You might think it is hypocritical for me to tell you how to raise your kids, since I am not even out of high school yet and definitely don't have kids, but I hope that my perspective will help you all the same. I am a vegan, and I have thought a lot about how animal rights should play a role in young children's lives.
Here is my advice:
- Don't let them eat animal products. To refuse to let them eat animals is not torture or abuse or meanness in any way. Think about all the awful chemicals and hormones that can be found in meat and milk and eggs. Studies have shown that the growth hormones in cattle, pigs, chickens, etc. pass themselves on to the consumer and can even cause obesity. The chemicals can also be dangerous and toxic-- if you would not feed your child arsenic or anti-freeze, then why would you feed him industrially produced animal products? Even organically-grown animal products are unhealthy, and can cause cancer, diabetes, and a shorter life-span. If you need further convincing on the health implications of animal-product-eating, please go to http://www.veganoutreach.org/whyvegan/health.html, where you will find more information and links. Another thing to keep in mind is that vegetarians and vegans tend to be more mindful and conscientious than meat-eaters. To conclude, not allowing them access to animal products is actually doing them a favour. When you combine the health implications with the environmental and animal rights arguments, there is really no way you can compassionately feed them meat, milk, and eggs.
- Once they become teenagers, the choice is more up to them. However, this does not mean that you should cook them animal products if they ask you to, nor should you buy anything that came from an animal. Tell them that if they want to eat animal products, they must do it outside the house or in their room, and they must buy it themselves. I am writing this from the perspective of a teenager, remember, and it sounds about right to me. Hopefully, if you have raised them properly, they will not want to eat animal products, which leads to my next points...
- From the time when they are very young, educate them on why your family is vegan. Remember, the rest of society is constantly indoctrinating anyone in it that eating animals is normal. If you live in society (which I'll bet you do), then they will constantly be around people who, from time to time, will challenge their beliefs. Over time they will make up their minds for themselves, but that does not mean you can not try to teach them ethics beforehand. To teach them, you can read them books, show them kid-friendly animal-rights movies, or simply explain to them when the topic comes up. Here is a list of children's books that might help: http://www.veganfamily.co.uk/kidsbooksveg.html.
- Take them to volunteer at an animal-friendly organization on a regular basis.
- Take them to natural places, so that they earn an appreciation for nature, where most animals live!
- If you send them to school (I think that home-schooling and unschooling is better, however; click here for details), encourage them to talk about what they experience at school and whether anyone talked about them being vegan. You need to make sure that they are not being bullied about being a vegan.
Food ideas and more: http://www.keepkidshealthy.com/welcome/treatmentguides/veganchildren.html
Nutritional details: http://www.vrg.org/nutshell/kids.htm
One-stop site for lots of information: http://www.vegfamily.com/vegan-children/index.htm
Something to further convince yourself: http://www.veganhealth.org/articles/realveganchildren
|Ellen, who was raised as a vegan and still is at 17. Photo Courtesy of veganhealth.org|