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Gifts for Animal People

Each time you make a purchase, you are voting with your dollars. For example, you say, "Ralph Lauren, I support you and am so enamored with you and your products that I’ll happily pay a premium to advertise to the world that I like you. I shall, in fact, become a walking billboard for you. Gimme that polo horsey thing."

I find that whole system a bit, shall we say, tacky. But it is genius as far as marketing is concerned.

Rather than waste my money paying to advertise for someone I don’t know, I choose to invest my money in my beliefs. That usually involves clothing and accessories not made from animals or by small children in third world countries. If it’s organic and fair trade, that’s awesome. Sign me up.

Once in a while, however, it does involve wearing a shirt with some words on it. When I was in grad school at NYU and living in the East Village, I had a very-subtle black T-shirt that read: Fuck you, you fucking fuck. I’m so not kidding. I had a bit of difficulty channeling my anger in those days.

Several years ago, I purchased a white T-shirt from PETA with an adorable chick on it that said, "Love animals, don’t eat them." I’d wear it grocery shopping just to see how people would react. And boy, they reacted. In fact, I decided to use the shirt as a rag because I began to fear for my personal safety.

When shopping for Animal People, there are three rules:

  1. Make sure it isn’t made from animals
  2. Make sure no animal tests were involved
  3. Make sure it doesn’t send an anti-animal message

The first two are obvious, but for the third, here’s what happened to me this morning: the environmentally-minded folks at Ideal Bite sent me some tips for eco-gifts. One was colorful hand-crafted T-shirts from Turk and Taylor, which sounded like a great idea. But when you look at the collections of T-shirts, they don’t jibe with #3.

  • One is called "Sweet Ambition," and the graphic is of a FOX HUNT.
  • Another is called "Ms. Cold Comfort" and the graphic is of a DOG SLED TEAM (see for the facts on "cold comfort").
  • Then there’s "Glengar Royale," and the graphic is a "gentlemen’s retreat," which includes the HEAD OF A DEER with antlers on the wall.

I don’t care how organic, free-trade, shade-grown, and/or cruelty-free the shirt is. The graphic puts the kibosh on anything good because all you see–and remember–is the graphic.

I get irritated when people complain and don’t provide a solution, so here’s my #1 solution: Grey2K USA has an adorable T-shirt with "Greyhound Heaven" on the front ("Eat, Sleep, Stretch") and on the back it says "End the killing and cruelty of dog racing." They have other gifts, as well, if that’s too forceful for you. I ordered a couple of shirts, and if they’re made in China I’ll let you know. In this case, the message might trump the China thing. The PETA Mall has oodles of great gifts, and great gift ideas can be found at

One of my favorite gifts for the Animal Person who has everything (which is most of us), is to adopt an animal on behalf of the giftee. You can adopt a wolf, polar bear, penguin, panther, elephant, black bear, and many other creatures who are having a hard time of it in the wild (read: the Bush Administration is delisting them and they’re being slaughtered, or poachers are chopping them up). Go to Defenders of Wildlife for more. You can also adopt ("sponsor") a farm animal at Farm Sanctuary.

Finally, this may sound obvious to some, but going to Heifer International and purchasing and shipping animals to people for their use is most certainly NOT an animal-friendly gift idea. There are plenty of ways to help people that don’t involve hurting animals. (Please note that Oxfam now offers animals–and their best seller is currently a cow for $75–in addition to their animal-friendly ways of giving and helping. This eliminates Oxfam as a recipient of my money. You decide for yourself. )

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