Born Free USA Blog
I became a vegetarian quite by chance more than 20 years ago. A buddy and I rented some horror films one night, and one of them included slaughterhouse footage. Before that evening I was blissfully unaware of what went into meat production. After that evening I never consumed another piece of animal flesh.
My road to veganism was slightly more deliberate and happened some years later, having thought seriously about the unmitigated suffering involved in egg and dairy production. I’ve been a vegan since 1994, but I must admit that once in a while my wife and I break down and get a dessert we shouldn’t.
I have learned over the years that everyone draws their ethical lines in different places. I suffer in plastic shoes, have no need for leather belts, and only buy silk ties if they are used. We each do what we can to make a difference. I live by the adage that just because we can’t do everything doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do something.
I make my own choices and they impact my life alone. But what about raising kids? Do we force veganism and roll the dice that the message sticks? Or do we risk resentment and pushing the child away from our humane outlook on food consumption?
Whether it’s food choices or looking both ways before crossing the street we lead by example ... and we hope for good outcomes.
My four-year-old daughter has been brought up vegan since birth. We’ve made it just fine, and so has she, including through the questioning of pediatricians about her vitamin intake. And now she is in school, not with me all day long. She is on her own and she has her own decisions to make.
So on the first day of school, Pre-Kindergarten, there was a sign on the door saying that it also happened to be the teacher’s birthday and, since not all parents had returned allergy forms for their children, would everyone please sign their children up under the “yes” or “no” column indicating whether their child could partake in celebratory ice cream and cake.
The teachers had already been notified that little Mia is vegan and could not have any snacks with eggs or dairy.
But as a parent there is also a fear of causing a young girl undue stress. Should she feel left out on her very first day of school? Risk ridicule? Mia Roberts — YES.
When I picked her up from school that day the teacher looked at me like I was crazy. “Why did you sign Mia up to have ice cream when you told us she is vegan?” she asked. I explained that we didn’t want her to feel left out. “Well,” the teacher said, “we put the cake down in front of her and Mia asked, ‘Is this soy vegetarian (her way of asking if it’s vegan)?’ When I said it was not she replied, ‘Then I can’t have it. No, thank you.’”
And my girl had apple juice while the other children also had cake. And she didn’t cry. And she didn’t stress. And she didn’t feel weird or different. She felt proud.
And so does Dad.