On Kids

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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?

Cages chickens Sad

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.

14 Responses to “On Kids”

  1. Nikki

    I don’t have children and it looks like I probably won’t be having any. Yet I was totally surprised when I read Josh’s post a while back because I had no idea that people were anti-children or that they would even consider such a thing. Perhaps it is maturity on my side since I am almost 40 but it would never even occur to me. I think it is beyond awesome to see vegetarian kids and parents and teenagers. It gives me so much hope. I wish I had been raised vegetarian and I think that these kids that are will have a super future free from the kind of suffering that many of us have gone through as the result of the standard American diet. Furthermore the fact that your 2 year old is able to express her innate compassion is basically the entire POINT of it all! You are raising an ethical vegetarian and she will have the best of everything. I love children and I love conscious parents. Keep on!

  2. Davida

    I’m also a vegan parent who is tired of the nasty anti-child comments. I have lost friends over this. I understand why many people choose not to have children. I respect that. I was in that boat for a long time. It should be a choice either way. Isn’t a lot of veganism about simple respect?
    How did having a child suddenly make me less than vegan? It is just one more us vs. them division in a movement that loses cohesion more and more every day.

  3. Tracy

    Excellent post! I don’t have kids and won’t be having any, but what you wrote makes perfect sense. I also think it’s good for vegans who have kids to write about them. I have a 3-year-old niece, and my sister, while she’s been reducing her consumption of meat, is against raising Reed as a veg*an because kids might tease her. So it’d be good to show her blogs of happy, well-adjusted, confident veg*an kids.

  4. vegeater

    good post. I too was surprised that josh’s post got so much heat.

    I think one of the main things veg*nism has done for me is make me more aware of judgment, both from myself and others. When I am judged I feel alienated and unheard, and reluctant to engage. And I find myself tempted to judge others for the choices they make that differ from mine. But I can’t let myself do that; it’s not for me to be the arbiter of right and wrong; I can only control myself, what I do. I can perceive wrong and take steps to change it, but I can’t judge others for not seeing it.

    So, I guess it’s the judgment that bothers me most–people judging other people for having or not having kids….isn’t that, in the scheme of things, totally off-point and counterproductive? Is compassion the opposite of judgment?

  5. Lazurii

    Thank you for the vegan parent insight. It’s very helpful to see what other vegan parents are doing. My own son is 9 months and will be raised vegan, and it’s nice to have a supportive net.

    Now if everyone would stop commenting on when I’m having more/how many/why do you want that many?

  6. Marcy

    “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.” Totally. I went vegetarian (real veg, no fish/seafood!) in 8th grade at the age of 13. I had tried to be full-time veg for some years before that, ever since I was little. My mom thought it would be a bad idea for several reasons, and we also were on a severe food budget. But in 8th grade I was big & stubborn enough to say “That’s okay, I won’t eat your food then, and yes I’ll go to bed hungry” when threatened with such. I stuck to my guns, and was able to be veg because of it. Needless to say this was not normal in either my family, friends or school. There were no veg options most places, incl. with lots of travel happening. But I used my stubborn side and found a way. And so, at a young age, I learned there is always a way to stick to your beliefs as long as you don’t waver and you get creative. Then after some research, I went vegan before my 16th birthday. I knew no one who was vegan, and no one around me knew what the hell to do with a vegan. There were years and years of education involved re: dealing with others and finding out more about vegan cuisine. When I lived abroad in veg-unfriendly cultures, again it was assumed being vegan would not be possible, but like my kid self, I was stubborn and got creative with finding vegan stuff. Many years passed, and now the same mom who said she wouldn’t cook one more thing for me if I gave anything else up (when i announced my veganism), now eats vegan 99% of the time and I gave her her own copy of Vegan Freak. And that is my happy ending :) (Oh, and I plan on being a vegan parent, adoptive no less, and so am always concerned people at the agencies will discriminate against me because of that.)

  7. gladcow

    thank you, Ryan. I have had some pretty amazing conversations with my little vegans, it is heartbreaking sometimes. I want them to understand veganism and why it’s my choice, but sometimes those conversations get heavy fast and I worry about giving them too much information. But then there are the times when they make the connections themselves and they point them out to me (like Rasine did for you with the chickens). Nothing like those moments.

  8. kitchenMage

    Ryan,

    Another interesting post from you. (and then I spent too much time chasing links and reading at Josh’s and stuff. Shhh, don’t tell my editor!) It is nice to see someone thinking through how to handle teaching kids about tough topics. Now if we could just get someone to explain how to deal with kids who declare their veganness when their parents are not. Oh, wait…someone already did! (and I thank you for it!)

  9. Bea Elliott

    What a great topic. I agree that parenthood isn’t for everyone – (all the time) – The decision to remain child-free has it’s ambivalent moments as well. At least for me, that’s how it is. I made the surgical decision more than 3 decades ago. In that time I’ve occasionally reflected the “what ifs” as a matter of “life passages”. I’ll never intimately know the joys of parenting, the “Kodak moments” – the miracle of birth… the wonderful smell kids have when they get out of the tub… the way they really “see” the world… There are many undeniably affecting experiences my choice has preventing me from having.

    However, I don’t know that I would have found my way to veganism had I had children. I’ve managed to stay “untraditional” and have had the “luxury” of time. Also being a “dink” for decades, I’ve managed to retire at 50, thus allowing me to explore some “unconventional” ideas. Discovery, introspection and change is often neglected while raising a child. Although kids are delightfully consuming, most of the time there is little left to learn or care of animal suffering… That’s the animal’s curse, and the world in a nucleus, it moves so very fast.

    That you were a vegan before a parent is fantastic! You’ve been able to work out a valid moral code before having a child. You will spare her much sorrow by teaching her consideration for animals now. What a wonderful sense of values she is being raised to embrace! I believe she will be “centered” and “whole”.

    I am saddened though, when kids are born to parents that haven’t done the necessary personal growth or “inner child work” required to raise an emotionally healthy child. Many of these “bad parents” promote a “disconnect”… a seperation of animals from “meat”. Or a seperation of animals from “us”. I feel so badly for these children. If they are bright enough, some day they’ll make these horrible discoveries… and feel bitterly “betrayed”. I’m sure many of us can say the process is “draining”.

    So, hooray for vegan parents raising vegan kids!!! Kids are the answer. The hopeful end to animal suffering, (and other world tragedies) will come from a future made of today’s vegan love and teachings. Raising focused, aware and compassionate kids… This is the part of the solution.

    Ryan… A lovely daughter… a beautiful life – enjoy!

  10. liberrian vegan mom

    Read Henrietta and the Golden Eggs to her. My daughter loves it!

  11. MariaRose

    I was recently introduced to this controversy and was pretty surprised by the strong feelings on both sides of the argument(s). I am not a parent myself, but it is well within the realm of possibility that I may parent a vegan child at some point. My general feelings about having kids is to make intelligent choices, but I would never have the audacity to tell someone that they should or should not have children. For many people they feel as strongly compelled to parent as they are compelled to live a vegan lifestyle. We can express our sentiments, but many vegans often forget that they are not the judges of the world.

  12. Green Experience

    I’m not a vegan, but I do agree with their views about not having children. It’s actually quite bad for the environment, especially if you live in the United States.

  13. Click Clack Gorilla

    Three cheers to you for teaching your child these things so early. Why should we lie to kids about what goes on in the world? The saddest thing, I think, is not that a young child has already been informed about the sad things happening to animals, but that there are so many things happening in the world that are so terrible that the thought of telling our children about them scares us. So one more time hurray to you for going with the harder truth rather than the easy avoidance.

  14. lauren

    wonderful! :)

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