As a parent for whom veganism plays a central role, I have always been afraid of the possibility of my son growing up and choosing not to be vegan. A few years ago, when my son was just a toddler, I had a conversation with a co-worker about veganism. He had been raised vegetarian since birth, but had given it up after moving out to go to college. When I asked why, he replied by saying that he had always looked at it as something his parents did. After that, it was pretty clear to me that I had to not just raise my son vegan, but also teach him why we are vegan.
This is, probably unsurprisingly, more complex than I thought at the time. Parenting is a balancing act between “too little” and “too much,” and, if I’m being honest, a lot of the learning is done by trial and error. We started introducing concepts as he grew and was able to grasp more abstract ideas. A key concept to teach was death and how forced death is called killing. This naturally progressed to questions about what meat is and where it comes from. Over time, it evolved into a solid foundation about why we live differently than others, including our own immediate families.
But children, probably more so than adults, are also susceptible to burn out. Veganism can be so focused on what it is against that sometimes we forget to mention what it is for. Bluntly put, when it comes to discussing veganism, it’s easy to be a downer. Aware of this, my wife and I have paid special attention to our words and teach that veganism is for kindness, not just against harming animals. It is for life, not just against unnecessary death.
With this in mind, we have also chosen carefully the kind of animal rights events that we attend with our son. For the most part, as a family we attend events that focus on the positive side of what we and others are doing for animals. One of our favorite events is Farm Sanctuary’s Walk for Farm Animals. We like taking our son to the Seattle Walk because he gets to be surrounded by a diverse group of people who care about animals, too. It’s not just our family who is vegan; it helps him to see that we are part of a larger community of caring people. He also gets to hear music, eat vegan food, get temporary tattoos, and just have a great time. We do all of this while promoting the idea that animals are friends, not food, with a smile on his face and without the ugliness of graphic imagery, which, of course, does have its time and place in the struggle for animal liberation. It’s all uplifting and builds morale.
In addition to the Walk for Farm Animals, we also like to take trips to local animal sanctuaries. This is a positive experience for children that I highly recommend if there’s a sanctuary close to you, or it can be a great excuse for a road trip. It doesn’t matter how many pictures, sounds, or videos of a cow or a chicken we look at, nothing compares to the experience of walking up to, touching, petting, and feeding the gentle animals who have been lucky enough to escape the factory farming system and other cruel situations.
These positive animal advocacy experiences will help cement an ethical foundation for children to consider veganism for the rest of their lives, while further preparing them for the time when they will have to face the sad, cruel truth of how animals are abused in our world. These experiences will further fuel their passion to take a stand and be vegan for life—because it’s the right thing to do, not just because it’s something Mama and Papa do.
Posted in Family Life