It is widely accepted–mandated, actually–that, if a member of the vegan community, you wouldn’t buy any animal products sold in the marketplace. But what happens when you are gifted an animal product? That is, someone bought it for you out of a kind gesture?
This is a crisis that can leave many people of the vegan community torn. They are gifted something either very expensive, very high-quality, or even very heartfelt, such as their grandmother’s passed-down scarf made of silk or a luxurious skincare kit from a company that tests on animals or contains milk and honey. Trust me, I have been there before and I admittedly still own products that are animal-derived because they were gifted to me. In these cases, what do I do?
First and foremost, the last thing you should do is blame yourself. In our society, there is a massive array of businesses and industries that produce animal-derived items and animal products left and right. Even the cars we drive and the phones we text on may contain a little bit of chemicals that have come from a living creature! In other words, the first thought you should have concerns being realistic. You can only do so much to avoid all the animal products in the universe and you already make a difference from consuming a vegan diet and consciously choosing to purchase as few or as zilch animal-derived products as possible.
Secondly, you should find what to do with the product that will entail the least amount of waste. Is this an item you can donate? Would another person like this product? Keep the product if A) it is cherished by those who gave it to you, B) you do not have direct permission to give it away, C) you genuinely love the gift, and/or D) it would have gone to waste if you do anything otherwise. If you do not want to use the product, then by all means, do not use it. However, do not resent yourself for taking a liking to the new gift.
You have no idea how many times I come home and my mother gives me a new pair of shoes that–surprise!–have lining made from cows or even material out of leather or snakeskin. Am I resentful of the shoes because they’re laced with animal derivatives? Absolutely. Do I harass my mother for not knowing about these? No way! It is very, very difficult to find high-quality vegan leather shoes that are comfortable, durable, stylish, and easy to maintain as those of real leather. Personally, I wouldn’t even care that much about buying shoes because I rarely ever do! I can count on only one hand the amount of times I have bought a pair of shoes. I don’t think I could even think of a time I went out and said “Hmm, I really need a leather jacket or a fur coat”, even before going vegan. Plus, I confess: I adore the shoes my mother gifted to me. They are beautiful and easy to walk in.
One situation I will mention is the crisis of accidentally purchasing an item that contains animal products or animal derivatives. It happens, it sucks, but it is almost always an accident or a farther-than-last resort. Sometimes you look at a label of a cereal box for what feels like an hour, come home, eat it, and find out it contains honey. Alternatively, you are prescribed medication with a small amount of animal byproducts. Again, do not beat yourself up for that. Take the medication and do not let the food go to waste (exception: you do not have to continue eating that honey-coated cereal if it makes you uncomfortable. Perhaps give it to a friend or anyone else you know will finish it. Do not give it to a food bank as they usually discard any opened packages).
Lastly, remember that it is counterproductive to dismantle a gifted product that has animal derivatives because you will ultimately contribute to the waste occurring in our environment. Every item has a shelf-life but the more that accumulates sooner, the more damage will be done in a shorter amount of time. At the same time, do not make yourself keep the animal products if you will end up feeling so guilty it sickens you. Berating yourself for either decision you make is all counterproductive to you mentally and emotionally with all the stress that boils down to it.
Thus, at the end of the day, the choice is yours when it comes to being gifted an animal product or animal-derived item. You can donate the item to a local charity or to someone in need of it or you can just use it for the time-being (especially if it’s something useful like sunscreen). Heck, you can even eat that box of honey-glazed cereal if it won’t bother you too much, or just compost it if it does make you feel unwell. Personally, I would throw it away only as a last resort, specifically if it contains meat. Situations like this are to come and that does not make you any less of a person just because of the society we live in.