While I was paging through the March issue of Vegan Life Magazine, an article about vegan parenting caught my eye. While there are lots of vegan parenting resources around, this one was particularly interesting to me because the author mentions that she is sometimes accused of ‘forcing her beliefs’ on her kids.
Luckily, I haven’t had anyone say that to me…. yet. Actually, I have to say that, all in all, everyone I meet is very tolerant of my vegan lifestyle. I very, very rarely get stupid or mean questions/comments, and most people I know react with mild interest and ask about how they can replace eggs in cakes, because they have that one friend who is allergic and they can never make them anything nice anymore and feel bad about it. So all in all, I get very little negativity for it.
Something I read again and again online, however, is that veganism should be a personal choice and that children should be raised on an omnivorous diet until they can make an informed decision on their nutrition. If I had a quid for every time I read that raising children vegan means you’re forcing them to live by your beliefs I could easily out-do Bill Gates.
And you know what? These people are completely correct. I am raising my child in compliance with my own belief system. But the thing is, so is EVERY OTHER PARENT IN THE WORLD. We raise our children according to our religious beliefs (yes, even atheism and agnosticism count as that). We raise our children according to our own set of values and morals. We raise them to (mostly) be responsible, caring and kind adults, whatever our practical interpretation of those values might be. And some of us might believe that this entails going to religious services, others teach their children the importance of volunteering, and I teach my child that it’s not right to harm sentient beings, directly or indirectly through the consumption of meat and dairy.
When kids are little, we have to raise them according to our own values and beliefs, because they’re too young and inexperienced to have any. If we do well, we’re also teaching them to think critically, meaning that at some stage in their lives, they’ll get to a point where they question our parenting. They might agree with what we’ve taught them, or they might not. At that stage, they’ll be old enough to come to their own conclusions. If my daughter then decides she wants to be a vegetarian, or she wants to eat meat, then I probably won’t like that, but I’ll have to accept it, because it’s her decision.
Until they’re old enough to come to their own conclusions, we have to teach our children right from wrong, and the definition of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ is highly personal, depending on the parents’ biases. We’re all doing the best we can. The important thing is that we end up raising happy, healthy and compassionate adults.
Have you made any interesting experiences of being a vegan parent? I’d love to hear about them in the comments.