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On Vegan Parenting . . . Again

In "Custody Battle Over Quints Questions Vegan Lifestyle," by Emily Nipps, we learn about Gayle and Jeff Nelson-Folkersen of Tampa who are getting divorced, and Jeff is seeking primary custoday of their five 10-year olds. The only reason we know at this point for his decision, is Gayle’s strict vegan lifestyle. Jeff claims she has:

‘serious psychological control issues’ and imposes a strict vegan diet – no meat, eggs or dairy – on the children, according to Hillsborough County court files. She even restricts the quints’ visits with their paternal grandparents, the divorce petition states, because they have leather furniture.

The article casually states a commonly held train of thought that I’d like to take a moment to derail:

Vegan diets, especially for children, are often criticized not just from a nutritional standpoint, but also an ethical or psychological one. Adults often choose veganism because they disagree with the way factory farms use animals to produce eggs and milk, as well as how they are fattened or slaughtered for meat.

Is it okay to teach a child about these practices to ensure they share a parent’s views on cheese, ice cream and leather furniture?

First, even the New York Times has realized that Nina Plank-like concern over vegan diets for children is bunkum. People who criticize veganism from a nutritional standpoint simply don’t know the facts. There’s been more discussion about this topic over the last 30 days than ever before, and we have Nina Planck and her misinformed op-ed to thank for that. The American public has been schooled on the nutritional aspects of veganism, and for those paying attention, the case is closed.

What strikes me as entirely backward, however, is that vegan diets are criticized from and ethical or psychological standpoint. Everyone communicates their values to their children, either implicitly or explicitly. If I have leather furniture in my house or my car (I don’t), I am telling the world–through my choices–that I think it’s okay to sit on someone else’s skin. If I feed my children meat, which my parents did to me, I am sending them the message that eating the flesh of another–for no better reason than you like the taste of it or it’s readily available and inexpensive–is acceptable. My parents transmitted values to me: Certain animals, such as chickens and cows and pigs, are for eating, and there’s nothing wrong with eating them. In fact, they can be quite tasty. Other animals, such as cats and dogs, are cute and sweet and for petting. You shouldn’t eat those animals.

Pit that value system against: We don’t eat nonhuman animals because we don’t believe they are ours to eat. They are like us in many ways that are very important. They are like Fido and Fluffy in every way that is important. We wouldn’t eat Fido or Fluffy, so we shouldn’t eat other creatures either. (Language can be modified to fit appropriate stages of cognitive development, naturally.)

What makes the latter value system criticize-able? Isn’t the former one, which encourages unnecessary killing of nonhuman animals and is devoid of logic, the one on ethical and psychological-shaky ground? Is it okay to teach a child what really goes on in the world? Of course it is (with appropriately language). It’s better than lying to them about Old McDonald and his mythical farm, while driving through McDonald’s for a happy meal.

Finally, "Some might find the choice to raise a child to have these ethical beliefs as no different from raising a child to have certain spiritual beliefs." Some might. I don’t. Spiritual beliefs are based on faith and faith, by definition, is belief without evidence. Veganism is a way of life based on science. Facts. We know that sentient beings are like us in all ways that matter. That’s not a belief–it’s a fact. Raising children to be nonviolent and to ask questions and align their actions with what is right is not the child abuse it is made out to be–it’s responsible parenting.

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. I absolutely agree with all of the points made here. I think all of the criticism about veganism essentially comes from a place of fear. People fear change and they fear that which is out of the "norm (even though the "norm" may be totally irrational or non-sensical)." It is easier to point fingers at others than to step up and admit wrong-doing. Veganism asks people to admit to their wrong-doing and to stop doing it!

    June 27, 2007
  2. mallerie ungvarsky #

    i love this article. i agree o9ne million percent.
    i am vegan.when i have children,you better believe they will be raised vegan.
    im criticized by some for being vegan(youd think people would criticize people for slaughtering innocent creatures,not people who OPPOSE IT…go figure)
    but the people who act like that towards me always end up making themselves,excuse my rudeness,but,stupid.

    thanks for this article.

    July 26, 2007

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