Tuesday, February 25th, 2020

Raising a Child According to Your Values

Published on March 17, 2011 by   ·   35 Comments Pin It

Robyn Moore is a mother with a big, kind heart and even more compassionate values.  Her baby girl Charlotte will be raised entirely without animal products.  Here’s why;

When I tell people that I’m raising my child vegan, I sometimes feel as though I have to defend and explain my decision. My decision is passive—I’m just leaving out certain foods from her diet. But parents who are feeding their kids meat, dairy, and eggs are actively adding in foods. So shouldn’t it be the other way around? Shouldn’t they have to defend their decision to purchase that hot dog that came from a pig whose mother never stepped foot on grass or saw the sky (except from the slot in the truck on her way to the slaughterhouse) and was forced to live in a tiny metal crate amid her own urine and feces, where she was unable to even turn around or take a step forward or backward for weeks on end?

Why don’t parents who are feeding their kids meat and other products taken from animals have to defend their decision? They’re giving their kids cow’s milk, which is exactly that … cow’s milk! Isn’t that a little strange? It’s meant to fatten up calves. Humans are the only species that drinks another species’ milk, and we’re the only species that drinks any milk past infancy. Casino mogul Steve Wynn said it best: “It’s liquid cholesterol!”

What exactly is it that people are concerned that my child will be missing out on … high cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart disease, and obesity? It surely can’t be protein, calcium, or iron because there are tons of healthy plant-based sources (spinach, nuts, whole grains, vegetables, beans, and fortified juices, cereals, pasta, etc.) that don’t have the added fat and cholesterol, not to mention the hormones and antibiotics.

The sad truth is, in this society, any behavior or child-rearing decision that goes against the norm is often seen as wrong or irresponsible. Even weird. And that’s a shame because it often prevents people (in this case, parents) from doing the right thing. Unfortunately, society’s backlash is a strong deterrent, and so is the desire to adhere to the status quo.

Despite the many studies indicating that vegan diets are not only appropriate for children, but may in fact be healthier (for example, the American Dietetic Association—the nation’s largest group of nutrition professionals—stated, “Well-planned vegan diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes”), parents are still opting to add animal products to their children’s diet, mainly as a result of tradition and being constantly bombarded with messages from the dairy and meat industries. Years of slogans like “Milk does the body good” and “You
need meat for protein” have been drilled into our heads by multi-billion dollar industries pushing their products. If milk does the body so “good” then why is it that the countries that consume the most milk are also the countries with the highest rates of osteoporosis- and vice versa. And the more animal protein that a population consumes, the higher the prevalence of osteoporosis. There is a big protein myth out there, but the fact is Americans eat about 400% more protein than necessary, and even vegetarians eat more than they need.

It would be unethical for me to feed my child meat, dairy, or eggs based on what I know about how animals are raised for food. You can look the other way or deny that it’s as bad as they say, but the truth is, the majority of meat/dairy and eggs sold in this country (>95%) come from animals who have been raised in appalling conditions—in overcrowded, filthy warehouses, where they are crammed into small cages and crates and denied basic necessities, including fresh air, sunshine, grass, and companionship. Simply put, I don’t believe that animals should be treated like this, so I’m choosing to leave cruel animal products out of my child’s diet. I’m teaching her that if she wants to help end animal suffering—and also not knowingly contribute to major environmental problems including global warming, water and air pollution, deforestation, and soil erosion— she has to be a part of the solution, and that means not supporting it (with dollars). This is what it really means to live according to your values.

People raise their children according to their own set of morals and values. Just like a Buddhist wouldn’t raise her child Catholic and an environmentalist wouldn’t raise his child to be wasteful, I wouldn’t serve my child chicken fingers or ice cream. Children are little extensions of ourselves (at least until they’re old enough to make their own decisions). In our society, we typically do not allow children to make the decision to participate in anything that is morally questionable until they are of age. Since I consider the way that animals are raised for food in this country to be morally abhorrent, I therefore would not impose animal products upon my child and would not allow her to make that decision until she is old enough to think critically and understand the consequences.

