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!"
RaisingVegKids loves Ruby Roth! Ruby recently wrote a blog post for our site; if you haven’t read it yet, check it out: Armed and Prepared….Some Advice For Vegan Parents. In it, she shares some valuable tips on how to make sure you are prepared with information when it comes to raising your kids vegan, especially when the inevitable “expert” teachers, doctors, and other parents will come out of the woodwork with their opinions. You’ll hear the same matter-of-fact assertions: Kids need milk for calcium and growing bones, they need meat for protein, etc. This is outdated, and furthermore inaccurate (according to the American Dietetic Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics "well-planned vegan and vegetarian diets can satisfy the nutritional needs and promote normal growth of infants and young children"). So Ruby urges veg parents to be ready!
Vegan is Love by Ruby Roth
Ruby has been under fire recently for her new book, Vegan Love, which hits shelves this week. This is Ruby’s second book for kids about veganism. Her first is That’s Why We Don’t Eat Animals. Ruby has faced critics of her new book on shows including The Today Show and Fox News. Her critics have been less than impressive. For example, when some of them recently kicked the nutrition-babble into high-gear, with oddball claims such as asserting that a “flexitarian” diet can “advance your nutritional status (emphasis added),” that’s when I knew they were simply grasping at sraws. What the heck does “nutritional status” even mean and how is it relevant to a childrens book?
Only slightly less bizarre, but more worthy of discussion, are the criticism of opponents of the book who speculate that its themes are too scary and violent for kids (images of animals in labs, factory farms, etc). ….and Ruby responded back that if it was too scary and violent for kids to read, then it’s probably not something you’d want to eat (or support).
Click to see Ruby Roth debating a psychologist on FOX News
The irony in all of this is that when we look at some of the most famous kids books in the world, that’s where we'll find the truly scary, graphic, and even violent themes. We see Little Red Riding Hood’s Grandma eaten by a wolf, Hansel & Gretel caged by a witch in preparation to be baked in an oven, the Wicked Witch in The Wizard of Oz literally lighting people on fire, Snow White being poisoned to death, and the list goes on and on. Scary? Violent? But these are timeless classics! Yet, what Ruby depicts in her book (which is actually non-fiction) is somehow deemed objectionable. If her book didn’t have to do with the hot-topic of food choices and animal treatment, I wonder if people would still find it objectionable?
It’s interesting that gratuitous violence in mainstream kids’ books, cartoons, and films is considered appropriate, but as soon a book with a positive message about being compassionate towards animals (including those we eat) comes out, suddenly there are national headlines and a fear that kids are going to be somehow psychologically damaged to hear that people can mistreat animals. It seems that, as long as the the moral of the story doesn’t involve something as “personal” as our food choices then these are just themes kids should hear as part of growing up and is not disturbing at all. Let’s face it, that’s just intellectual and moral laziness.
I don’t believe that parents, if they knew, would want to continue perpetuating the myth (aka lying) to their kids about how animals are treated in industries that use and kill animals. Every other book you pick up at the library or bookstore shows a happy animal dancing in a circus, frolicking in a zoo, or living peacefully on a sunny farm. Aren’t we as parents supposed to be
relaying accurate information to our kids to help them make kind choices, especially when it involves our deepest convictions, and ethics? Even (or especially) if the reality isn’t pretty? No doubt the issues Ruby covers in her book are not sugar-coated, including the nasty, cruel business of factory farming, however, from what I’ve seen so far, neither are they out of bounds, age inappropriate, or overly graphic. So we could either tell the truth to children, or ignore it and keep reading books about happy cows being milked and elephants having a jolly ol’ time performing in the circus. Through books, many parents teach their kids about serious issues including not talking to strangers, the harm in bullying, and inappropriate contact with others. These issues are not always happy, and in fact some are very scary, but they’re important nonetheless. There can be no “moral” of any story without a choice between good and bad, and that’s what makes Ruby’s book similar to so many of the best books we all fondly remember from childhood.
With age-appropriate honesty, popular kids books already cover once-controversial issues such as poverty, the environment, endangered species, civil rights, prejudice, and bullying. My hunch is that the controversy being stirred around a similar truthfulness regarding issues of animal treatment is much less about the children and more about parents feeling uncomfortable about having to square their own values with the reality of animal use and mistreatment. I’m sure that once we as parents do a little growing up, we can get back to one of our first responsibilities, teaching our children right from wrong (hopefully, without all of the convenient, and even bizarre, excuses we makeup mostly for ourselves).
For more veg-friendly kids books, check out Vegbooks.
Post by Robyn Moore