My kids (ages 7, 7 and 9) have a good understanding of the health reasons for avoiding meat, and the environmental damage, but a very minimal exposure to animal cruelty. They occasionally eat meat with their Dad or other family members but very little. They are good about saying no to ice cream, wheat, dairy, junk food, etc and I would like to encourage a 'no' decision to all meat. I have one particularly sensitive child age 7 and I'm a little worried about exposing him to all this cruelty. I just re-read Forks Over Knives and the section about animal cruelty is not extremetly graphic but gets to the point. I'm thinking about starting by reading a few chapters out of that book.
I guess I'm looking for guidance and to see how other families have explained human cruelty towards animals. Have you used any other books or videos that worked well for you? Do you think it's too much horridness to expose to a sensitive child?
I'd appreciate any comments, suggestions, related stories, thanks.
I became vegan after the first time I saw a living animal in person. I went to a farm where there were cows and goats and chicken, and I looked them in the eye, and saw that they were people and they were equals. I saw they were capable of feeling end experiencing the same I was able to feel and experience, and that they needed care, love and attention just as much as I do, and that they ought to be respected and that no harm could be inflicted upon them.
Actually, I didn't see all this immediately. But meeting animals in person left a profound impression upon me. Shortly after, I was struck by a philosophical dilemma, which I called the 'Soldier's Dilemma'. As a soldier in a battlefield I was confronted with a terrible dilemma: either killing or dying. If I didn't kill I would die, or so I thought. The solution to the dilemma, came only after a long period of philosophical reflection, which lasted several months: I realized that death could only ever generate more death, and if I wanted to put an end to this cycle of death the only way out of it would be refusing to kill, even if this costed my own life.
It was then that I decided to become vegetarian, and shortly after vegan. I knew absolutely nothing about animal cruelty back then. The animals in that farm I visited had relatively good lives. They were treated well, could roam around freely... And I assumed that all animals had similarly pleasant lives. Yet it struck me as unethical and unacceptable to keep animals as slaves, deprive them of their full freedom, raise them for what one could extract from them, rather than by their intrinsic value as living beings. I slowly began to understand that living beings must be treated as such, and not as 'things' that could be used.
As a matter of fact, I had never even heard of the word vegan back then... I had vaguely heard of the word vegetarian, but was not quite sure what it meant... It was always used with negative content, almost as an insult...
To say the truth, I wasn't even sure whether I could live without eating the dead corpses of my murdered friends... So, I was essentially doing an experiment...
I only came to know about animal rights abuse and all the horrors of factory farming much later. When I first watched a video about it, I was so devastated I couldn't stop crying and I thought for a while life was no longer worth living if man was a such a cruel being. Never had I felt so ashamed of being human. I wondered what would I have felt had I watched these videos while I still directly contributed to the horrors I saw. I would probably not have been able to stand it. I think I would probably have committed suicide.
But then I fell again into a deep state of reflection, from which I woke up with a profound conviction: Veganism is not just a matter of personal decision, it is an ethical imperative, it is our very obligation as living beings. It was then that I realized that avoiding the consumption of products that involve the exploitation of animals was not enough. I started to understand that my individual actions meant nothing weren't they part of a wider collective action. So, I figured that Vegan activism was an essential part of being Vegan, which really only means being alive and fulfill our obligation as living beings.
At that moment, my life acquired a sense of meaning it had never previously had. I understood that the very purpose of my life was to help my friends and to awaken people who were hurting their friends so profoundly. I saw how selfish I had always been and I have been trying to become more and more selfless.
As a result, I have become increasingly happy and unafraid of punishment, or ridicule, or reprehension, or even death itself. And I feel my life has so much more purpose and meaning than I could ever have dreamed possible.
Throughout the years, I have talked to many people face-to-face. I left a deep impression upon many of them, others were untouched, still others managed to turn the table around and make astute statements that left me genuinely disturbed. I don't know whether I managed to convince anyone to change their habits, but I know one thing: in all such encounters, I felt I grew as a person. Those who were moved made me feel stronger. The ones who were untouched made me learn to be patient and understanding. Finally, the ones who managed to disturb me were probably the ones who made me grow the most: I learned from them how to argue and hear your opponent in an argument; I have seen that there are many good arguments against Veganism, some of which I have been able to refute, and many of which I haven't. They have taught me to respect humans for their intelligence and wit and for their capacity of formulating impressively good arguments to justify almost any course of action.
I haven't changed my way of thinking and living; I still think Veganism is an ethical imperative and our very obligation as living beings; my conviction that it is so is actually stronger than ever. However, I am no longer fundamentalist and intolerant about it, or at least I am a little less than I used to be. By this I mean not that I no longer think all people should be Vegans, but rather that I no longer see (or at least I try not to see) someone as evil for not being Vegan.
