I was brought up eating meat like most children are.
The first time I went fishing with my dad, a friend of his and my sister, I started crying when we caught the first fish. I couldn’t believe we were going to kill it and that I had contributed to its death. It broke my heart. The little mermaid was my favorite movie after all. I was told I was a party-pooper.
The first time I fried bacon at my mom’s house I almost fainted. The memory is so vivid. What was puttering in the pan looked incredibly gross to me. I kept telling myself that it wasn’t and that no one else faints when frying bacon! I did eat bacon when someone else cooked it. I got through it, resting on a chair during the frying and of course was later told I was being ridiculous. “It’s bacon.”
So I toughened up.
10 years later I had learned to distance myself from what I was cooking and dealing with enough to even roll meatballs. I became a pretty good cook.
Most people eat meat because most people eat meat. I don’t judge my parents (or any other parents) for raising omnivore kids; society shapes us and our actions. Nevertheless, now a mom myself I’ve given this a lot of thought and come to the conclusion that I’m not really okey with us serving flesh to children.
A child’s natural instinct is to love animals. To play with them and cuddle them. Young children, who hasn’t been taught differently yet, don’t differentiate between a dog and a pig – who’s the friend and who’s dinner – they’re both worthy of the same love. Who wants Babe to be eaten anyway? Raise you hand!
I never thought I’d “go vegan”. I quit (most) meat due to environmental reasons but had never before “Cowspiracy”, seen any reason to do that or to be vegetarian either; the vegetarians I knew did not appear healthy with diets based on sugar, carbs, dairy and popcorn. I finally went 100% plant based due to health reasons and now as an adult knowing it was the right thing to do with the information I had at hand. Honestly though, I still struggle with truly finding empathy for the billions of animals that are being killed every year and understanding the actual horror of slaughter. Society has shaped me to be a hypocrite, no doubt. Maybe you feel the same way.
However, when I ask myself the hard questions and really take the time to consider them, the only answer I can come up with is the ethical one. Would I be okey with killing a pig myself to eat it? No. Is it fair to take baby cows away from their mothers at birth so I can consume dairy? No. Should beings of earth be tortured for profit? No. Do I support an ocean depleted of sea creatures? No. Yet, there is a brain-heart-disconnect. I wish to not give my child the same.
When he is old enough to understand that chicken nuggets are fluffy 7 week old chicks with breading, he can make the decision if he want to eat them. Babies don’t understand what meat is and if they did they’d say “What the fuck mom!? Are we eating Nemo/Babe/Sebastian/Donald!? Why??” Parents don’t have an answer. Anyone looking forward to explaining where sausage comes from?
Because most people eat meat and society has taught us that protein, calcium and iron must come from animals, some publications and folks believe that a plant based kid is malnourished. I don’t believe that at all; in fact it I know it is not true.
I am not an expert or a nutritionist (though in this day and age that doesn’t guarantee anything either!) but I’ve read a good book on optimizing baby’s nutrition and I follow several blogs on plant based family living. Common sense tells me that the “regular” American kid who is brought up on Mac and cheese, nuggets, pb&j, hot dogs and the occasional fruit and carrot is not a well-nourished kid. Yet, society appears to be fine with that diet!?! Ever read the kids menu at a restaurant? Nothing but fat, animal protein and white bread.
B12 is the only vitamin a vegan truly must add to their diet. Animals get it added to their food or they absorb it while consuming bacteria (dirt) if they roam free. So we basically need to do the same: supplement in food or eat dirt! (That’s a joke, we supplement.) Baby will take vitamin D and B12 (after he quits formula all together, which has it) and he just started loving our unsweetened, organic, fortified soy milk with calcium and B12.
As with all Utopian scenarios or ideals, our kid’s diet won’t be perfect. I won’t be that parent who denies my child birthday cake or pizza at a party because it has milk in/on it. He will eat the occasional pancake made with eggs and ice cream I’m sure. (Meat might happen on some occasion as well. I don’t know.) I do think that animal products like dairy and eggs are easier to explain to a child. I know there is A LOT of killing and suffering in these industries as well (maybe more) and it’s not healthy foods, but if people ate cheese only a few times a year we wouldn’t have the money to fund an industry of abuse and exploitation. We’d get the cheese from a local farmer who had a few grazing cows to maintain open landscape. (That’s land meant to be open not former rain forest mind you.) Idealistic and Utopian – I know – but explainable to my kid and makes life SO MUCH EASIER.
Daycare has worked with us and knows “He doesn’t get the meat”. In fact it was recently reveled that some of the teachers had had a taste of baby’s lunch box because it looks so delicious every day! They told my husband “he eats such good food!”
I don’t judge anyone’s eating habits (except the constant use of straws in people’s drinks, but that’s another subject) and I don’t blame myself or my parents for eating the way I did for 34 years.
Read this post with an open mind and remember:
Most people eat meat because most people eat meat.
Aside from culture and society’s dietary norms: Did Anna just drink the vegan kool-aid or what do you really think about it?
A final note. I am aware of rural communities and tribes who raise and consume animals for survival, who teach children respect and the circle of life. I love the Alaska homestead shows and “Naked and Afraid” where hunting equals survival; an only source for protein and fat. Just like I know there are Americans living in “food deserts” with only McDonald’s and gas station food available; they can’t go get the lentils and the multivitamins. I’m writing about me and the BILLIONS of other people who shop at the grocery store every week. What do we really think?
[Picture from Veganstreet.com – go support them in their efforts to educate!]