{Vegan Children} Promoting vegan values to children.

I have been sharing my life with tiny vegans for 8 years. My daughter is the precious soul who transformed me into a parent and, more specifically, a vegan parent.

I am also a parent to three beautiful, home-birthed boys – aged 6, 3 and 8 months.

My parenting is influenced by a commitment to attachment parenting principles and an unwavering commitment to a vegan ethos.

I believe strongly that extended breastfeeding*  and the provision of vibrant and healthy plant-based foods is a vital facet of vegan parenting – ensuring that our tiny vegans reach their full physical and cognitive potential.

However, food is only the ‘tip of the iceberg’. Vegan parenting involves promoting a vegan philosophy to my children; instilling them with values that they will embrace and feel ownership of.

A concern that some vegan parents share is whether their children will commit to veganism in the long-term.

How can we assist our children to embrace vegan values in their daily lives? How can we  encourage them to maintain a commitment to vegan principles that extends beyond childhood?

What are ‘vegan values’?  

Each vegan parent will have a different answer to this question. Vegan values that we seek to promote include:

  • Compassion and empathy for human and non-human animals;
  • A recognition that non-human animals have a right to exist for their own purposes; they do not exist  for human use or amusement;
  • Non-human animals, and their products of reproduction and fertility (ie. eggs, lactation), are not sources of food for humans;
  • Food and sustenance produced by non-human animals for their own use and survival (eg. honey, in the case of bees) are not intended as sources of food for humans.

In order to promote these values to our children, Mat and I seek to do the following (in an age-appropriate context):

  • Actively teach and role-model a respect and reverence for non-human animals and the natural world;
  • Promote and encourage an interest in the diversity and beauty of life;
  • Participate in campaigns run by organisations that advocate for the rights of non-human animals;
  • Refrain from the use of language or expressions that denigrate non-human animals (eg. ‘She eats like a pig’.);
  • Teach our children about the interconnectedness of Earth’s inhabitants.

We have also chosen to enrol our  school-aged children in an independent school that promotes a Neo-humanist ethic.  One of the tenets of Neo-humanist education is: ‘to promote an awareness of ecology in its broader sense, that is, the realisation of the inter-relatedness of all things, and to encourage respect and care for all living beings’.**

Like many 3 year old children, my son is fascinated by spiders and insects. Mat and I nurture our son’s natural curiosity and interest, encouraging him to be gentle and considerate. These interactions provide an opportunity to educate him about the diversity of living beings, while fostering an empathy and compassion that is transferrable to other non-human animals, and humans. Today he fell in love with a dying christmas beetle that he found in our backyard.

Young children observe and emulate their parent’s behaviour and actions.  We are their earliest role models.  Before I had children, I often avoided mentioning my veganism to people. But now, I recognise that I am a role model for my children. I do not want them to feel that their veganism should be a secret. I am proud to be a vegan. I want them to be proud of the fact that they are not contributing to the suffering of non-human animals.

Obviously, Mat and I have chosen veganism for our children, much in the same way that some parents choose to raise their children with a Catholic or a Buddhist ethic.  Parents raise their own children in concert with their deeply held values and belief systems.  My children may choose not to embrace those values once they reach adolescence or adulthood. That is their right as autonomous beings.  Young people may rebel against the values of their parents – this is a perfectly normal and developmentally appropriate occurrence.

Parents of vegan children may find that this rebellion manifests itself in a rejection of vegan principles. However, as they mature, young people may reclaim the values and belief systems that their parents instilled in them, and this could lead to a reclaiming of veganism.

Naturally, there are young people who would never consider turning their back on veganism; they would not eat an animal any more than they would eat the leg of a table!

My children do not regard animals as food. My eldest children are aware that meat is a dead animal. They possess affection for animals, and have no desire to contribute to their suffering.  Do they feel as though they are missing out on anything? I don’t believe so.

