Monday, January 11, 2010

Vegan Family Politics

As my children grow older, we begin to venture into the realm of vegan family politics. My eldest is beginning to notice he eats differently than other people. He attends an ECFE class as does his sister. They each have sibling care when the other is in class. There is typically a snack time, and goldfish crackers are a common selection by the school. I am not sure why these are so popular as they don't seem to be a healthy, wholesome snack regardless of not being vegan. We brought in Eco Planet Cheddar Non-Dairy crackers for them to eat at snack time. Today Elliott talked about his classmate friend having" fish" and that he did not eat fish. He loves the Eco Planet crackers, and for now is happy with this alternative. As peer acceptance becomes more of a priority we'll have to decide how to handle that.

The political aspect of family food choices is a challenge for me. While I feel strongly about following a vegan diet, I feel the same way about respecting other's choices. That doesn't mean I am against promoting a vegan lifestyle, I am all for it, but in a positive constructive way. When I first became a vegetarian, I remember being ostracized for eating dairy and eggs. It totally turned me off to the idea of abstaining from them, and only eventually made that choice after getting there on my own terms. For these reasons, I struggle with the best way to discuss other's eating meat and animal products in a way where my child will not feel superior to others. I absolutely loathe religion being shoved down my throat, and can't help but see some parallels between the two.

When we discuss it now, my explanation for eating the way we do is simple, keeping in mind the age of the audience. All we say, is that we do not eat those things because we do not have to. Elliott came up with his own explanation for why we don't eat meat, because "they would be sad." He was 32 months old when he determined this. It was interesting to witness the "ah-ha" moment of understanding what it means when people talk about eating chicken or turkey. There is no hiding what it comes from like cows or pigs. We had just seen wild turkeys at the nature center by our house, and at lunch I told him I was making a veggie turkey sandwich when he inquired. A quizzical look fell upon his face, and he asked about the turkey part. I assured him it was not actually from a turkey, and that is when he divulged the "it would make them sad" explanation. I guess I never thought about having this moment since we are vegan.

It is interesting to point out how completely comfortable others feel at questioning our decision to raise our kids vegan. I often wonder how well it would be appreciated it I did the same for religious beliefs someone was teaching their children, but I "do unto others as I would prefer them do to me." While veganism is not a religion, it is much more than a diet. It is more accurately described as a lifestyle, which follows compassion. This is clearly founded on moral beliefs, the same as religion, but most people do not seem to view it as such.

As veganism becomes more mainstream, I believe this will become less common. It is amazing to see how far things have come from when I first choose a vegan lifestyle over 10 years ago. For now I will try remain optimistic about what the future will bring in this regard, but like any other parents we are figuring it out as we go along.

1 comment:

  1. I think Anna has said that exact thing before, "It would make them sad." Kids sure have a way of saying things that cuts through all the BS, don't they?

    In regard to the parallels between veganism and religion, I wonder if that could just as easily be flipped. The pervasiveness of Christianity in this country is very much akin to the pervasiveness of the belief that animals are ours to use and they deserve little to no moral consideration (some call it carnism). Both are overwhelmingly majority positions.

    In that regard, veganism is sort of like atheism. The opposite of a religion. Veganism, like atheism, is a thing that doesn't need the huge support systems of dogma, ritual and tradition to keep it afloat (in this regard, carnism is much more like religion than veganism could ever be). It (veganism) stands on its own as the logical conclusion of a compassionate thought process.

    I guess I feel that teaching your kids that it's wrong to consume animal products is like teaching them that it's wrong to be racist, or sexist, or to physically harm people, or to kick dogs. Of course, tt needs to be treated more delicately than those other things, so as not to socially ostracize our kids.

    Just some thoughts. Nice post.