Whether you’re celebrating a milestone birthday, gathering to watch friends exchange vows, or hosting a baby shower, the prospect of giving and receiving gifts is probably never far off in your mind. Ours is a culture based in material consumption, and gifts have become the mainstay of any celebration. While there’s certainly nothing wrong with the occasional sweater or box of chocolates, how about giving–or requesting–a more compassionate gift on your next special occasion?
There are thousands of charities in the U.S., all claiming to be the most altruistic and effective. As such, it can be difficult to determine which organizations are honest in the way they disperse donations. Personally, I like to support charities whose mission it is to save animals, save humans, or (preferably) both. The following are five of my favorite non-profit animal friendly charities:
1. Farm Sanctuary: As the nation’s largest farm animal rescue and protection organization, Farm Sanctuary has become an institution within the animal welfare community. The non-profit has sanctuaries in Watkin’s Glen, NY, Orland, CA, and Los Angeles. From goats to pigs to calfs and hens, each sanctuary boasts a diverse set of residents, all with incredible stories of survival. When giving a gift, explore Farm Sanctuary’s Adopt-A-Farm-Animal Project, which allows sponsors to provide food and shelter for individual farm animals. Even if its your own celebration, ask friends and family to donate directly to the organization.
2. Food for Life New Orleans: Founded in 1969, this Louisiana-based non-profit seeks to aid the homeless, underprivileged, and disaster victims by providing them vegetarian and vegan meals. Workers also travel door-to-door to bring hot meals to those who are immobile. The charity espouses the principle of food as nourishment, and encourages others to live harmoniously with the environment through their food choices. To contribute to this inspiring non-profit, visit their donation page.
3. Vegan Outreach: This unique organization promotes a vegan lifestyle by distributing educational leaflets throughout the country. Volunteers and employees leaflet music and art festivals, university campuses, and various community events–all in the name of ending animal suffering. Since 2003, the organization’s Adopt a College program has reached 9.1 million students on more than 2,300 college campuses. For your next birthday, ask friends and family to donate on your behalf.
4. The Gentle Barn: When animal protection and human compassion intersect, organizations like The Gentle Barn result. The organization regularly hosts at-risk youth, special needs children, and schools, allowing them to interact with rescued animals. Though it was built from humble beginnings, the organization has been home to hundreds of animals and over 100,000 people. The Gentle Barn offers many ways to donate: sponsor at-risk, special needs, or school children, an animal, or donate directly to the organization.
5. Chimp Haven: Just one of many chimpanzee sanctuaries in the U.S., Chimp Haven provides permanent restitution for chimpanzees that have been used as test subjects in biomedical research and for other purposes. With over 120 chimpanzees in their care, many of which infected with HIV and Hepatitis, this non-profit is worthy of a donation. Contribute for a friend or ask others to donate as a gift to you.
If none of these options are of interest, visit the Physicians’ Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) Humane Charity Seal of Approval, where you will find an extensive directory of humane charities.
Next time you’re looking for the perfect gift (for you or someone else), put compassion first!
Photo: Gentle Barn; Chimp Haven