Christmas isn’t so merry for farmed animals. In the UK, for example, around 10 million turkeys are slaughtered each year for the festive season. I don’t know about you, but I find it somewhat perverse that what began as a celebration of birth now involves so much death. But it doesn’t have to be this way! For those who are used to celebrating Christmas conventionally, I’d like to show you that it’s possible to celebrate easily and deliciously without any animal products at all.
This article is geared more towards those in the UK, as traditional Christmas meals and available products vary according to where you are in the world. But you may still find it helpful if you live elsewhere.
Let’s start with the question on everyone’s lips…
What do I have instead of turkey?
Believe it or not, there are a huge number of options. The most well-known is a nut roast, but it’s by no means your only option. Personally, I like to mash up cooked green lentils with fried onions, garlic and lots of tasty herbs and spices. Then I wrap the mixture in pre-made puff pastry and pop it in the oven. It’s much quicker and easier than preparing a turkey, and delicious too.
Many brands, such as Linda McCartney, now produce roasts made of mock meat if you’re after something closer to a traditional Christmas meal. This mock meat recipe looks divine too. Or there are many other options featuring various veggies, pulses and meat alternatives – here are some more ideas.
What about the rest of Christmas dinner?
Obviously, the veggies in a Christmas dinner aren’t generally an issue. Make sure things are roasted in oil rather than butter or animal fat. And use maple syrup instead of honey to roast those parsnips!
You can even buy vegan pigs in blankets now, though you’ll probably have to go to a health food shop to find them. Or you could buy vegan sausages and bacon and assemble them yourself.
Making gravy without meat juice is easy. Most gravy granules are vegan (always check the pack), so you can just make it with water. Alternatively, making vegan gravy from scratch isn’t hard – here’s a recipe.
It’s worth noting that most shop-bought stuffing is vegan too – yay!
And for pudding?
Some supermarket Christmas puddings are vegan – check the ingredients. If you’d rather make your own, this recipe is delicious. Serve with soya or oat cream, or vegan ice cream. You can get vegan custard too – Alpro makes a ready-made soya custard. And Birds’ custard powder is vegan – just make it with your plant milk of choice.
Though many shop-bought mince pies have butter in the pastry, others don’t – so check! You may find dairy-free ones in the free from section, if not.
Making your own is easy too. Shop-bought mincemeat is almost always vegan – despite its name! All you need to do is make some shortcrust pastry, using a dairy-free margarine like Vitalite instead of butter. Then cut out circles with a cookie cutter and press them into a cupcake tray. Fill them with mincemeat and top with a smaller circle of pastry.
Many people like to buy boxes of chocolate at Christmas, but they typically contain milk and other animal ingredients. So what can you do?
Booja Booja makes delicious vegan truffles – they’re expensive, but good for a Christmas treat. You can find them in health food shops and some supermarkets. Making your own is really easy too.
Check out the free from section and you’ll find plenty of dairy-free chocolates – including advent calendars! Brands like Moo Free, iChoc and SoFree make vegan bars of chocolate, and dark chocolate is usually vegan too – check the label.
Like to have a cheeseboard at Christmas? Vegan cheese has come a long way, and you don’t need to miss out. Tesco and Sainsbury’s have their own ranges of vegan cheese, including cranberry Wensleydale, smoky cheese, blue cheese, jalapeño cheddar and more. Check out health food shops for more options. And if only the best will do, many small companies make artisan vegan cheeses which are indistinguishable from the real thing – even my cheese-loving friend agreed!
Many alcoholic drinks are unfortunately made with animal-derived ingredients. Spirits are usually safe, but beer and wine may be processed with isinglass, made from fish swim bladders. Some supermarkets are now labelling their own-brand alcoholic drinks as vegan – I know the Co-op does this. Some mainstream brands are vegan-friendly too. Guinness made the news a while back for dropping isinglass, and even Baileys has made a dairy-free version. If unsure, it’s best to check online. The app Barnivore is a great resource for this.
Whether the people you’re buying for are vegan or not, you’ll want to make sure that you choose cruelty-free gifts. So what should you look out for?
If you’re buying cosmetics, check they’re cruelty-free. Look for the leaping bunny logo on the packaging. Some products claim not to be tested on animals, but if they don’t have this logo then they haven’t met the strict standards of Cruelty-Free International and are best avoided. Here’s a list of cruelty-free brands. Look out for animal ingredients like honey too – a product can be certified cruelty-free but still contain these. Here are some things to watch out for.
When buying clothes and accessories, check they don’t have real fur on them. I have instructions on how to spot fur in this article. Sometimes the label says it’s fake but it’s actually real, so do check.
Also, make sure you don’t buy anything with real leather or wool – check the labels. And consider buying second-hand for sustainability and human rights reasons.
This should go without saying, but buying pets as Christmas presents should be avoided. If you are getting a pet, please adopt don’t shop, and make sure everyone is on board with caring for the animal and meeting his/her needs. Animals are living beings, not toys to be discarded when Christmas is over.
I really hope this article was helpful. If there’s anything you’re wondering about that I didn’t cover, please comment below and I’ll do my best to help you out! Please share this article if you can – I passionately believe that we can all celebrate Christmas in a cruelty-free way without missing out on anything, and I want to share this message as widely as possible! And check out the Christmas issue of our free vegan ezine here. Thank you.