Just last month, I wrote a post about my vegan pregnancy, and now my healthy baby girl, Charlotte has arrived! I’m excited for the future, despite the challenges ahead. I’m now in the next stage of thinking about raising a vegan child in a nonvegan world. I know it won’t always be easy—we’re surrounded by messages that often encourage inhumane choices—but my husband and I feel that the rewards of doing the right thing far outweigh the societal pressures of accepting the status quo.
As a parent, I hope to instill in my daughter the principle that animals are not here to be used and abused for our food, clothing, products, or entertainment. My goal is not for her to become an animal rights activist—it’s for her to develop into someone who is compassionate, doesn’t turn away from injustices, and makes conscious decisions based on how they affect others, including animals. I want her to understand the reason why she may not always be eating the same thing as the other kids in the cafeteria, why we adopt animals rather than buy them from pet stores or breeders, and why we don’t go to the circus. I hope that she will embrace these things and be proud that she’s part of a family that is consciously choosing compassion over cruelty.
I want to foster within her the love and attraction that kids innately have toward animals. My goal is to keep the line connected—the line that society teaches us to disconnect at a young age—between the animals we cherish in our homes (dogs and cats) and the “other” animals we eat (or use for clothing, experimentation, or entertainment).
Together as a family, we will creatively deal with birthday parties, school events, holidays, and whatever else comes our way. I’m confident that I can find alternatives to the many traditional activities and crafts that involve animals or animal-derived products. We’ll bake cookies together, and it won’t matter that we substitute soy milk for cow’s milk-because after all, it’s really more about the quality time spent together. As a mother now, I especially can’t imagine supporting the cruel dairy industry, where mother cows are treated as mere milk machines and often confined to crowded lots amid their own waste. Mother cows are forcefully impregnated year after year (to produce milk for humans) only to have their babies torn away from them within minutes to hours of giving birth-females calves are destined to replace their mothers, and male calves are chained in tiny stalls and destined to become veal.
Our family will color Easter eggs, only they won’t be real eggs. Once she’s old enough to learn how much hens suffer on factory farms, I expect that she’ll be glad we’re not using real eggs. On hot summer days, we’ll cook veggie burgers on the grill and take a trip down to the East Village for coconut milk ice cream or soy ice cream at Lula’s or St?go. We’ll visit rescue sanctuaries and natural habitats where animals are respected instead of zoos and aquariums where animals are exploited for profit and entertainment. We’ll search for whales in the ocean via sightseeing boats instead of watching them turn endless circles in small, concrete pools at SeaWorld. We look forward to doing the same activities as nonvegan families—it’s just a matter of being creative and resourceful.
I truly don’t want Charlotte to feel left out or different from the other kids, but at the same time, if “fitting in” means that she will be contributing to and supporting a system that’s inherently cruel to animals, then I don’t want her to “fit in.” I want her to be a person of integrity who learns how to make choices based on her values, and as parents, our role will be to model that for her.
My husband and I are truly committed to living responsibly and consciously through our relationship with animals, through our purchases, and through the activities that we choose. We want our home to be a place of compassion where our daughter can learn how to live according to her values.
What about you? If you’re raising or have raised a vegan child, please share your thoughts.
This guest post was written by Robyn Moore who is the PETA Foundation’s creative copy manager. She has her master’s degree in education and is an avid traveler who has taught English in Nepal, volunteered with wildlife in South Africa, and lived abroad in Switzerland.