Reflections on Vegan Parenting

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I’ve posted at least one other post in which I sort of rant about what it’s like to be out in the world as a vegan, interacting with other people who are definitely NOT vegan (my poor grandma almost had a heart attack reading it due to language, so reader beware).  I feel moved to post something similar now, after finding a piece that I had started writing last year, right after the killing of Cecil the Lion.  This is not an angry rant (and there are no swear words, Grandma), but rather my reflections on the ways in which we view animals as a society, and how this affects me on a daily basis, both as an individual and as a parent.  I took my original piece of writing, cleaned it up, and then continued it where I had abruptly left off (probably to deal with some toddler related emergency). It is a break from my usual sarcasm and self-deprecating humor, but I hope that you will read it anyway and think about my perspective.

Before we get too deep, how about a cute picture?

Being a toddler is EXHAUSTING.
Being a toddler is EXHAUSTING.

And now, for the deep stuff!

There is outrage everywhere over the killing of Cecil the lion.  I could not agree more with the anger and heartbreak that people are expressing  over this murder.  It is cruel and unjust, and Cecil did not deserve this horrible death.

I urge you, however, to consider this:  what if Cecil were a pig?  Would that make a difference?  What if Cecil were a dolphin?  What about an ostrich? Are any of these animals less deserving than Cecil of living their lives in peace? I don’t think so. But many do, because many people simply believe that some animals we kill and eat and some we don’t. Why? Because that’s the way it’s always been.  That’s what we have always done.  We love dogs, but we eat pigs.   We pay to swim with dolphins, but we eat salmon.  We exclaim over a cute duck family at the park, but eat chickens and chicken eggs. And worse, we allow these animals to be tortured, raped, and abused before we shock them and slit their throats, then “process” them so we can eat their bodies and drink the milk meant for their babies.  It is cruel and unjust, yet we pretend that this doesn’t matter because they are “food.”  Or we say that we buy only meat where the animals lived a “good” life and were treated humanely.  Do not kid yourself; slaughter houses don’t care how happy the animal was that comes in to be murdered. The end is the same.
I’ve read statistics that state that the majority (upwards of 90%) of people who eat and purchase meat care about how the animals were raised.  There seems to be a rise in the popularity of meat marketed as “humanely raised,” “grass-fed,” “free range,” or “raised with no antibiotics.” I urge anyone who is buying these products to do some research and reading about what you are buying.  The “humanely raised” label on your meat means next to nothing.  There is no generally accepted definition of this term, nor is there any governmental regulation in using this term (please see this article or this article for more information on this). From what I can gather through the extensive reading that I have done on this subject, these labels are, for the most part, used for marketing.  Companies who are raising, slaughtering, and selling animals for profit cannot have the welfare of these animals at the forefront of their business.  They are in business to make money, as the majority of businesses are!  If these companies know that consumers care about animal welfare, they will sell them a product designed to help them feel good about where their meat came from.  Slapping a “humanely raised” label on it seems to do the trick for many consumers out there.  It’s unfortunate that this term means so little, and that consumers are deceived into believing that it means more that it does.  I won’t go into this subject any more deeply, because the bottom line for me is that animals are not here for us to eat (or use).  When you look at it from that perspective, none of what I have just written matters a bit.
So how does all of this affect my parenting?  As a life-long vegetarian turned vegan, I never really wanted to know about how animals were raised in the meat industry.  I grew up with the understanding that we didn’t eat meat because we didn’t believe in killing animals for food (you can read more about my journey from vegetarian to vegan here).  That fact was certainly enough for me.  As an adult, though, I have spent a significant amount of time reading and researching about our food systems, the way we as a society view and interact with animals, and ways in which meat and dairy are aggressively marketed to consumers.  This is something that I care deeply about, not only as an individual, but as a parent who is teaching her child.  At this point, being only 2, FVB is only vaguely aware that there are many things that other people eat that we don’t.  His minimal exposure to this is limited to him seeing other people eat things, asking for those things, and being told that we don’t eat them.  We always travel prepared though, so we haven’t had any issues yet.  He has no idea of the why behind it, though we are nearing the point when we will need to explain it, because we want him to know the WHY behind our veganism, so that he can fully embrace this life style that we are so passionate about.  Maybe veganism won’t be his passion, but never the less, I want him to understand it. I don’t want him to just BE vegan, in the way that most children just eat the way that their parents eat without giving it much thought; I want him to be able to speak intelligently and compassionately about why he is vegan.  In order to prepare him for this, I keep myself informed, and I try to stay mindful of how I write and speak about veganism.  I read a lot.  I pay attention to how meat and dairy is marketed to the public. When we are driving, I look at the many, many farms that we pass and try to imagine the lives of the animals being raised there, and I notice that even the sweet looking dairy farm with a family name has a large enclosure that is filled with veal crates. I take all of this knowledge, and these experiences, and I hold on to them.  I keep them in my head while I listen to people share their reasons for consuming animal products, and I try not to judge them too harshly.  I try to share what I know, and where I am coming from, in the least aggressive way that I know how.  Those that know me quite well will know that it is often VERY hard for me not to be judgmental and aggressive when it comes to things that I am passionate about. But I know that some day, FVB will be listening a little bit more closely, and he will be taking his cues from me (and hubs) about how to talk to people about veganism.  I can only hope that we will have prepared him well!
Oh, and I also hope that you enjoyed this post =)  Until next time!
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