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Since deciding to follow a vegan lifestyle, I've found that gift-giving occasions such as birthdays and Christmas can be challenging. This is doubly true for situations where gifts are given from strangers or even completely anonymously, such as an office "Secret Santa" or draw/door prizes at events.

Even when people are aware of my vegan ideals and try their best to respect that, it's still common to receive non-vegan gifts because the gift-giver is not familiar with the variety of ways that animal products are incorporated into food and other goods, and they either fail to read the label or lack practice with label-reading.

I do not want to receive goods or services that are the product of animal suffering, but sometimes it happens anyway. What is the best way to react when this happens, and what might I do to avoid getting into these situations?

  • When people give me gifts that are non-vegan (such as milk chocolate or wine), I receive them gracefully but then quickly re-gift them to someone else. – Ryan May 28 at 21:16
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    @Ryan Thanks for that. But your response would be better suited as an answer. Comments on questions are usually for seeking clarification about the question. – Nic May 28 at 22:19
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When possible, reject the present.

Thank you so much. I am sorry, but I can't really accept it.

While different cultures have different approaches to this, it is generally not unreasonable to reject a present if you clearly and sincerely express your gratitude for the intention. The giver might not be super happy with the outcome but would unlikely take offense. It's important to state that you "can't accept it", rather that just won't.

In my experience it's rare not to be able to return or reject a present. The following is is admittedly more opinionated: If I was stuck with say, a pair of leather shoes, I will promptly discard them.

Wearing leather shoes is not consistent with my own ethical standards and I would simply not wear them, the same way most people would never wear shoes made from human skin, gifted or otherwise.

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    I wonder whether regifting (or just donating to a charity) would be more useful than discarding? (Excellent answer, btw.) – Erica Jun 14 at 16:44
  • @Erica it's a difficult question. Donating the shoes, good deed aside, could be an option. You'd have to however consider that this contributes to the normalization of leather goods and thus could potentially have a negative net impact. Even considering that destroying the shoes is a waste of resources, it could very well be the least bad of the options. It's also a personal choice and I don't claim this to be universal; I rather not give or donate clothes made from corpses. <3 – istepaniuk Jun 15 at 18:35
  • I understand, and agree that it is a personal choice! Thank you for the perspective :) – Erica Jun 15 at 20:05
  • @istepaniuk While I totally disagree with your conclusion, I appreciate your well-crafted comment. – Alexander Aug 7 at 3:16

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