I wrote a post for Girlie Girl Army that I wanted to re-share on my website. It’s a piece for parents who are raising vegan kids. I hope it will give you the courage and pride to raise a child according to principles of integrity and compassion. Here it is!
"Teaching a child not to step on a caterpillar is as valuable to the child as it is to the caterpillar." -- Bradley Miller
ORIGINAL ON Girlie Girl Army:"When I tell people that I’m raising my child vegan, I sometimes feel as though I have to defend and explain my decision. My decision is passive, I'm just leaving out certain foods from her diet. But parents who are feeding their kids meat, dairy, and eggs are actively adding in foods. So shouldn’t it be the other way around? Shouldn’t they have to defend their decision to purchase that hot dog that came from a pig who never stepped foot on grass or saw the sky (except from the slot in the truck on her way to the slaughterhouse) and whose mother was forced to live in a tiny metal crate amid her own urine and feces, where she was unable to even turn around or take a step forward or backward for weeks on end?
Why don’t parents who are feeding their kids meat and other products taken from animals have to defend their decision? They’re giving their kids cow’s milk, which is exactly that … cow’s milk! Isn’t that a little strange? It’s meant to fatten up calves. Humans are the only species that drinks another species’ milk, and we’re the only species that drinks any milk past infancy. Casino mogul Steve Wynn said it best: “It’s liquid cholesterol!”
What exactly is it that people are concerned that my child will be missing out on … high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease, and obesity? It surely can’t be protein, calcium, or iron because there are tons of healthy plant-based sources (spinach, nuts, whole grains, vegetables, beans, and fortified juices, cereals, pasta, etc.) that don’t have the added fat and cholesterol, not to mention the hormones and antibiotics.
The sad truth is, in this society, any behavior or child-rearing decision that goes against the norm is often seen as wrong or irresponsible. Even weird. And that’s a shame because it often prevents people (in this case, parents) from doing the right thing. Unfortunately, society’s backlash is a strong deterrent, and so is the desire to adhere to the status quo.
NYC Veggie Parade, 2012
Despite the many studies indicating that vegan diets are not only appropriate for children, but may in fact be healthier (for example, the American Dietetic Association—the nation’s largest group of nutrition professionals—stated, “Well-planned vegan diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes”), parents are still opting to add animal products to their children’s diet, mainly as a result of tradition and being constantly bombarded with messages from the dairy and meat industries. Years of slogans like “Milk does the body good” and “You need meat for protein” have been drilled into our heads by multi-billion dollar industries pushing their products. If milk does the body so “good” then why is it that the countries that consume the most milk are also the countries with the highest rates of osteoporosis- and vice versa. And the more animal protein that a population consumes, the higher the prevalence of osteoporosis. There is a big protein myth out there, but the fact is Americans eat about 400% more protein than necessary, and even vegetarians eat more than they need.
It would be unethical for me to feed my child meat, dairy, or eggs based on what I know about how animals are raised for food. You can look the other way or deny that it’s as bad as they say, but the truth is, the majority of meat/dairy and eggs sold in this country (>95%) come from animals who have been raised in appalling conditions in overcrowded, filthy warehouses, where they are crammed into small cages and crates and denied basic necessities, including fresh air, sunshine, grass, and companionship. Simply put, I don’t believe that animals should be treated like this, so I’m choosing to leave cruel animal products out of my child’s diet. I’m teaching her that if she wants to help end animal suffering and also not knowingly contribute to major environmental problems including climate change, water and air pollution, deforestation, and soil erosion she has to be a part of the solution, and that means not supporting it (with dollars). This is what it really means to live according to your values.
Catskill Animal Sanctuary
People raise their children according to their own set of morals and values. Just like a Buddhist wouldn’t raise her child Catholic and an environmentalist wouldn’t raise his child to be wasteful, I wouldn’t serve my child chicken fingers or ice cream. Children are little extensions of ourselves (at least until they’re old enough to make their own decisions). In our society, we typically do not allow children to make the decision to participate in anything that is morally questionable until they are of age. Since I consider the way that animals are raised for food in this country to be morally abhorrent, I therefore would not impose animal products upon my child and would not allow her to make that decision until she is old enough to think critically and understand the consequences.