We have vegetarian friends and vegan friends. My children’s aunty- my precious sister- is vegan. My kids attend a vegetarian school. We eat delicious food and treats. We have a beautiful circle of  non-vegan friends who are supportive of our veganism. We are truly blessed. It makes my heart sing that my daughter’s best friend is vegan!  Not eating animals is normal for my children.

Who knows what the future holds.

For now, I am enjoying the fact that my children are happy, healthy and happy to be vegan.

* By extended breastfeeding, I refer to breastfeeding a child up to 2 years of age and beyond.

** Quote obtained from the web site of my children’s primary school.

How do you promote vegan values to your children? Please share your experiences. I look forward to hearing from you!

Ally 

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About Ally
Mamma. Vegan. I blog at Made of Stars.

17 Responses to {Vegan Children} Promoting vegan values to children.

  1. susykat says:

    I enjoyed reading this. I sometimes get nervous thinking about having children, and the reaction of others when they find out they are being raised vegan. I just wish it wasn’t seen as so “fringe” and different. I know there will be some challenging times dealing with some people’s reactions. You and Mat are fantastic role models for your kids. They are so lucky to have such compassionate parents.

    • Ally says:

      Thanks Su 🙂
      There may be challenging times- but it is so worth it!
      I can honestly say, thus far, that it has not been as challenging as I feared it would be.

      Parenting has its challenges, regardless.
      People will give you ‘advice’ and unsolicited opinions about so many aspects of parenting- breastfeeding, introducing solids, sleep, schooling, etc. Veganism is just another on the list!

  2. susykat says:

    That’s a good way to look at it – that it is just one challenge among others. I’m glad to hear that you haven’t found it as challenging as you thought it might be. I just worry because there is so much misinformation out there, leading many to believe that raising a child as a vegan is dangerous. I am SO glad to have my beautiful niece and nephews as an example of how healthy vegan children can be! People just can’t argue with that! 🙂

  3. liveblissful says:

    This was a really inspirational post! I can’t believe there are vegetarian schools. That is so cool. I would really like to raise my future children vegan. I worry though that our family won’t be supportive.
    My bf nieces & nephews are allergic to dairy and as much as their mother tries to stop them eating it, their grandparents, father and family friends are always giving it to them. They just ignore the allergy and blame the rashes on other things. They have the same attitude about me not eating meat or dairy.
    My family is just as bad. They often give me chocolates for xmas or serve dairy foods when I am visiting, knowing I can’t eat it. They think its a joke and when I said I was going vegan, a lot of them had something to say about that too.
    How do you deal with family and friends who don’t respect your families decision to go without animal products. What do you do if they give your kids chocolates or make a dinner for your family with animal products?

    • Ally says:

      Hi liveblissful,
      Thank you for your kind comment 🙂 I really appreciate it.

      Yes, we are very fortunate to live close to a vegetarian school. I am very happy that the values of empathy and compassion for animals are reinforced at the school.

      I am sorry to hear that members of your family are choosing not to respect your veganism. That must be very frustrating and demoralising.
      My husband and I are very lucky to have supportive family members. My parents and in-laws have always respected our decision to raise our children vegan. If they had/have concerns, they have kept them quiet!
      My husband and I had been vegan for 8 years before our first child was born, so there was an expectation that we would raise her vegan too. By the time she was old enough to eat cake or other treats, all of our close family members were proficient in the baking of vegan treats or knew which brands had vegan options.

      My parents eat a vegan diet. Their diet has evolved to that stage due, in part, to the influence of my sister and I. It is such a relief to know that all the food in their house is vegan.

      My (non-vegan) mother-in-law is one of the best vegan bakers I know! When I first met her (16yrs ago), and she found out I was vegan, she rang the Vegan Society in our state and asked them to post her some vegan recipes. I was so touched.

      Two of my Aunties buy craft supplies (which my children love) for my children at Easter time instead of chocolate. This is very welcome! My parents and in-laws give them cards and money. As you can imagine, that is VERY welcome by my children.

      Perhaps with time, your family will observe your commitment to veganism, and abandon their cynicism and lack of support. How do you respond when they make negative comments?

