Do you think children should be brought up vegan or vegetarian?

Andy_T

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It always amazes me how somebody who is vegan or vegetarian would consider to raise their children on animal products or meat.

Just because eating meat is "normal", feeding your children a vegan or vegetarian diet amounts to "forcing your beliefs on your children". Well, guess what, an omnivorous parent is also forcing his omnivorous worldview on his children.

Have a look at http://www.vrg.org/nutrition/2009_ADA_position_paper.pdf

The American Dietetic Association, hardly a hard-core pro-vegan entity, states the following:

It is the position of the American Dietetic Association that appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases.

Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes.
So, what more to consider?

I can understand the point if you are in a mixed relationship (which is why I do not consider them optimal, living in one myself), but if you are the mother, then you should be able to exert some control what diet your children grow up with.
 

Josie

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Exactly.. no matter what, if you are the one feeding your children and choosing everything that goes into their mouths, you are forcing your diet on them. Hence all the obese children in the world today. The young vegan/vegetarians. The young meat eaters too. I will not exert power over my children's bodies unless they are in danger of becoming ill or hurt.. they can eat whatever they choose, as I have given them the tools to choose wisely.. but meat is an entirely different thing and they choose to continue eating it. I just won't contribute to it financially as that goes against my own beliefs/heart, so they won't be eating it in the house.
 

Andy_T

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Josie, I fully understand your position. It can be tough.

For me, it is a little bit the other way round. When my children were born, I was a happy-go-lucky vegetarian who was happy if I got my vegetarian food and did not care much about what other people were eating. My wife was a meat-eater. So when our kids were born, she (naturally) fed them a diet containing meat.

Since I have turned from vegetarian to vegan, I have become more and more concerned about animals rights and it definitely also matters to me what other people are eating. So I was not so happy anymore that our kids were eating lots of meat. Also, my wife decided, for health reasons, to stop to eat eggs and dairy completely and meat for about 95 %.

She eats and cooks mostly plant-based now, but sometimes she craves some piece of meat or fish and prepares and eats it. She also buys and prepares meat and fish for my first son.

However, both of us wished that our children would eat less meat, eggs and dairy. My wife still thinks that in order for our kids to get enough protein etc., it is good if they do eat at least fish now and then :-/

While my first son (he's 12 now) is a die-hard meat eater (he often complains why he can not live in a "normal" family that cooks meat and fish daily), my second son himself has, when he was about 8, decided that he does not want to eat meat anymore, mainly due to his love of animals. He still does eat fish seldom, and cheese now and then, but he definitely understands the requirement to go vegan. So I do have high hopes for him to, one day (he is 11 now), completely stop to eat animal products.

And I must say that I am quite proud he made this realization himself, only inspired by my example.
 
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I think it is alright to do so, as long as you provide them with all the necessary nutrients. Some people might oppose you and say that you are forcing your lifestyle on them, but so are omnivores, to be completely honest.
 
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Laura

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I have a 13 month old, and we are bringing her up in a pescatarian household...for now. In my opinion, as a parent it's my job to provide nutritious food for my daughter, but not to patrol how much or when she eats. Any time you enforce any type of special diet or limitation you have to be careful. This also applies to other areas outside of food. The best I can do is provide and prepare nutritious snacks and meals, and go from there. I don't want it to get to a point where she ever feels she has to go sneak something. Then you can have even bigger problems on your hands. My Mother was always very critical of my weight and appearance my whole life, and to this day I still prefer to eat alone in my room. I will share with her why I am a vegetarian/pescatarian when she asks. If she asks me to try meat, I will find the best product I can and allow her to try it. That's all I can do.

I think the other thing you have to be careful of, especially with children, is making sure you know all you can about the food alternatives to serve them to make sure they're still getting all the nutrition they need. Many people (including myself when I officially cut out meat 3 years ago) don't know much about proper nutrition. I have so much more knowledge about this diet now, than I did when I started. I remember eating a lot of baked potatoes, dull salads and cheese quesadillas. Not the epitome of health. I still don't consider myself to be a professional, but I do feel I have enough information to properly nourish my daughter.
 
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Is it possible to raise a child and NOT impose your diet on them? I mean, I guess it is, but most parents impose all sorts of things on their kids. We just don't hear about meat eating parents imposing their lifestyle on kids because it's the norm. My parents made me eat all sorts of stuff I didn't like. It's just part of raising a kid. It's probably best just to educate them on why you're making that decision and eventually let them make their own one when they're able to.

Whether or not you're imposing isn't as important as how healthy the diet is. If you don't really know how to do protein substitutions correctly, you might be harming your children.
 
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Josie

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Josie, I fully understand your position. It can be tough.

For me, it is a little bit the other way round. When my children were born, I was a happy-go-lucky vegetarian who was happy if I got my vegetarian food and did not care much about what other people were eating. My wife was a meat-eater. So when our kids were born, she (naturally) fed them a diet containing meat.

Since I have turned from vegetarian to vegan, I have become more and more concerned about animals rights and it definitely also matters to me what other people are eating. So I was not so happy anymore that our kids were eating lots of meat. Also, my wife decided, for health reasons, to stop to eat eggs and dairy completely and meat for about 95 %.

