easier - you'll find details of this and the other recipes mentioned below in our veggie recipe collection.
Nut roast has become the traditional veggie alternative to turkey, but there's no reason why you shouldn't substitute any favourite recipe instead. If you really don't want to waste your holiday slaving over a hot oven and yet would still like your meal to have a festive feel, you could always purchase a 'cheatin' meat roast alternative from a health food shop. As an accompaniment, try meat-free sausages. These are delicious with our easy recipe for red wine sauce.
Another traditional Christmas food is bread sauce to accompany the roast. There is no problem here for vegetarians, though if you are vegan and buy a packet of ready-mix sauce, check the back of the packet as some varieties contain dairy products.
Vegetarian and vegan Christmas puddings and mince pies are easily obtained through mail order companies, some health shops and also mainstream high street stores. If you feel more enterprising and want to make your own mince pies, animal-free mincemeat is also sold extensively.
If you fancy something a little different, why not make a cheesecake? Several vegan recipes exist, including our delicious chocolate 'cheesecake'.
A cruelty-free tipple
Alcoholic drinks often contain animal products.
Beer and lager
The majority of 'real ales' are produced using animal derived finings to help speed up the clearing process. The most common ingredient is isinglass - a type of gelatine obtained from the air bladders of some freshwater fish.
Bottled, keg and canned beers are more often made without animal products, though to be certain you can ring the distributors (name and telephone number is given on the back of a product). Some retail outlets (notably Co-op) label all their alcohol (and all other products) as suitable for vegans and/or vegetarians.
Although some lagers undergo the same clearing processes as beer, all German lagers are OK for vegans as they must meet the German purity laws on brewing. These allow only grain (usually barley), malt, hops, water and yeast to be used in production. Most Czech beers are brewed according to these same principles. By contrast, some Australian lagers do use animal products. Again, if you are unsure, the best thing to do is to check with the distributor.
Cider is usually brewed without the use of animal products. For example, the majority of drinks made by Bulmers, the leading commercial company, are suitable for vegans. Nevertheless, a few producers do use animal derived products, so once again it is best to check.
Many wines still use animal ingredients during production. These range from fish oil and gelatine to egg albumen. One way to ensure that wine is completely cruelty-free is to buy from the Animal Aid catalogue or from other vegetarian mail-order organisations. Alternatively, some supermarkets do label their wines, with the Co-op offering by far the biggest choice for vegetarians and vegans. If you buy from specialist wine shops the chances are that the staff will go to the trouble of checking with suppliers and find you some suitable products.
Most gin, whisky, rum and brandy are normally free from animal products. Once again, the Co-op labels its own products as suitable for vegetarians and/or vegans. Where you get into greyer areas is with products that mix pure alcohol with other ingredients. A blatant example would be Bailey's Cream, which obviously contains a dairy product.
Cruelty-free gift tips
Cosmetics and toiletries
Many brands of cosmetics and toiletries are still tested on animals or else contain animal ingredients. Many cruelty-free alternatives exist, so there's never a need to buy a present that has involved animal suffering.
Many sweets contain animal products such as gelatine and/or milk, so check the back of boxes carefully before purchasing. There are animal-free varieties available.
Discourage friends and family members from buying their children 'pets' for Christmas. If they really want to provide a home for a companion animal, suggest that they leave it to the New Year and take a homeless animal from a sanctuary.
Remember that by purchasing cruelty-free gifts from a charity of your choice you are also helping to fund the fight against cruelty and injustice. Of course, we particularly recommend our own Animal Aid catalogue with its unique collection of suitable gifts - including clothes, toiletries and cosmetics, diaries, calendars, cards, books, chocolates and other confectionery, wallets, boots, shoes and belts, champagne, wine, cider and lager.