Q&A’s on parenting a vegan child
I am asked the same questions about how veganism has affected us as a family – I asked them to myself at the beginning too! I’m always happy to answer and examples of these Q&A’s can be read below. First though, a few words on becoming vegan with a young child in tow.
I truly believe that in order for a child to become vegan (unless they are born vegan or too young to know the difference), education is key. To take away a child’s favourite food – in Ruby’s case, sausages – without any explanation would have quite rightly infuriated and confused her and caused endless arguments and mealtime battles.
Most children are naturally drawn to animals, want to care for them and to love them – that’s why we read them nursery rhymes about animals, decorate their rooms with animal pictures, take them to petting farms, etc. But we then feed these animals to them without thinking and without that connection – one moment friend, the next food. We don’t consider the trauma and suffering the animals endure in life and death to end up on our plate. These very animals we buy as cuddly toys to soothe our babies or bring joy in play are also dead and cut up in our fridges. It is as crazy as it sounds once you open your mind, especially as it’s just not necessary in our society, considering that there are cruelty-free alternatives.
We do this not because we are bad people, we are simply not taught to connect and that is why we – myself included for over 30 years – consume our food blindly. We imagine happy animals in fields and don’t think about the end part of their life, or the beginning for that matter. I can’t tell you where my nearest slaughterhouse is, or factory farm because it is hidden away – out of sight and out of mind so we don’t ask questions.
My daughter now knows that in order to have cows’ milk, or cheese, a calf must taken from its mum as a newborn, and then that mum will be killed at some point when she can’t conceive anymore to produce the milk humans demand of her. That a sausage is made from a pig that was also taken from its mother at a very young age and killed against its will. She knows animals feel the same feelings we do – joy, love, that they have family connections and also feel fear and pain. It’s no wonder she is not interested in eating them – I would be very concerned if she did knowing what she now knows. Our vegan story of how, when and why we decided to switch to veganism can be read in full here.
What about kids’ parties?
We haven’t had any issues at all. Close friends already know about her diet, so it’s just a case of quickly showing Ruby what’s got animal product in or not if food is laid out. For school mates or new friends, on accepting an invitation, we just text a quick heads-up that she is vegan and so far everyone has been very accommodating. Click here for our dedicated vegan kids’ parties post.
What if she eats meat when she is older?
She is her own person with her own mind, and what she decides to feed herself as an adult will be up to her. I will love her regardless. It is up to me as her mother to raise her to adulthood with kindness, compassion, respect, to feed her a well-balanced healthy diet, ensure she exercises her brain and body, and stands up for what she believes in. Being vegan incorporates all these values and like all parents I hope the values I raise her with continue into her adulthood.
Doesn’t she miss cheese, honey or meat?
She still has cheese, sausages, bacon, syrup and nuggets – they are just made from plant protein or other alternatives instead of flesh or animal milk. Fry’s Family Food do an excellent range and Oatly is our favouite junk-free milk with added calcium etc.
How about sleepovers and tea-time at friends’?
I completely understand when people wonder what she can eat. I imagine that I may have had the same questions if the boot was on the other foot so I never mind people asking for advice about what to feed her. It shows respect for her choices, which is the sign of a good friendship. When I explain that go-to kids’ favourites like beans on toast, or spaghetti and tomato sauce are vegan there is a look of relief. Hummus, bread and carrots are an easy option as well and not a hassle to prepare. Definitely no need to pop to an obscure health food shop to buy a never-heard-of ingredient. I will often take a carton of soya or oat milk for her morning cereal, lots of standard brand cereals are vegan-friendly – watch out if its fortified with vitamin D3 or contains honey. It is a great way to get other families tasting non-dairy milk too.
What about school dinners?
I presumed she would no longer get the free school dinners children are entitled to in the UK up to the age of 7. However I decided to just see if the school would accommodate her before removing her from the list. To my delight they arranged a brief meeting with the school chef and they veganised the vegetarian options the school routinely offer. It just goes to show it’s always worth asking!
What about the zoo?
I have explained to her that zoos, like circuses, are not kind or natural environments for animals. She read the brilliant Ruby Roth book Vegan is Love and has no interest anymore in going. Instead we visit sanctuaries that rescue, rehome and rehabilitate animals. We are lucky enough to live near Hugletts and FRIENDS farm sanctuaries, both in Kent, and it’s a much more hands-on experience with the animals, which is more fun, plus there is plenty of delicious vegan food on offer at the open days. When we travel, we look to see what sanctuaries are local and support them and the work they do
What about cakes and treats?
Still love them! Vegan cakes are amazing. So many places now offer dairy/gluten-free treats and all the big supermarkets have their own free-from ranges. We love Frill and Coconut Collaboration ice cream, and M&S have a gelatin-free range of some their sweets (check for beeswax in some of the veggie versions though) amongst others, Tesco Free From have great Cornetto style ice cream. The choices are wide and plentiful. On the odd occasion that there is no suitable option, we will just wait until we get home or somewhere that has something. Sometimes it is good to have to wait, especially when you are five! She understands what gelatin is and where it comes from and has no interest in eating it.
What about her Dad?
Her father, my husband, is not vegan. At present, as we share the cooking at home, our family meals are vegan and no meat or dairy milk is kept in our fridge – our home is a vegan home. This time last year veganism wasn’t even on my radar and here I am now, one of thousands of other vegans speaking up for the animals. Nothing is impossible and change can be slow but steady, so I can only be hopeful. At the moment he is 90% plant-based and that’s a positive start for us to be in for now.
Did she choose or did you enforce it on her. Isn’t she too young?
She had the freedom to choose. I am vegan, her father is not. As mentioned above, once she learned about the production of meat and dairy she chose the alternative products out there. No, she is not too young, she is a smart kid able to make this choice. When she did, I took her to our GP who was extremely supportive. She loves fruit and veg and even if something is not to her taste she knows she has to eat it as we don’t cook her separate meals from us. She has a vitamin B12 & D supplement, as do I, (our GP recommended this for all UK children vegan or not) and the rest of her dietary needs are met by her plant-based diet which includes plenty of veg, fruit, seeds, nuts, beans, grains and pulses etc. Every day we read how bad meat and dairy are for our bodies – why would I force that on to her when there are healthier products out there that provide better nutrition and do not stem from the violence and the death of sentient beings?
Where do you get your protein?
Google it. I’m not going there!
I would like to make a special thank you shout out to Emily from Bite Size Vegan, for providing free YouTube clips especially for kids. Thank you for being able to explain the industry in a calm, age-appropriate and kind way to kids. I can recommend watching these with your children if they express an interest in animal welfare and a healthy plant based diet.