I am Vegan because I believe this is the way I am supposed to live. No form of coercion, not even torture, will make me stop being Vegan. However, the day someone presents me an argument that effectively convinces me that Veganism is not the way we are supposed to live, I will immediately stop being Vegan. I will do anything if there is a good enough argument for it, although my standards of what a good argument is are very high.
I still feel ashamed of being human, and I'm still unable to regard the human species very highly, but at least I think I have learned to respect it, or at the very least have been trying to learn it. It is my duty as a living being to love and respect each and every living being, be they human or non-human. I believe that once you understand this, you'll realize that Veganism is the only ethical way of living.
I hope my story has been helpful to you. I wish you and your family and your children a long and happy life filled with great wonderful blissful moments and lots of fresh ripe deliciously sweet fruit!
Love, Daniel <3
Well I was just about to post an answer and then I read Daniel's beautiful response! Nothing I can say can beat what he has said so eloquently but I just wanted to let you know about some things which I found very helpful.
My son is now nearly 8 but he has been vegetarian since birth and vegan for about 2 years now. My partner was a meateater until about 3 years ago. I have been vegetarian for 25 years and vegan for 2 and a half years. I never cooked meat in the house so my partner knew my feelings but he would have eaten meat if we were out somewhere. After I turned vegan when I discovered 80/10/10 it began to distress me that he would eat meat. I finally asked him to watch the film Earthlings, which is incredibly moving but much too graphic for children, in my opinion. He looked visibly shaken by the film and just said, "I'm not eating meat again". In fact he gave up dairy as well because of the film. I wanted to explain to my son why we were vegan and I discovered a picture book called, That's why we don't eat animals by Ruby Roth. It explains things in a non-gory fashion - although it's a picture book probably meant for younger children I would say it might be useful to explain that animals have feelings and families too. Good luck. xx
Janet, thanks, I will try to get my hands on that book. I'd like my husband to watch Earthlings too but I'm not sure I can make it through it honestly. I guess that sounds wimpy - I never even watch violent movies (don't watch any tv shows), I just can't.
Oh, thank you so much for the compliment! I'm so moved by your words I feel a bit embarrassed... I'm nearly crying now...
Thank you Daniel for your heartfelt words. I understand your feeling of shame at how animals could be treated in such a way. That is the one of the reasons I am reluctant to break open the whole topic with my kids. How do I explain this? I myself am afraid to watch "Earthlings" or other graphic videos. And what do these truths and images do to a young child? That is my worry. But I certainly cannot let them find out for themselves, I have to be the one.
have your children ever seen farm animals in person, looked them face-to-face, eye-to-eye?
I think this is a very important experience and a crucial step in forming our ethical conscience.
You may take them to an organic free-range farm like the one I went (actually it was not primarily an animal farm, but a vegetable farm - I'm sorry for my bad English).
The film 'Meat: the truth' comes to my mind. I don't remember it to be all that graphic, but perhaps I remember it wrong. Perhaps I should re-watch it. It is not exactly a children's movie though.
There is a short cartoon called The Meatrix; I recommend you take a look at it. I'm not entirely sure how appropriate it is for children, though.
I've just remembered a wonderful book I read which gave me so many reasons to go vegan. It's called The World Peace Diet by Will Tuttle. You could read some of the more gentle extracts to your children. I especially remember that I couldn't think why eating eggs was wrong until I read this book. I knew that factory farmed hens were living in awful conditions but I didn't think that eating organic free range eggs was wrong until I read Tuttles explanation about birds' natural nesting instincts, etc. He explains a lot about animals and the feelings they have which they share with humans. Brilliant read.
That sounds good, Janet, thanks. I'll check it out.
Daniel, we live in a farming community so we see lots of small farms and their animals, free range, organic & natural type farms. But I agree the more contact the easier for them to make a connection.
I'll check out the movie and cartoon you mentioned.
Thanks for your help, Mary
OK, I'll try it again: that's life I guess..
So here it is:
No Happy Cows: Dispatches from the Frontlines of Food Revolution
by John Robbins (a must read!)
demolishes common prejudices about animals:
pigs are very clean animals, despite the reputation we have unfairly given them.
Vegan Is Love: Having Heart and Taking Action
That's Why We Don't Eat Animals: A Book About Vegans, Vegetarians, and All Living Things
by the wonderful Ruby Roth!
Herb the Vegetarian Dragon
by Jules Bass
Do yourself a favor and read yourself and your children!
I'm sorry if I cannot rewrite my text as carefully as I had previously...
Love, Taneli <3
More than 80% of all french mothers would read "without hesitation" the book Vegan is Love to their children! (for more info, see my thread) It seems that people on 30bad (a vegan site!) care less about Veganism (or at least about vegan children books; or at the very least about this particular book) than people on this(see my thread) (non-vegan!) mothering site.
Would you care to leave a reply to my thread in order to raise its awareness?
Love, Daniel <3