Gift Guide for Animal Lovers

BlogHer Original Post

I'm not big on holiday gifts for animals as I've noticed they don't keep calendars. Also, every cat I've ever known has been an atheist and in one case, a Nietzschean, so I save money not buying dime bags of catnip wrapped in red bows. And what cat doesn't view the sudden appearance of a bejeweled giant tree in the house as a personal gift anyway? Instead, I've put together a list of holiday gifts for animal-loving humans…humans that see the big picture, or just need a nudge.

woman with kangaroo

PETA's Angels for Animals

So many dogs are chained up outside, for one reason or another, and their shelter is rarely adequate. Serving as a sort of Habitat for Caninity, the program builds "hundreds of sturdy, straw-filled doghouses and delivers them to lonely dogs whose guardians won't relinquish the animals or let them inside." A donation to the cause makes an ideal gift for any passionate dog lover.

Heifer International's Gift Catalog

This is an ideal way to honor that selfless person in your life who does not need another box of chocolates or ugly sweater. For me, that person is always my stepmother, Shirley. Heifer International provides livestock and farm animals to families who benefit from their milk, wool and offspring, the first of which they are obligated to pass along -- a beautiful chain of sharing. I usually gift some distant family in need with a flock of ducks or chicks in Shirley's name, and she -- who signs her letters, "The Wicked Stepmother From the North" -- loves it. I think honeybees will do nicely this year.

Farm Sanctuary's Online Store

While you can always "adopt" a farm animal at FS, it's nice to gift someone with a shirt, mug or tote bag with the Farm Sanctuary logo. The money still goes to a wonderful cause for food industry animals who scored that one big lucky break: freedom! Even better, take the time to bring a loved one to one of two FS locations - one in upstate New York and another in Northern California.

Humane Society of the United States -- Corporate Sponsors

Many of the products and services offered by the HSUS's corporate supporters generate extra revenue for their animal protection programs. Companies such as Visa, eBay, Land Rover, Organic Bouquet and Cheeky Monkey Jewelry, all donate a portion of their sales to HSUS. If you are going to buy anyway, why not have part of your funds go toward protecting seals or rescuing birds?

The Gentle Barn Store

Recently featured on Ellen, this California sanctuary does double-duty kindness in this world. Not only does it take in neglected and abused animals, but it also offers the sanctuary as a learning place for at-risk youth. In their words: "Incorporating the simple concepts of kindness and respect into their lives, and teaching the children to respect and protect even the smallest and weakest among us, will help them value themselves and one another." Hard to argue with that. Plus, I'm dying for one of their Buddha mugs but will settle for a 2011 calendar. (It will have to do until I scheme a way to actually live there.)

Farm Forward

Jonathan Safran Foer, author of Eating Animals, has launched a personal campaign and is asking his fans to donate to Farm Forward, the non-profit that enacts strategies "to promote conscientious food choices, reduce farm animal suffering, and advance sustainable agriculture." Foer has sworn that FF donations are what everyone on his list is getting this year. He is also donating copies of his best-selling book to Farm Forward and asked that they be sent to people who pledge $10 or more per month for 12 months (or single gifts of $120 or more). He will personally sign books sent to donors of $25 or more per month (or single gifts of $300 or more). Says Foer: "For less than the price of a latte each week, you can play a part in the most important social movement of our generation."

World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Gift Center

Donate to one of the planet's most tireless advocates for wild beings who don't speak the human language. This is ideal for the person on your list who feels strongly about a specific species. In their honor, you can "adopt" a snowy owl, a "tub of cubs," a polar bear or a blue-footed booby. WWF also offers the usual parade of t-shirts and metal water bottles with their famous panda logo.

Okay, here's where my list takes an unusual turn. My last bit of gift advice is for the person on your list who loves animals but still eats them. Shocking, I know. Instead of demonizing them/us (depending on the day), you can actually include them in raising awareness about the many evils of factory farming by gifting them with meat from a local organic/free-range/grassfed rancher. This will go a long way in fostering a much-needed conversation. (It's hard for someone to ignore you when you've just given them a giant steak.)

Yes, an animal still dies and somebody gets eaten but that would be one less cow or pig who has lived an anonymous miserable life crammed in with thousands of others, standing in his own filth while feasting on hormone-filled, antibiotic corn. And, you'd be supporting your local economy while helping the prices come down. If you can get your very traditional cousin, Bill, to reconsider mindlessly purchasing the shrink-wrapped cheap meat at Costco, that would be a huge gift to the world. And Cousin Bill might be less likely to tune you out next time the factory farming topic comes up.

I would generally start by googling "local organic meat" plus the state you live in, just to get the ball rolling. The EatWild site is a good place to start.

The American Grassfed Organization offers a search engine to locate ranchers near you. They also encourage you to visit them and ask questions about how the animals are raised.

Some independently owned grocers will carry local meat, in addition to larger chains, such as Natural Grocers. (Whole Foods does usually offer organic but they are not so good on the local.) Amazingly, the USDA's site provides a national map -- and awesome search engine - to locate a Farmer's Market near you, always a great source for local meat and produce.

And finally, there's our mutual friend, the Internet. Many ranches and chicken farms facilitate orders with a few clicks, Niman Ranch, probably being the most known. But again, I'd try to go local first and always.

Happy Gifting!

~ClizBiz

BlogHer Contributing Editor, Animal & Wildlife Concerns, Proprietor, ClizBiz

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