I’m pretty sure everyone else has moved past this subject, but I’m going to continue my trend of talking about issues after everyone else.
A couple weeks back, Josh posted a pair of entries about the anti-kid sentiment he was seeing amongst many vegans he knows. I thought the entry was well thought out and made good points, but it really stirred up a shitstorm. I was honestly surprised at the vitriol I saw on other people’s sites. it was like they’d read a completely different post. I figured I’d throw in my two cents as a dad of a vegan kid.
Let me start by saying this: if you decide not to have kids, that’s completely cool. I fully understand the reasons and respect all of them, whether it’s concerns about overpopulation, not having the maternal/paternal instinct, not being comfortable around kids, or just plain old not wanting kids messing up your well-organized collection of vintage LPs. I promise you I’ll never tell you, “Oh, you’ll change your mind” or say anything like “You never know real love until you have your own child” because that’s just obnoxious. Parenthood isn’t for everyone and I think we are each fully capable of making the decision to parent or not to parent for ourselves.
That said, I think one important thing to remember is that the kids are on our side. They shouldn’t be viewed as enemies and even if you’re staunchly anti-breeding, don’t hate the kid. it’s not their fault they were born. You don’t have to be their best friend or even talk to them, but reserve your hate for something else. Honestly, as a parent, I’d rather you hate me and snub me for having a kid rather than taking it out on my daughter. Thankfully, I’ve never had to deal with that, but then again, I’m not really around vegans very often.
Another thing to keep in mind is that these kids are at a point in their veganism that most of us didn’t reach until high school or much later. I look at 5-year-old kids that are happy vegans and have a grasp of animal rights concepts that I didn’t have when I was in college and it’s amazing to me. Kids deal with much more peer pressure than we do as adults, and if they can keep their vegan edge at a point in their lives where all they want to do is fit in, more power to ’em.
I’m also constantly amazed (and inspired) when I hear about kids that aren’t even teenagers that decide to give up meat even when no one else in their family does. Often, these kids get their friends or families to go veg with them. That’s some realness right there.
Kids are a huge influence on other kids. Strong, confident vegan kids are going to influence their peers over time. So, maybe it would be better to think of those kids you “hate” as advocates for the future generation. We’re going to have a tougher time as adults reaching eight-year-olds than one of their classmates is, so let’s give those vegan kids all the support we can. And if “support” for you just means showing a little more tolerance to a kid and not hating him based solely on the fact he’s a kid, that’s fine by me.
OK. that’s all I have to say about that. Now can I share a couple of pictures?
This is my daughter. She turns two in less than two weeks. Earlier this week, she was visiting a fruit farm that also sells eggs. Their chickens are kept in cages, as seen in the first photo. In the second photo, she’s making her sign for “sad” or “crying” because the chickens are in the cage. A few days earlier, she and I were in Petco to look at some kittens that a local rescue group had brought in. After petting the kitties, we looked around the store a bit and I pointed out the birds for sale. I said very simply to my daughter, “Those birds are probably sad because they’d rather be outside flying around, right?” She didn’t respond at that moment, but she was clearly processing it, comparing the birds in the cages to the birds she’s seen in our backyard. When we got back in the car a few minutes later, she made the “sad/cry” sign and said “birds,” reminding me that the birds we saw in the store were sad. And then, a week later, she applied the same idea to the chickens she saw in the cage. Amazing.
I suspect some people would criticize my decision to bring up something depressing like that to kid that’s not even two yet, and believe me, I thought about it a lot. But I stand by what I told her; while I think it could do some damage to start telling kids about the horrors of slaughterhouses before they’ve even gone to pre-school, I think that it’s very important as parents to instill the idea in kids that animals are sentient beings that want to be free every bit as much as we do as human animals. I think one of the primary reasons that otherwise intelligent adults aren’t vegan is that the cognitive dissonance is so strong and so ingrained that people have a very tough time overcoming it. If we can gently teach our kids this lesson early on, they’ll grow up to be adults that don’t have to learn about the sentience and inherent self-worth of animals that are traditionally consumed, it’ll be a completely normal concept to them.