I have spent much of my life in the company of children, as a babysitter, teacher, and now as a mom. Staying at home affords me the opportunity to see the world through a child’s eyes, since I am in the company of one or both of my boys nearly every moment of the day/night (except those rare times when they are both sleeping and I am not)! While it is admittedly sometimes exhausting, I love being with them. HVB doesn’t have too much to share just yet, but FVB amazes me every day. He is smart, funny, and so kind. (Disclaimer: sometimes he hits his brother, and he has, on occasion, kicked the dog).
Obviously as a vegan kid, FVB loves animals. I actually think that most kids do naturally love animals because they are living creatures, and kids are curious about living creatures. FVB really delights in observing them and attempting to interact with them. He loves watching the birds in our backyard and often yells “HI BIRDIES!” (which effectively scares them away, but he loves running after them as they fly, so it works for him). Recently a cat had been hanging around our house and FVB named her Buddha. Even though she scratched him, he still loved trying to “play” with her, and worried about her when she wasn’t hanging around. (Cat has since found her home). When we visited Lake George last fall, we spent some time on a beach and a duck took a liking to us. FVB was enamored with this duck and worried that he was lonely. He was also genuinely sad when I told him that birds eat worms, and said “well, but that’s bad for the worms.” He then became obsessed with finding out what animals eat and definitely struggles with the idea that some animals eat other other animals. The circle of life is a bit of a high level concept for age 3!
Given the discussions on what animals eat, we figured it was a good time to start talking more about how we eat. It has been surprisingly easy to explain the way that we eat, because it doesn’t go against his natural inclination towards not hurting animals. After meeting chickens at Farm Sanctuary, it would be bizarre to him if I told him that we also paid someone to kill those chickens so that we could eat them. Same with milk, since he is so familiar with the concept of mothers making milk for their babies. If I told him that we drank milk from cows, he would think I was crazy! The other day we found a bird’s egg on the ground in our yard, and he was very concerned about what would happen to it. I explained that it had probably fallen out of the nest and that most likely an animal would come along and eat it. He thought that was bizarre! Who eats eggs that are supposed to form into baby birds? (Also, eggs that come from a chickens butt. Gross).
I find it odd that people think that vegans “brainwash” their kids or that we are “forcing” our lifestyle on them. I think that veganism is actually the easiest lifestyle to explain and understand! Imagine talking to a child about what you eat and drink, and explaining it in a way that they would understand. Which of these scenarios would you rather discuss:
Scenario A: We eat fruits and vegetables and other things that grow from the ground. We also eat foods that are made using things that grow from the ground. Babies and small children drink milk from their mothers. Big kids and adults drink things like water, tea, and juice. Or milks made from things like almonds, cashews, or soy beans. (FVB would also be able to tell you that grown ups drink coffee, wine, and beer. He is very observant of this. A few weeks ago he told us: “when I’m a grown up I’m going to not clean up and sit in a chair and drink coffee.” He also offered me a beer the other morning at 9:30. When I told him it was too early to drink beer he said, “well, you could have a morning beer?”)
Scenario B: We eat the bodies of dead animals. We also eat things that are made with cow’s milk. We steal baby cows from their mothers, then hook up the cows to milking machines so that we can take their milk. We either drink it, or eat it in products like butter, cheese, and ice cream. We also take eggs that chickens lay and eat them.
How many follow up questions do you think you’d have to answer in each scenario? I’m sure many people who have raised kids will tell you that they have a lot of questions. Kids raised eating meat and animal products would certainly wonder why we drink cows’ milk but not pigs’ milk, and why we regularly eat chickens’ eggs but not robins’ eggs. Valid questions, and the answers are a bit more in depth than just “because that’s what we’ve always done.” There is this amazing video that I would love all of you to watch, done by psychologist Dr. Melanie Joy. She discusses the pyschology behind eating meat. It’s 18 minutes long and very thought provoking.
I’ll leave you with a final thought: Which scenario makes more sense: eating things that grow from the earth, or killing living creatures and eating their bodies?