Compassion Collective believe that all animals deserve to be treated with respect and compassion, all year round. But as Christmas is officially the season of goodwill, it’s the perfect time to make an effort to be extra kind to everyone – people, animals and the planet too!
Below are our top tips on how you can make your Christmas a more compassionate one simply through your shopping choices – from eating higher welfare meat and dairy – to going meat-free or vegan, and of course choosing cruelty free gifts…
1. Go Free-Range
Around 10 million turkeys are slaughtered in the UK alone – just for Christmas! Wild turkeys naturally live for around 10 years but those destined to be eaten are slaughtered when they’re only 9 to 24 weeks old. Millions of geese, ducks and pigs will also be consumed this Christmas, and smoked salmon is a traditional favourite at this time of year too.
Shockingly, up to 90% of these farmed animals and fish will have spent their entire lives confined indoors in cages or tanks, in factory farming systems. Factory farmed animals can suffer from painful mutilations such as beak trimming or tail docking (often performed without anaesthetic), stress, disease, overcrowding, lack of bedding, perches, food or even water, and are not able to express many of their natural behaviours.
If you eat meat, eggs or dairy, you can help improve the lives of millions of animals by buying free-range and higher welfare, and you can feel happier knowing that these animals will have had a better life.
(Roast potatoes are often cooked in goose fat as well – so vegetarians, double check your roasties and make sure your gravy does not contain meat or fish stock).
Always check your food labels as well as ingredients on ready-made foods (and menus when you are eating out) say ‘FREE-RANGE’. If not sure – just ask! And if you can’t ask, well, if it does not say ‘FREE-RANGE’ then is very probably is NOT!
DO YOU KNOW YOUR LABELS?
The labelling of fresh food and produce can be very confusing. To be assured of what you are buying check out Compassion in World Farming’s ‘Know Your Labels’ guide which gives a great overview of what different labels mean.
Here’s a general guide below too…
is free-range and organic and has the highest overall animal welfare standards
is often free-range and offers higher animal welfare standards than most other schemes
Marine Stewardship Council
If you eat fish, buy wild, line-caught fish from sustainable stock – look for the MSC logo for certified sustainable seafood
Basic schemes to be wary of:
(and words that do NOT always mean higher-welfare)
- Red Tractor assures legal minimum animal welfare standards BUT can be found on factory farmed products.
- British Lion Eggs Quality Mark assures legal minimum animal welfare standards BUT can also be found on eggs from caged hens.
- Avoid misleading wording on labels with terms such as “Farm fresh”, “Farm assured”, “Locally sourced” and “Produced to high animal welfare standards”.
- Pictures of green grass or animals grazing in fields can appear on produce from animals that have actually been reared indoors!
2. Boycott Foie Gras
Foie Gras can often be found on menus in restaurants at this time of year to ‘celebrate’ Christmas and New Year.
Foie Gras is actually illegal to produce here in the UK as it is considered so inhumane, but sadly it is currently still legal to import it.
Sometimes nicknamed “torture in a tin”, foie gras is the grossly enlarged liver of a duck or goose, and is essentially a disease, marketed as a French ‘delicacy’. Birds are typically kept in individual small wire or plastic cages and are force-fed enormous quantities of food through a long metal pipe, literally rammed down their throats three times a day so that the birds’ livers swell to ten times its normal size. Their liver gets so abnormally large that it can press against their lungs, making it difficult to breathe. Every year, around 1 million ducks die prematurely during this period of force-feeding.
If you find any restaurants selling foie gras, please politely ask them to take it off their menus!
3. Choose Organic
Choose organic meat and dairy (and fruit and vegetables too!).
As above, the labels that Compassion in World Farming and also One Kind Scotland have found to set the highest overall animal welfare standards are the Soil Association and the Scottish Organic Producers Association.
Organic farm animals:
- Must have access to fields (when weather and ground conditions permit) and are truly free-range
- Must have plenty of space – which helps to reduce stress and disease
- Must be fed a diet that is as natural as possible and free from genetically modified organisms (GMOs)
- Must only be given drugs to treat an illness – the routine use of antibiotics is prohibited
- Cannot be given hormones which make them grow more quickly or make them more productive
- Must not be produced from cloned animals.
4. Buy British, Local & Seasonal*
Unlike some parts of the world, here in Britain we have official guidelines on how to treat and slaughter animals. These are by no means perfect, but at least there are a level of animal welfare standards (as outlined above).
For example, if you buy British pig products including bacon, ham, pork and sausages, you can be assured that pregnant sows will at least not have been confined in cruel stalls, and it is unlikely that piglets would have been castrated.
Buying British and local also avoids live export issues where millions of sheep, cattle and calves suffer greatly from overcrowding, exhaustion, dehydration, pain, stress and disease on long truck journeys around the world.
Buying local and seasonal produce is also a great way of supporting your community. It’s tastier, fresher and also requires less energy to produce and transport which is better for the planet.
*BUT remember to also make sure that it’s free-range and if possible organic – so you’re only supporting higher-welfare farms and not directly supporting factory farming.
5. Eat Less Meat
Every day in the UK alone over 2 million land animals are slaughtered for meat (just imagine the outrage if it was 2 million cats and dogs – EVERY day!). There is growing awareness that we urgently need to reduce our reliance on meat in order to…
Improve farm animal welfare
Reducing your meat consumption will reduce the unsustainable demand for quickly reared cheap meat that gives rise to intensive factory farming – the single biggest cause of animal cruelty on the planet.