She eats and cooks mostly plant-based now, but sometimes she craves some piece of meat or fish and prepares and eats it. She also buys and prepares meat and fish for my first son.

However, both of us wished that our children would eat less meat, eggs and dairy. My wife still thinks that in order for our kids to get enough protein etc., it is good if they do eat at least fish now and then :-/

While my first son (he's 12 now) is a die-hard meat eater (he often complains why he can not live in a "normal" family that cooks meat and fish daily), my second son himself has, when he was about 8, decided that he does not want to eat meat anymore, mainly due to his love of animals. He still does eat fish seldom, and cheese now and then, but he definitely understands the requirement to go vegan. So I do have high hopes for him to, one day (he is 11 now), completely stop to eat animal products.

And I must say that I am quite proud he made this realization himself, only inspired by my example.
Oh I care very much what my children eat.. that's why the only choices they have in the house are healthy options. We don't buy processed foods for the most part so just like with the meat, they'll be eating what we want to contribute to and what contributes to our health. We have given them the choice, because that is there right as human beings. They aren't my property to control, so if they leave this house and decide they want to have a piece of pizza to "treat" themselves, so be it. They will be less likely to come to the realization themselves, if the realization is really just my doing. I teach by example and they are closer to veganism than most.
 

VesperLynd

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I think like with LGBT or certain religions children should be able to choose if they want to be vegan or not. There's nothing wrong with them eating vegan foods at home if it's the only thing available and they're not complaining but if they wanted meat we should be able to provide it. If they go out and get a burger you shouldn't care if it's cow or mushroom.
 

Josie

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Hmm.. Neither L, G, B or T is a choice, so not sure how that fits in here ;) lol.. but agree with you otherwise. I kept religion up in the air as well. I'm Atheist, but raised my children to think for themselves. One is a believer, one is not. it's our job to guide our kids, not force them to be what we are.. give them the tools, not tell them how it's done. But when it comes to something you are so heavily against, things get very tricky. I think we came up with a good compromise. My kids can eat meat whenever they want and they respect the fact that I don't want to pay someone to kill animals for them, because it would hurt me to do so; they would feel bad for that. I don't believe in forcing anything on children and my kids feel the same because I raised them with complete respect.. hence not making me feel forced to buy it for them. Win/win.
 

Andy_T

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I also force my belief on my children that they should not smoke or drink alcohol, until they are old enough to decide for themselves.
 
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I'm struggling with this now. I've raised my children to be themselves at all cost. I will not impose my beliefs on them or hold power over them. But it's my job to guide them.. keep them safe and healthy and I've seen and studied enough to know that meat isn't healthy, setting aside the dark side of it. Sure, many live long lives on it, but that's a weak argument for it. Better safe than sorry in my books.

Anyway, both of my children were raised on meat. I thought human beings needed it. I was wrong. After seeing what actually goes on in the meat and dairy industry, I became vegan overnight. And so did my children, because I pay for the food lol. They didn't even notice at first, because we barely ate meat as it is.. but then I brought all of this to their attention so they would be informed and make up their own minds. As sad as they were about what the animals are going through, they were raised on meat, like meat, and didn't want to give it up. One of them is old enough to decide for himself at this point, so he's eating meat again. The other though.. I'm struggling. For now we've agreed that when he's out with others or he's paying for it himself, he can eat whatever he wants, it's his body, but I hope he respects his father's and my feelings and doesn't expect us to contribute financially to the suffering of animals or prepping his body for poor health down the road. It's out of love, not dictatorship lol. So far it's working for us.. none of us want to impose on the others, so for the time being, this is how we do it. I still feel bad though, because I know he craves it.. but I'm trying to get over it, because I'm doing something for his health, and the lives of others, it's not a bad thing.
That's so upsetting! I don't know what you can do - but definitely stay strong as you have been, and hopefully he will want to come back to the way you have brought him up.

I don't know exactly how old he is, but I presume he is a teenager, from what you say. I wonder if it might help to show him a vegan graphic novel called Maddicts which is a darkly comic satire thriller about the animals getting organised and breaking free, and the meat addicts responding to the loss of meat. I haven't described it very well, but you can look at it and read the whole thing for free here and it's also available to buy as a paperback. I don't want to give too much away, but it's a great story with a vegan theme and it might be another way for him to look at the situation.

The website I've linked to has loads of other stuff on it which might appeal to your son too - there is stuff there for all ages, and it just really shows all the joy and fun and excitement of veganism, and how veganism is not an abstinence from the things you want, but a participation in something fantastic. There is a whole teenagers page, here and lots of other things.

There is also a character called Luke Walker, who is vegan and rebellious, always getting into trouble for being naughty in the name of fighting for his principals and saving animals. His stories are really funny, and you can read them all for free here or you can also get the book in paper back. You can see all their books that are for sale by clicking here or you can read all their stories, comics and poems for free on their website: https://violetsvegnecomics.com/ They also have a vegan music page, which has lots of different styles of music and musicians, professional and not, playing music inspired by veganism. Here is a link to a song which I really like, which is fun and funny, with words which talk about being vegan.

This website I am sure will also appeal to your younger child, too :)