So instead of focusing on what a vegan child is not getting (fat-laden, cholesterol-filled slabs of meat as well as milk, cheese, and eggs from miserable animals who’ve been raised in terrible conditions), let’s focus on what they are getting (a healthy balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds). And my daughter is getting a whole lot more than that including a moral compass based on compassion, justice, courage, and integrity. So if you’re raising a vegan child like I am, stop being on the defensive, and start embracing it! Be proud that you are living with intention and consciously choosing compassion over cruelty!"
Hey animal lovers....looking for a meaningful 2012 New Year's Resolution that will help animals? Make this the year that you really put your beliefs into action. Read on for some suggestions...People everywhere will be ringing in the New Year by celebrating the memories of the past year and creating hopes and resolutions for the coming year. This year, how about creating the ultimate resolution to help animals, and I mean really help animals….by leaving meat, dairy and eggs off your plate, or at least reducing your consumption. If you are already a vegetarian, push yourself further-- consider a vegan diet to help end even more cruelty. Involve your family in this resolution-- kids will love being part of something big, and they'll be excited to participate and contribute.
In a society so saturated with meat, dairy and eggs, it’s easy to understand why people are so reluctant to change their eating habits. Most of us have grown up eating animal products, so it’s what we’re used to and comfortable doing. And most of us have never questioned it; it’s the norm. We can’t underestimate the power of habit and tradition-- it is perhaps the greatest deterrent to change. But it’s a new year….and you’re looking for a meaningful change, right? You can make a change for some animals who desperately need an ally, while also helping the environment and even your own health. It's a win-win (and win!).
New Year’s Resolutions guaranteed to make a positive difference for animals:
Meatless Mondays: Give up meat (and dairy and eggs) just one day a week. Check out the official Meatless Monday website for tips, resources, support and recipes. In addition to individuals, many hospitals, restaurants, K-12 schools and universities are participating in Meatless Mondays, including all 14 of restaurateur, Mario Batali’s restaurants across the country. Sign the pledge.
Swap out: Swap out a few animal products in your kitchen for vegan products. For example, switch out your Land O’ Lakes butter for Earth Balance which is sold in most mainstream supermarkets. Switch out cow’s milk for soy milk or almond milk; many brands actually contain 50% more calcium than cow’s milk. I also highly recommend the Boca chik’n patties which are also sold in most supermarkets.
Go Vegetarian: Don’t waste time remembering which days you can eat meat, and which days you can’t. Keep it simple and just ditch meat entirely to help animals every day. You can also download a Vegetarian Starter Kit online, or order one through the mail. Read through this list of 101 Reasons to go Veg for inspiration.
Go Vegan: Be the person that doesn’t want to be connected to animal cruelty in any shape or form; the person who refuses to buy products that contribute to animal suffering. Drop meat, dairy and eggs from your diet. It’s easier now more than ever… there are tons of meat alternatives that taste just like the “real” thing, and there are also substitutes for milk, butter, cream cheese, sour cream, mayonnaise and cheese. And when you focus on veggies, grains and other plant-based food, a whole new palette of flavors will be waiting for you. Check out this post I wrote for Girlie Girl Army about stepping it up; it also includes suggestions for common food substitutes.
21-Day Vegan Kickstart: Want to test the waters first before diving right in? Then sign up for The Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine’s (PCRM) free 21-Day Vegan Kickstart. You’ll receive a meal plan, tips and recipes. There is also an online community forum to connect with others, get support, and have your nutrition questions answered by PCRM experts. You can also download the free iPhone app that compliments the online program. There’s really no good reason not to try this, especially if you call yourself an “animal lover.”
_ The American Dietetic Association (ADA), the world’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals has given the stamp of approval not only to a vegetarian diet, but also a fully vegan diet. In their own words … It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases…well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes.
It’s always easier to do this with a buddy, so encourage a friend or coworker to join you. Or involve your whole family and make this a special, fun mission that your kids will be excited about participating in. But if you can’t find anyone to join you, be strong on your own, and consider the animals you are saving to be your “buddies.” You’re doing it for them, afterall.
Here are a few vegan recipe sites to get you started: VegWeb, VegNews, PCRM, All Recipes, Vegsource, PETA, The Kind Life (Alicia Silverstone), Post Punk Kitchen, and Meet the Shannon’s who are veganizing The Betty Crocker Cookbook!
There are also tons of vegan blogs filled with every recipe you can imagine, so google until you find what you’re looking for. To get started, kick off the New Year with this amazing vegan mac & cheese. It doesn't contain any cheese (real or fake!). It's healthy, and soooo delicious. I make it for my family on the holidays, an everybody LOVES it!
