When my daughter was fairly young, she started our family down a path towards being vegetarian. By responding to her strong feelings not to eat animals, I was forced to re-evaluate my own rationalizations.
Since March 2012, I have moved to eating a strict vegetarian diet, which is at least 95% vegan. I know that I care deeply about animals, the earth, and other people. I know that I am doing what I feel is the most effective activism to create more awareness and education about the issues created by animal agriculture. It has become a passion that has transformed our lives and our business.
My son followed his big sister’s example and is now possibly even more committed and consistent than her. My husband eats very little meat for his own reasons and has become very involved in environmental and climate change issues.
Although we weren’t vegetarian when the kids were very young, I look back at the photos now and can see how they made strong connections with animals besides our own pets.
Their childhood will be interesting to look back on. When I am making my easy tofu salad and my son tells me how much he loves it, I find it funny to think that will be part of his fond memories of my cooking: Mom’s tofu salad. At this point, they don’t really know any different, and they don’t seem to miss meat at all. They love things I never tried at their age like tempeh, and they go crazy for naturally vegetarian ethnic foods found in cuisines from India, Thailand, and the Middle East.
Here are a few of our guidelines that have naturally evolved:
1. They are free to make their own decisions about what they eat. I let their host know that they are vegetarian in advance if they are at someone’s house. So far everyone has been very gracious and made sure there was a veggie option.
2. We don’t try to indoctrinate their friends in any way. That would make me crazy if someone tried to force their beliefs on my kids, so I wouldn’t do that. However, we only have veg food at our house which I try to make sure is something especially good when friends come over so it is a positive experience.
3. I teach them to be as non-judgmental as possible when others eat meat, and give them enough information that they can handle comments about “how do they get their protein”. If we want to have any influence towards others at all, it has to come from being a good example and respectful rather than force and anger.
4. I haven’t pushed veganism on the kids. They prefer to keep some cheese in their diet, and sometimes eggs. We compromise and for awhile I would get special eggs from a neighbor’s chickens and use them so sparingly it took 2 weeks to go through a dozen. I stopped buying cow’s milk and just made sure I had soy and almond options- no one complained because it didn’t make a difference to them. They mostly have soy milk in their cereal. If I make delicious vegan meals, everyone is happy and no one misses anything. I know they would go vegan in a minute if I showed them footage from factory farms of chicks being ground up alive or baby calves taken from their mothers. It is so hard for me to watch, I don’t want them to see that cruelty. I am honest about the situation when we do discuss it.
5. I make a lot of smoothies with spinach, make sure they eat a lot of fresh fruit, veg, beans and tofu, and give them a daily multivitamin.
I hope, and think, my kids are good ambassadors and role models for other kids who would like to be vegetarian. They are healthy and growing well. We’ll see if they stay vegetarians or become vegans for the rest of their lives. In any case, I am glad that if they do stay on this path, they don’t have to have regrets that they ate meat for decades of their life as I now do. I was never prevented, I honestly just never thought about it earlier on a deep level.
We’re planning on starting a Portland Veg Kids group of some sort to promote friendly activism, and the kids are volunteering at veg events we attend. They love the food, and Portland is a great city for choices. We’re incredibly lucky that they can even have vegan fast food items for special treats.