So instead of focusing on what my child is not getting (fat-laden, cholesterol-filled slabs of meat as well as milk, cheese, and eggs from miserable animals who’ve been raised in terrible conditions), I’m focusing on what she is getting (a healthy balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds). And she’s getting a whole lot more than that— including a moral compass based on compassion, justice, courage, and integrity. So if you’re raising a vegan child like I am, stop being on the defensive, and start embracing it! Be proud that you are living with intention and consciously choosing compassion over cruelty!

Robyn Moore is a writer, Mother, and creator of the NYC Vegetarian and Vegan Families Meetup group. It’s a place for families to gather and exchange ideas, and where veg kids can have fun without having to worry about what they can eat or participate in. It’s a group of families who are choosing to raise their kids humanely, according to the belief that animals are not here for our use, whether it be for our food, products, entertainment, or clothing.

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Readers Comments (35)

  1. Serena says:

    I was a vegan baby. In between I “went veggie” (ie. started to eat dairy & egg) and am vegan once again. I’m now eighteen, confident enough to make my own dietary choices & whatnot.
    Did I sometimes want things like Lunchables etc when I was a kid? Yes. Did I sometimes feel like I ate “weird” food (REAL food)? Yes. DO I regret any of my veganism? NO NO NO. I am so so happy that my mom chose to bring me up vegan. I also do not regret my transition to vegetarianism, but I am feeling much healthier (and because of that, happier) eating fully plant based foods once again. :-)

  2. Shay says:

    nice article :)!
    and the baby photo is adorable!

  3. Sylvia says:

    Thanks, so true. I´m also raising my 11 month old son to be a vegan but for now he´s a vegetarian because he still drinks powder-milk.

  4. elaine says:

    I applaud you, start them with health and information at the get-go. It reinforces the reality of good choices in the future!

  5. Morphetus says:

    I am not vegetarian but my wife is and our two year old is vegetarian as well. I agreed to raise our baby vegetarian because I believe is the right thing to do. I don’t crave meat like I hear other men do but I like having the option to eat it. Who knows, I may or may not become vegetarian at some point.
    People eat meat because that’s how they were raised, and it is so natural for them that they don’t feel the need to question it, and since they are here and alive, it is (for them) a living proof that it works. Changing the diet, specially if it is for your children, means that you have to trust what other people say and you haven’t been able to prove on yourself.
    I think vegans have not been able to make their point correctly, because it seems that the argument is understood (from the meat eater point of view) as a “eating meat” issue rather than a “cruelty” issue. The cruelty towards farmed animals is undeniable, but eating meat is a natural thing that happens at all levels in nature and a powerful argument in favor of eating meat.
    Then there is milk. People in developed countries often forget that drinking milk is NOT a modern invention of the corporations. Humans have been drinking milk before history, in times when drinking milk was often the only source of food, so much so that they preferred drinking the milk of a cow or goat before killing the animal for meat. You can still find examples of this behavior in certain native groups in Africa.
    I am advocating eating meat here. I do think being vegetarian is way more healthy, but there are issues that need to be demystified if we want to create a healthier and more humane society, otherwise vegans will continue to target the wrong issues.

    • It’s sad that you still dine on the dead despite the fact that you think being vegetarian is “the right thing to do”

      And on that: being vegetarian is actually *not* the right thing to do because it’s living in a way that doesn’t abuse animals. The dairy, eggs and honey industries are as abusive as the meat industry. Also, wearing animals and using products tested on them is as abusive as eating animals and their secretions.

      Being vegetarian is as meaningful as saying: “I’m doing my bit for animals by not wearing woollen hats any more”.

      I have to ask too: why in the world do you even care to supposedly de-mystify certain issues when you yourself don’t take veganism (a life of non-violence towards animals, the planet and ourselves) as a moral baseline?

      If you care, go vegan and target what you consider to be the correct issues instead of just giving it lipservice by telling vegans what they should be focussing on.

  6. Morphetus says:

    Sorry, I meant “I am not advocating eating meat”!!!!

  7. Kristen says:

    I have always raised our kiddos vegan. The way I grew up…against my parents wishes. But when it’s who you are no one can change it. We are high raw gluten free vegans. We eat whole organics. Since we are life learners we have made nutrition and health part of our course. The kids know exactly what all the vitamins/minerals are and why we need them. They understand free radicals and so much more then I did at their ages. Even the baby downs green smoothies. He’ll fuss if he thinks he isn’t getting one. Lol. Great article. Thank you.