Don't forget to pick up a copy (or order a subscription) of VegNews: the leading source for all things vegetarian/vegan.
_You may also want to stock up on some items to make it easier for you. So check out these two great online vegan websites: Pangea Vegan Store and Vegan Essentials. They sell food, vitamins, personal care, home products, cruelty-free cosmetics, books, bags, shirts, gifts and much more.
Remember, this isn’t about perfection. It’s about making a positive difference for animals whenever and wherever you can. It’s about voting with your dollars. If you “fall of the wagon” get right back up again and don’t give up on yourself….or the animals.
Happy New Year…may it be filled with compassion and respect for all!
Welcome to my new website focused on raising vegetarian/vegan kids who care about the well-being of animals. This is my first blog post.
I created this website as a guide for parents who are interested in raising compassionate kids who care about animals, specifically those who are currently raising vegetarian/vegan kids or who are interested in raising vegetarian/vegan kids but need some more information. The website will have resources and tools to help parents, including sample meal plans for all age groups including pregnancy, book suggestions for parents and children, animal-friendly travel ideas, traditional holiday recipes made vegan, a slideshow of adorable veg babies and kids, and much more. I will also be writing a blog covering current topics, organizations, and products related to raising veg (and compassionate) kids.
This website will serve as a space for parents who are living by similar values and principles to exchange ideas and learn from each other. I hope this website will inspire and empower parents to make incremental changes in their everyday- lives through their purchases and the activities they choose- to help end the suffering of animals. The site is a work in progress, but my ultimate goal is to create a community for parents to read articles, testimonials, advice, and real life experiences about raising veg kids.
For vegans living in a non-vegan world, routine events can sometimes be challenging, especially for kids. So the site will provide helpful tips and suggestions for navigating certain social situations, such as holidays, birthday parties, field trips, play dates, school functions, and more. Kids don't want to feel left out or different in the negative sense; they want to fit in. That being said, if "fitting in" means dropping your morals off at the door and participating in cruel or unethical systems, then as parents, isn't it our job to encourage our children not to fit in? Being a vegan parent can sometimes feel like a balancing act: You're trying to do what is in the best interests of your child, but also what's in the best interests of the animals. At the end of the day, we should acknowledge our imperfections and just strive to make the best decisions we can under the circumstances. We should feel comfortable and proud of the intentional choices that we do make, as we vote with our dollars. As parents we need to embody the message we are trying to teach our children, and hopefully they will follow by example.
My inspiration for this site is my daughter, Charlotte. My husband and I are raising her vegan because we want to instill in her a sense of respect for animals, and also a sense of personal responsibility in her actions. We want to give her the strength and tools she needs to develop into someone who is compassionate, doesn't turn her back on injustices, and makes conscious
decisions based on how they affect animals (as well as other people and the environment). Our family believes that animals are not here for our use (and abuse, which is most often the case). We value animals and their right to exist separate from us, and we believe that they have their own interests, needs, and desires, which are often at odds (to say the least) with the situations that humans put them in. For example, cows and chickens don't want to live in factory farms
and be killed for our food, elephants don't want to do stupid tricks in a circus
, dolphins don't want to jump through hoops in a tiny concrete pool at an amusement park
, rabbits don't want to be electrocuted to give us the fur
off their backs, mice in labs
don't want to have toxic substances poured down their throats and into their eyes, lions don't want to live boring, lonely lives in artificial enclosures in zoos
, and chimpanzees don't want to be trained to be in commercials
. It's that simple. I want to teach my daughter (as well as raise awareness so that other parents will do the same) to recognize these as truths as she innately will and have the courage and confidence to stand up against these industries, even in the face of so much opposition and constant messages that steer us in the opposite direction. I hope that future generations of children will feel empowered and inspired to truly live according to their values
Stay tuned in the coming days for guest posts written exclusively for our site by PETA President Ingrid E. Newkirk
, Jessica Almy
, the Founder of the Vegan Product Guide
, and the authors ofThe Secret Life of Mitch Spinach
and That's Why We Don't Eat Animals
, and many more.
If you are a vegetarian/vegan parent, teacher, or kid who is interested in writing a blog post, please contact me. I'd love to hear from you!
Thank you for visiting my site. Please check back often for updates and new blog posts.Compassion