Read Ruby Roth's (author of That's Why We Don't Eat Animals) exclusive post for RaisingVegKids.com. She shares fantastic tips and advice for parents raising veg kids. This is a must-read for all veg parents!
Guest post by Ruby Roth, author of That's Why We Don't Eat Animals
Congratulations on raising vegan kids! You’re setting your offspring on the best path possible in this day and age. While the rest of the children in this country are getting fat, ornery, and cataleptic, brain-fried on string cheese and Big Macs (you know what I’m talking about, you’ve seen these people grown), you’re stacking your cards in your family’s favor for health, for animals, intelligence, and for the future of the planet. The thought makes my heart sing.
That's Why We Don't Eat Animals by Ruby Roth
Now, prepare for battle. Veganism, while most people have at least heard the word by now, is still new to the mainstream, so at many times, you and your family will be alone facing the firing squad at school, on the playground, at the doctor’s office. Whether they take aim with “Veganism is deprivation, practically child abuse” (Yes, I’ve actually been on the receiving end of this one) or “…but cows need to be milked to be healthy” (yep, this one, too) or “Oh, wow, that’s great! But you’ve got to watch out for calcium deficiency,” you will unavoidably hear a gamut of opinions from armies of the unaware and misinformed.
You’ll need ammunition, not only to respond in the moment, but to support your own commitment to veganism in the face of
challenges and keep a solid foundation of support for your child. The best ammunition is not only education but theory and insight beyond factual knowledge. Do memorize some facts and figures for your conversations with others. But when it comes to vegan longevity and supporting your kids in this lifestyle, it’s wildly more important to focus on creating a home environment
that values thinking outside the box; a home that has discussions, shares thoughts and opinions, and seeks new knowledge together. This kind of education lasts a lifetime and provides big-picture support even when you’re in the minority. Studying any and all subjects to support your lifestyle and teaching your children independent, critical thinking is key in a vegan household.
Parents, keep educating yourselves; make yourself your own authority figure so that you can decode and compete with the “expert" teachers, doctors, politicians, your neighbors (you can easily know as much as they do, and more!). Being well-read in a number of subjects including nutrition, healing, economics, civil rights, philosophy, religion, ancient civilizations, etc., will inform your veganism from all angles. Read things you agree with as well as opposing viewpoints. The more we uncover truths, the more knowledge we have in our arsenals, and the more we are“veganized” the more ammunition we amass to support
our path. We should always be reading. Pick a book in one area of the library and jump around from there.
Arming your kids is simple…and fun. Share what you learn. Expose them to different ideas and talk about them all. Make it a habit to initiate discussions when good opportunities arise. When you see a “happy” cow image on a milk carton, when you’re shopping for cruelty-free shampoo, when a McDonald’s commercial appears during Sesame Street, when you’re buying organic produce; talk about these moments and ask for your child’s help and participation. Ask questions, and find out their opinions and thoughts. Merely bringing up these subjects allows a child to think critically and formulate their own ideas outside the box.
Educating your family this way creates a strong support system and confident kids who are able to seek out information. More than their peers, your vegan children, even by first grade, will have had the space and opportunity to think through a number of ideas that most kids aren’t exposed to until they are in high school or college. They won’t be vegan simply because they mimicked you, but because they gained insight and knowledge about animals and our food systems at a young age. They will have learned to apply an independent, discerning eye to everything that comes their way in life. Congratulations…and thank you!
Ruby Roth is an artist and author living in Los Angeles. A vegan since 2003, Roth was teaching art in an after-school program when the children’s interest in healthy foods and veganism first inspired her to write That’s Why We Don’t Eat Animals. She has studied the emotional lives of animals, nutrition, and the health and environmental benefits of veganism and raw foods for seven years.
Guest Post by Jessica Almy, creator of Vegbooks.org
Jonathan Safran Foer wrote in his new book, Eating Animals
that we should rethink our traditions surrounding food. To honor the Thanksgiving holiday, for example, Foer urged his readers to focus on harvest foods that reflect what we understand to be “good food” food whose“ingredients, setting, and consuming are expressions of the best of us.” And after following Foer into slaughterhouses and factory farms, most readers would join him in concluding that “good food” is more likely to be plant-based than animal in origin.
Until Foer’s ideas about how to honor our traditions and the values that we hold are widely shared, however, many vegans have a hard time finding comfort in a culture that celebrates the confinement, slaughter, and consumption of animals. The flesh and secretions of animals are standard fare on any menu. Jokes about Tofurkys abound. And here in Washington, D.C., we have a lame tradition of pardoning a single turkey at the White House as if it’s the turkeys who’ve done something wrong.
Imagine then what it’s like for vegan kids. Many have never consumed an animal themselves, and even on the best of days, the kids and adults in the school cafeteria don’t look kindly on meatless deli slices and soy yogurt. Teachers expect them to know the likes of Ronald McDonald and Chuck E. Cheese. And then there’s the blatant untruth portrayed in the vast majority of children’s books that depict farmed animals. A sunny day on Old MacDonald’s Farm somehow supplants the concentrated animal feeding operations that pervade contemporary animal agriculture
, with nary a mention of overcrowding, debeaking, prophylactic antibiotics, the “disposal” of male chicks and calves, or manure lagoons.
That’s why I believe it’s so important to celebrate vegan books for kids
or those (like Sweet Chili Doritos) that are “accidentally vegan.” Kids deserve to see themselves and their values depicted in the literature they read. And as our culture shifts subtly to embrace improved animal welfare standards, environmental preservation, and the incorporation of locally grown fruits and
vegetables into every meal, all children benefit from “vegan” kids books, by which I mean books that support vegetarian and vegan values, including animal welfare or rights, environmental protection, and healthy food choices.
Among my favorite vegan books are That’s Why We Don’t Eat Animals
by Ruby Roth, Garlic-Onion-Beet-Spinach-Mango-Carrot-Grapefruit Juice
by Nathalie VanBalen, To Market, To Market
by Anne Miranda, and the familiar Horton Hears a Who
by Dr. Seuss.
These books aren’t just good books in a literary sense– they’re also good
books. Books that encourage children to rethink their assumptions, to see animals for who they really are, and to stand up for the defenseless. The kind of books that will help prepare children to be leaders in one of the most important social justice issues of our time– the rights and welfare of nonhuman animals.
While discerning parents and teachers can certainly find these books, and others like them, they still represent a tiny, tiny minority of the books that are marketed to children. In fact, I’d be willing to bet there are ten or twenty times more “happy farm” books on your library shelves than vegan-oriented kids books.
Just as we vote with our dollars when we buy food, so too can we send a powerful message to booksellers, publishers, and authors when we buy books for our children. Next time you plan to go to the book store, bring a list of veg-friendly titles along
and ask for them. Ask your librarian to purchase some of your favorite titles for the library shelves. Host a veg-story time at a local cafeé. And when the grandparents ask what your child needs at the holidays or her birthday, have a few titles handy.
Together, we can raise children who value life, the connections between humans and other animals, and the need to protect the earth and all its inhabitants –and perhaps we can even spread messages of kindness and compassion beyond our families into our communities.A vegan, mom, and avid reader, Jessica Almy lives in Washington, DC with her husband, their six-year-old daughter, and their cat Cassie. She is the creator of Vegbooks, a site that reviews kids books and movies from a vegetarian perspective.