Before I get to the point of this article, I’d like to attempt to cut the hordes of angry commenters off at the pass: I don’t really think vegans must have kids. If you don’t like kids and don’t want to raise any, please don’t. If you like kids well enough but have other reasons for not wanting to raise your own, no problem; we’re cool. If, however, you are a vegan who talks down to vegan parents, claims that having kids is “non-vegan,” or otherwise makes your local vegan community hostile towards families, you need to cut that mess out because you’re hurting animals, and, quite frankly, the rest of us are sick of it.
I’ve heard too many stories of vegan parents being bullied by other vegans, read too many blogs about why having kids is counter to veganism (I don’t want to give them more traffic by linking to them here), and have been told too many accounts of vegan community groups reacting to families in their midst with hostility to stay quiet any longer. Thankfully, most vegans are kind and welcoming people, and I don’t think these stories reflect the majority. I’ve experienced very limited antagonism personally, but I’ve been vegan for almost 15 years and have had time to weed certain people out of my group of friends. Even if you aren’t a parent, you may have noticed this element in our communities. It’s often only when vegan parents experience genuinely kid-friendly environments that they realize how far off point our vegan subculture can sometimes be on this issue.
Here’s the thing: parents are most often friends with other parents, and they spend a lot of their time with other parents. Exhausted people who may have other people’s bodily fluids on them just prefer to stick together. As a mother, I’m in a much better position to influence another mother’s thinking about animals and veganism, especially as compared to a childfree individual. If you’re a childfree individual who is also actively antagonistic toward parents or kids, you have even less chance of encouraging a family toward veganism (read: no chance at all).
By actively participating in the breadth of life—including being parents—vegans are much more likely to be able to influence people across a broad spectrum. The best way we can get other people with children to go vegan is to participate in that life, show them what a vegan family looks like, and build relationships with them. When vegans opt-out of parenthood because of in-group pressure that paints wanting or having children as wrong, we’re also opting out of the opportunity to advocate for animals. We are removing our voices from playgrounds, school hallways, soccer fields, and band concerts; we are intentionally isolating ourselves from a subculture in which most non-vegans participate.
By now, you’re probably wondering how an article about raising vegan kids hasn’t yet mentioned the three usual suspects: adoption, overpopulation, and misanthropy. I think adoption is awesome, and I’m thrilled for families who have the financial and emotional resources to pursue that path. But, it’s not always easy—sometimes it’s emotionally wrenching, incredibly challenging, and shockingly expensive—so, let’s stop pretending like adopting a human child is more or less on par with adopting a cat or a dog. It’s not, and it’s not fair to expect all vegans to go that route merely by virtue of their veganism.
Also, 50 percent of all pregnancies are unplanned—and that goes for vegans, too. While I was planning to have kids eventually, I wasn’t planning to get pregnant when I did, and I certainly wasn’t planning to have twins! Let’s be a little more understanding and acknowledge that life doesn’t always follow a neat path. Let’s also allow for our fellow vegans to be human. It’s a fully human act to want to have biological children; we vegans are not so radically different from the rest of humanity that this no longer applies to us.
Adoption is often suggested as the solution to overpopulation. Here’s a good breakdown of why that’s probably not true. Even if adoption were a winning solution to overpopulation, is overpopulation really a problem everywhere equally? In some countries, yes, it’s most certainly an issue; in other countries, the government is offering as many incentives as it can to motivate more couples to have babies. I have two biological children, and I will not be having any more. My husband and I have simply replaced ourselves, and we’re working hard to ensure that our replacements will be kind, thoughtful, compassionate people who choose to remain vegans as adults, who will influence others to do the same, and who will probably do more than I ever have to help animals, the planet, and other humans. I think you’ll forgive me if I don’t feel too guilty about that. I think the world would be a nicer place if more vegans would do the same.
Which brings us to misanthropy, the not-so-secret undercurrent of the vegan community. We don’t like humans. They’re monsters. They torture animals, and even more of them pay other humans to do the torturing. They’re destroying the planet. It would be better if humans went extinct. Why would you want to create more of these wretched creatures? Yes, humans can be terrible, cruel, selfish, and hateful. However, they can also be generous, kind, self-less, and loving. Vegans are part of humanity; I would argue that we’re one of the best parts. By raising children to choose compassion, to do good, and to eat foods and purchase products that do the least harm, we are bettering humanity. We are pushing our evolution as a species forward. Have you ever talked to a vegan kid? They are, quite literally, the best. If you don’t believe me, watch this video: What a Child Sees.
My Facebook newsfeed is full of vegan babies, toddlers, and children. As far as I can tell, more vegans are birthing and adopting kids now than at any time in our movement’s history. There are vegan children’s books, hundreds of veg fests with children’s activities, and cookbooks featuring family-friendly vegan recipes. GenerationVeggie.org launched in 2015 to give voice to this growing segment of the vegan community. While vegans may continue to raise fewer children than the general population, our numbers are growing, and we are an important part of this movement. You don’t have to raise your own kids. You don’t even have to like kids. But, if you’re a vegan who cares about animals, you should be grateful that there are other vegans bringing delicious vegan food to Girl Scout potlucks, convincing their kid’s school to skip the zoo field trip, and raising a new generation of compassionate people who will continue to make the world better for animals and for all of us.
P.S. You know who also doesn’t want vegans to have kids? The animal agriculture industry and other corporations that benefit from unjustly using animals’ bodies. It’s difficult to convince someone that they need your products or “entertainment” when you’ve lived the first 18 years of your life without them. Our families are shoring up the next phase of the animal rights revolution.
Posted in Family Life