Is raising vegan children wrong and abusive? This was the question put to the nation on Good Morning Britain this morning.
In my opinion and in the opinion of thousands, if not millions of parents raising vegan children, raising vegan kids is far from wrong or abusive. Please, question what you see and hear on these TV interviews where vegans are made out to be causing harm to their children by choosing not to give them animal products in their diet and by replacing beef with beans and dairy milk for soy milk.
These media segments are becoming more commonplace and usually the interviewer or antagonistic guest seems to get a thrill out of picking apart veganism as if it were as wild a lifestyle choice as nudism! Piers Morgan recently tried a vegan sausage roll live on air, only to be seen to spit it up into a bin and ask, “why would anyone eat this?” because the thought that this might actually be a good thing, was too much for his enormous ego to bare.
Whether it’s on TV or in the comments section of a news article, vegan parents are more often than not portrayed as:
– putting their children’s health at risk and producing malnourished children
– depriving their children of things they might otherwise enjoy such as burgers or whipped cream
– depriving their children of essential nutrients
– forcing a view onto them
– not giving them choice
The list goes on and on top these perceptions being wildly inaccurate, these interviews always fail to promote the numerous positive aspects of veganism, because god forbid it might actually be a good thing. The health BENEFITS, the environmental BENEFITS, and the ethical BENEFITS of not killing animals…again, the list can go on! My vegan children are not malnourished or deprived. They are happy and their relationship with food is very healthy (and normal for their respective ages.) They enjoy a huge varied diet that includes treats but is also high in fruit and veg, plant based proteins and fats. For Jasmine, veganism is also not an all or nothing approach. She has some dairy at nursery (there isn’t another option) and she will eat non-vegan cake at a birthday party but many other vegan parents I know wouldn’t choose this fluid approach either and I applaud that.
Processed meats such as ham and hot-dogs are well documented carcinogenic foods yet still appear on school menus and kids menus nationwide. Is that not the equivalent of dismissing the harmful effects of cigarette smoke on children? Dairy foods are also highly linked to cancer yet the fact that most educational resources about children’s diets continue to promote high levels of dairy, as a source of calcium and fat are not topics of discussion on morning TV.
If you see these interviews or read about raising vegan kids, I urge you to remain open-minded. I urge you to question WHY these topics are being discussed with a negative and fearful slant rather than the opposite. I urge you to consider whether you would vote that it is “wrong” for kids to be vegan, as the majority of people surveyed did and if so, why? Is it simply a lack of know how or truly a belief that it is harmful.
As a society, we usually pick fault with things we don’t understand, that threaten our lifestyle and belief systems or that make us feel uncomfortable. I was once in a meeting at work where a Safeguarding Children’s Nurse made a claim that any family who home school their children give her cause for concern. I couldn’t believe it. What a sweeping statement and a gross misunderstanding of home schooling that is, to presume that children are more at risk, simply because of a decision that family have made. I would hate to think that vegan parents would be subjected to the same prejudices as this but perhaps, we are.
Thankfully, even as the minority amongst my friends, I am surrounded by a community of very supportive parents. Parents who go out their way to provide vegan food for Jasmine at kids parties and to let me know if something isn’t vegan before Jasmine eats it. Parents who support my decision and accommodate my children rather than judge me or make abusive remarks.
Raising vegan children needs careful thought and consideration, of course. I need to ensure my children are getting enough fresh fruit and veg, enough protein (I promise you, this is the least of my concerns), iron, Omegas and other essential vitamins and minerals but surely, every parent does? Surely every responsible parent needs to plan their kids diet and ensure that it is varied and well-balanced. This isn’t unique to vegans. Every toddler I know has days where they only want toast and snacks and other days where they eat “really well”. A non-vegan diet high in processed foods and sugars will be just as harmful as a badly planned vegan diet.
Veganism is growing. People are waking up to the facts. The fact that animal agriculture is the biggest contributor to climate change. The fact that meat and dairy foods are linked to a vast array of preventable health problems. The fact that breeding and killing animals by the billion might in fact, not be that ethical after all. Veganism isn’t scary, it isn’t harmful and it certainly isn’t abusive. Sadly, cases of child abuse in vegan families happen, as they happen in non-vegan families but in the majority of cases I highly doubt that the veganism is the issue, as the media would want you to believe.
In our family, veganism is joyful. It’s our passion. It’s our core belief and allows us to live in alignment with the world we want to see, a world where animals lives are valued no matter their species and a world we want to preserve for future generations to enjoy too.
So, tell me, how would you vote?