Fight world hunger
Farm animals are often given food that people could eat, raising food prices and fuelling the global hunger crisis. If we ate less meat it could mean more grain to go round, and help relieve poverty.
Protect the environment
Factory farming uses up vast quantities of precious resources, is driving deforestation, and damaging diverse ecosystems. It is also a major cause of climate change. Eat less meat to encourage sustainable farming that works with nature, not against it.
Our food production affects wildlife too…
In the UK the growth of intensive farming, with larger fields and loss of hedgerows and permanent grassland, has caused a decline in our population of birds, bees, butterflies and mammals including hedgehogs and hares.
50% of our world’s wildlife has disappeared in the past 40 years and food production is the largest cause of this.
Another reason why it’s important to choose higher-welfare and organic food to help create a more natural and sustainable food system.
Avoid Palm Oil!
Orang-utans are under threat of extinction due to the production of palm kernel. Palm oil products which claim to be ‘sustainable’ should also be avoided.
6. Try Vegetarian or Go Vegan
The only way to really know that the food you eat has not caused any animals to suffer, is to not eat them at all.
Luckily, it’s simply never been easier to go meat-free or vegan! So why not swap your Christmas turkey this year for a scrummy nut roast, vegetable taggine or veggie wellington pastry? These can all easily be made vegan using vegetable margarine or vegetable oil instead of dairy too and its also really easy to make gorgeous biscuits and cakes without eggs!
Vegetarians do not to eat meat or fish.
Vegans do not consume any animal derived products at all.
A vegan plant based diet can also be cheaper, healthier and the most eco-friendly. Our Compassion Collective founder Anna can vouch for the feel-good benefits of being vegan and there’s now so many vegan foods to choose from (including that all-important chocolate!) and eating out is so much more accessible with many high street eateries now even offering vegan pizza!
Vegan Society TM
Look for the Vegan Trademark for approved animal-free products
Here’s just a taster of some of our favourite online sites for meat-free or vegan recipes:
- Vegetarian Society Christmas Recipes
- The Vegan Society Christmas Recipes (includes vegan Yorkshire Puddings!)
- Animal Aid Christmas Recipes
- Viva! Christmas Recipes
- Meat Free Monday Recipes
- VegWeb Recipes
- Pure Free From Recipes
- Quorn Recipes (Quorn now do a range of vegan products so most recipes can be simply adapted using vegan Quorn)
DID YOU KNOW?
90% of the world’s soya is fed to animals to produce meat, milk and eggs.
This soya is often grown on deforested land, destroying natural habitats. The good news is that there is a growing range of vegan dairy alternatives including coconut, rice, hemp, oat, almond and even cashew milk, to help reduce our reliance on soya.
7. Choose Cruelty Free Gifts
It’s not all about food of course! Thousands of animals are also suffering a life of misery in cages for their fur or skin, or repeated deliberate torture in laboratories (including here in the UK) just to test cosmetics, household products and even cigarettes.
With so many people buying gifts for Christmas its even more important to make more ethical choices, but of course this applies the whole year through!
Products to avoid:
- Real fur (including real fur mislabelled as faux fur) – animals used for fur are often skinned alive so make sure it’s faux fur – read more in our blog post on vegan clothing here.
- Real feather down – it could have been made from the feathers of animals who were brutally plucked alive, many of whom may also have been bred for Foie Gras.
- Angorra wool – these animals could have suffered the agony of being plucked alive, with huge chunks of fur ripped out.
- Merino wool from Australia – these animals could have been tied up to endure painful mutilations with massive chunks of skin and flesh from their backsides cut out, often without anaesthetic.
- Any products using skins or feathers from exotic animals – such as snakeskin, crocodile skin and peacock feathers or made from animals who may even be endangered.
- Non-organic cotton – non-organic cotton systems are responsible for poisoning wildlife and rivers and even for killing an estimated 16,000 human workers each year – read more in our blog post on vegan clothing here.
- Plastic – millions of tonnes of plastic waste is polluting our waters, endangering marine life and entering the human food chain – damaging our health. Please reduce your use of plastic bags and packaging on food and all products.
- Cosmetics and smellies that have been tested on animals – if it doesn’t say it’s not been tested on animals, the chances are the product or it’s ingredients have been.
Leaping Bunny Certified Cruelty Free
Look for the ‘Leaping Bunny’ logo on all cosmetics and household products
And of course…
NEVER buy pets as Christmas presents – unless you can personally take responsibility for them if needed. Thousands of unwanted pets end up abandoned, or in UK animal shelters that are already overcrowded.
You can of course also buy our very own Compassion Collective clothing in our ethical Tee-Shop including our alternative animal Christmas jumpers (last chance to order in time for Christmas with UK special delivery Tuesday 19th December) and animal inspired art at Etsy (still time to order for Christmas delivery until 10am Thursday 21st December) to raise awareness and vital funds for some of our favourite animal welfare charities. We think they make very special gifts for animal lovers.
Every small change can make a BIG difference for animals… so we wish you a very merry Compassionate Christmas 🙂
If you agree and want to celebrate a Compassionate Christmas please share this post to spread the love, and send us your comments to tell us how you will be celebrating!