  8. Meridith says:

    We’ve been raising my 3 year old on a vegan diet since birth (right when we made the full transition ourselves). It can definitely be challenging at times, but we’re lucky to have a wonderful support system because my whole side of the family eats a vegan diet and my brother is a pediatrician that advocates vegan diets for his patients and their families. We made the switch primarily for our own health, but as time has gone by I have educated myself about animal rights and am so thankful that not only is this diet better for my health, but for the health of animals (and the environment) too.

    Eating the flesh and secretions of animals seems far from natural to me. Especially considering the conditions the flesh and secretions are gathered. We are long since removed from hunting/gathering days. That being said, I do not judge others for their choices so I would appreciate not being judged for mine. The only thing I do ask if that people educate themselves about where their food is coming from, then and only then can informed decisions really be made.

  9. Robyn, you’re such an inspiration! You’re absolutely right in pointing out that vegan parents need not be on the defensive, particularly given the wide variety of amazing plant foods available to us today.

    I appreciate too Serena’s comment above. My daughter, age 5, is a happy vegan, but I realize there will be uncomfortable moments for her (just as there are for me, as an adult vegan). I am hopeful that those will not deter her and that she will honor our commitment to veganism as she matures, just as Serena is doing.

  10. Rebecca says:

    EXACTLY. And every time someone asks me if I am “raising my kids vegetarian” I want to ask them if they would ask me that about my religion. OF COURSE I AM. We raise your children using the lens through which we view the world. Raising humane children who don’t eat/use animals is a positively laudable goal: it means we are raising children likely to fully appreciate our impact on the earth and all of its beings and children who early on will understand that animals can feel and suffer and that it’s not right when humans cause suffering. THANK YOU for your post.

  11. Aurora Cooney says:

    Wonderful article. I didn’t raise my children vegan, but I raised them to be compassionate. So much so that they made the connection way before I did. Three of my daughters(I have 5 girls, 1 boy) became vegan/vegetarian when they reach 12-13 years. They were the ones who opened up my eyes to my own inconsistency. Today, all 5 girls are vegan/vegetarian. My son is the only one who eats meat. I have been vegan for 6 years now and only regret that I didn’t do it sooner.

    • Aurora: while I don’t doubt that you raised your kids as best you could according to your knowledge at the time, knowing what you know now, you can’t say in truth that you raised your kids to be compassionate. Because the only way to truly raise kids to be compassionate is to raise them vegan.

      With every bite of animal carcass, with every drink of bovine secretion, with every scrambled hen menstruation they ate their natural compassion was being taken from them.

      I’m sure you were teaching them compassion in other areas (I’m not saying you were not teaching them to be compassionate at all – of course not!), but certainly not towards animals – not if you were feeding them dead bodies and animal secretions.

      Luckily they made the connection (hooray to them) and it’s GREAT that you are vegan now. Well done!

  12. amanda says:

    My boyfriend nearly lost his children in a custody battle with the maternal grandmother because we are vegan and wanted the children to eat healthy. The Guadarian Ad Litum wanted to give the grandmother full custody and saw nothing wrong with her taking the children to fast food every single visit. Now, the older (nonbiological) child who has ADHD lives with her full time and is a mental and physical trainwreck bc this “court-chosen” household feeds her nothing but chicken and pizza and stopped her therapy. The younger (biological) daughter lives with grandmother half the time, but she doesnt like eating animals but is still forced. The whole situation makes me so sick.

  13. Missqa says:

    Thank you for this piece! While I don’t have kids yet, I have been outspoken about wanting to raise them vegan – and it often gets frowned upon. If anyone has a hubby that’s not vegan (at least yet:-) and raised vegan kids, please let me know how you made that happen!

  14. […] Raising a Child According to Your Values […]

  15. […] Moore is a mom to Charlotte, whom she and her husband, Martin, are raising vegan. Robyn has her master’s degree in […]

  16. Ian McDonald says:

    Interesting blog post.

    It’s reassuring to hear what children brought up vegan say when they’re grown up – three adults talked to our internet radio show about being vegan born and bred, and whether they stayed vegan or not, they all remembered their upbringing fondly.

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