      Regarding food, I have found it useful to plan ahead. If we get invited somewhere (such as a birthday party), and the host doesn’t know we are vegan, I inform them as soon as possible. I offer to make a vegan dish to share. I make cupcakes for my children to have in place of the non-vegan birthday cake. If I am ever in any doubt about the food that will be provided, I bring food with us.

      If a family member intentionally made us a non-vegan dinner, I would refuse to eat it. They know we are vegan, so I would regard this as a disrespectful act.

      If it was inadvertent, I would respectfully decline the food. But this kind of thing can be avoided ahead of time if you communicate with each other.
      We have provided family members with recipes, and we cook delicious vegan food for them.

      I will be posting about these kinds of issues in the future. I hope my comment has helped answer your questions. If not, just ask me another one!
      Ally.

      • liveblissful says:

        Thanks for your reply, you are really lucky to have such a wonderful family that respect your life style. I think I will take you advice and try and make things ahead of time to bring with me to events. I think partly my friends and family just worry when I get invited over that I won’t eat since they don’t know how to make food without animals. I guess by making something it can open there eyes to other possibilities. I will be going interstate soon to stay with family, so I think I will have to let everyone before I come so there is no surprises.

      • Ally says:

        Planning ahead is definitely worthwhile. So is preparing delicious vegan food! People can’t argue with good food. I agree that you can open your family members’ eyes to new and delicious possibilities.
        All the best with your interstate travels. Ally

  4. Thank you for a great post. I wish the whole world was vegan! I bought my children the Ruby Roth books Vegan is Love and That’s Why We Don’t Eat Animals; they are great tools to promote the vegan value of love and compassion (I’ll be posting my book review soon).

    • aza says:

      thank you, Ally, for such an empowering article. i am too a vegan mom of 2 and share the same challenges. i applaud you for your dedication and courage. (and before i forget to mention it, i am also a fierce lactivist!!! i know it is one of your values too)
      i am also grateful to Sarina, for mentioning the educational children’s books about vegan values. my children are still very young (1 and 3), but it is never too young, as the mainstream propaganda is always out there there, loud and insidious at the same time. i just ordered Ruby Roth’s 3 books and cannot wait to read them with my kids.

  5. Ally says:

    Hi Sarina! Thank you 🙂
    My children own both those books too. The illustrations are stunning aren’t they? I like how ‘That’s Why We Don’t Eat Animals’ discusses factory farming without being graphic or disturbing. The book is clear about the fact that factory farming IS disturbing, but it conveys the information in a way that is appropriate for young children.
    I look forward to reading your review.

  6. Robyn says:

    Great post. Very well said. Thanks for sharing.

    • Ally says:

      Thank you Robyn! I appreciate your kind comment. Thanks for visiting my blog. As a mum of a young vegan child yourself, I know that you have a lot of wisdom to share- I hope you’ll visit again. 🙂

  7. Oh I love you for this post! My daughter is 1 years old and already loves quinoa, lentils, fruit and veggies and your post is so encouraging. I love your outlook on how to teach them. Teaching my daughter to respect animals instead of eat them, is great. Your kids are beautiful too!

    • Ally says:

      Thank you so much for your beautiful comments! I’m so happy that you were able to gain something useful from my post.
      It sounds like your daughter has a healthy appetite. She’s lucky to have a mother who is such a great cook. I think it’s awesome that your family eats quinoa every day.
      🙂

  8. Your kids are precious! Thanks for sharing them with us.

  9. Love this post & am so amazed by all the support and vegan family you have. I suppose our values are mainly passed on by role modeling and providing opportunities at the moment. By providing Zaedyn with animal friends, surrounding him with an animal theme in his jungle room, and exploring in the community, he has always had a huge interest and big smile for all life. Sustainability and being at one with nature is also a huge part of our lives.

    We own both of Ruby Roth’s books, too! Looking to write a few of my own, but starting at a more basic level :). I definitely think writing my blog has increased more awareness and positive curiosity and support from family and friends as they see Zaedyn thrive as a vegan. Will definitely introduce some of your values you promote to your children over time.

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