“There is no single effort more radical in its potential for saving the world than a transformation in the way we raise our children” – Marianne Williamson
I had always wanted children, then I got really into environmentalism and considered it unethical for me to have children, but now that I have found a wonderful man and I have changed my mind, again. I think.
The Case for Not Having Children
More millennial’s are opting against kids and it’s fairly easy to see why. It’s not because they’re self-absorbed or wouldn’t be great parents – it’s that the world is becoming a more difficult place to live. Personally, I can’t shake the thought that if I were to have children, they would be one of the first generations to feel the full force of a rapidly changing climate. This thought is even harder to shake when month after month during 2016, temperatures hit world records and the planet is now at the hottest it has been in 115,000 years. To make matters worse, the population is only increasing but the amount of global resources remains finite. I feel like I already have “mother guilt” just thinking of the un-justness of premeditating bringing a child into such a hellish environment.
In a fairly recent road trip to Pat’s family home, I got worked up in a pre-menstrual mental breakdown, exclaiming that I don’t know if I want to bring children into a world where there will soon be a global fire. Miraculously, he still wants me to be the mother of his children, simply explaining “but I think we could raise good children.” The issue of global population growth and resources is a taboo topic that sits safely in the too-hard basket for a lot of people. It is a very ethical and compassionate choice not to have children in this day and age. However, if your maternal instinct is as strong as mine, there is a way to have a small footprint on the Earth and still hear the pitter patter of little feet.
The Case for Raising (Vegan) Children
I would like to raise vegan children, in fact, if I couldn’t raise vegan children, I wouldn’t want to raise children at all. Raising vegan children is the only ethical justification I can make for having children given my values and beliefs. The world doesn’t need more innocent children raised within the carnistic ideology who turn into resource consuming, thoughtless adults. I can justify bringing a few more vegans into the world though.
“Setting aside personal preferences for the taste of eating animals and the huge profits for the food and medical businesses, the scientific truth is that your child will thrive on a starch-based, animal product-free diet and avoid diseases now commonly found among his or her peers and classmates. Parents and children must become familiar with the nutritional facts in order to avoid everyday pitfalls” – Dr John McDougall
There are plenty of studies that show that the benefits of a vegan diet are also applicable to children. While the science is consistent on these benefits, “experts” in the media are instilling fear in parents by warning them not to omit the meat and dairy products that have made people – and children – sick for generations. The primary consideration of a vegan diet for children (from my very limited understanding) is that the vegan diet is one of the lowest in calories of all “diets” – if you don’t eat much. As children have small stomachs, they don’t eat much and hence, their meals must be as calorie-dense as possible.
These are some handy hints for feeding vegan children from The Vegan Society:
Breast milk or infant formula should be a major part of your child’s nutrition until at least age one, but start introducing solid foods around six months (the greatest time of growth in a child’s life happens during his or her first two years and the ideal diet during these nutritionally demanding times is breast milk)
Home-prepared cereals should be made as a thick porridge rather than thin gruel. Add a little vegetable oil to the cooked grains to increase their calorie content, this also improves palatability by making them less glutinous as they cool
Use more soya bean oil or rapeseed (canola) oil, and less sunflower, safflower or corn oils. The former help encourage the production of fatty acids that are important for the development of the brain and vision
Spread breads with avocado, or seed/nut butters to increase calories
Low-salt nutritional yeast extract is a good source of B vitamins for older children (check your brand is fortified with vitamin B12)
Well-cooked and mashed pulses (e.g. lentils and chick peas) provide energy and protein. It is important to strain them through a sieve to get rid of the skins, so that children can digest the legumes better. Use black molasses to boost iron and calcium intakes
Choose calcium-fortified tofu (also rich in protein), which can be served mashed or as finger food
Make sure children have access to healthy sun exposure regularly; provide vitamin D supplements otherwise
Use non-dairy milks e.g. soya milk that are fortified with calcium, vitamin D2 and vitamin B12
Green vegetables are an excellent source of iron, calcium and antioxidants. Try blending them into a tomato-based pasta sauce if your child isn’t keen on them. Or try adding them to juices with sweeter vegetables such as carrot.
I would have a vegan pregnancy too, obviously. As you may be able to tell, I’m not overly concerned about the health of my future children in or out of my womb – I know they will thrive. If they don’t, I’d seek a medical doctor with actual nutrition training, or better still, a naturopath. It’s a non-issue for me given I have experienced the health benefits for myself. However, people within our carnistic culture view vegan parenting as taboo and there are no shortage of vegan parents around the world making headlines when they end up in hospital or reported to child protection services. Whilst I don’t think it’s ethical to raise your child on an inadequate vegan diet, I also don’t think its ethical to raise children on processed, animal products – but there’s certainly more people doing the latter that aren’t being called abusive parents. It’s a pretty obvious double standard. If however you suspect someone is only feeding their child on solely wild berries or McDonald’s chicken nuggets, get in contact with a health professional.
Ethical Pet Ownership
“Ethical vegans hope and work for a world in which some day no animals are considered property, no animals are born or bred into captivity, and no animals are domesticated or unfree. A belief in animal liberation is thus not compatible with a belief in the continued institution of “pet” ownership. We absolutely have an obligation to rescue, adopt and care for animals for as long as these victims of domestication exist, but a truly liberated world will be one in which no animals have their liberties denied and none are owned” – Ashley Capps
Is feeding your cats or dogs other, less privileged animals ethical?
Some vegans can find themselves confronted with a difficult dilemma when it comes to what to feed the companion animals in their care. Much of the scientific literature classifies dogs as omnivores, not carnivores. Dogs are known to thrive on a properly formulated vegan diet. This can be done with either with ready-made vegan dog food (VeganPet is one brand available in Australia) or by preparing a whole foods diet for them including vegetables like rice, sweet potatoes or carrots, lentils etc. One of the longest-lived dogs recorded in history, Bramble, was vegan and lived to be 25 in human years.
There is more legitimate concern around the subject of raising cats on a vegan diet because cats are carnivores. However, this does not mean they cannot obtain all the nutrients they need from synthetically supplemented vegan cat food. The most commonly circulated objection to vegan cats has been disproven, which is the argument that cats cannot obtain the crucial nutrient taurine from a vegan diet. Pet food usually is made from slaughterhouse by-products, or bits of slaughtered animals deemed unfit for human consumption (and synthetic taurine is added to this anyway, as it is in all good vegan alternatives).
“Years after mad cow disease was linked to the cannabilistic feeding of cows to cows; rendered animals are still routinely used in some pet food and commercial feed. Cows, pigs, chickens, dogs and cats are innocently eating each other” – Sharon Gannon, Cats and Dogs are People too
The greater risk for cats is that some cats fed even the most nutritionally balanced vegan cat food end up developing serious urinary tract problems which can be fatal, so the decision to transition your cat to a vegan diet should be made with great caution. However, many vegan cats are documented as living a healthy and well, long life – their pets, the vegan humans, seem to as well.
Thanks for reading,
References and Resources
In The Age Of Climate Change, I’ve Decided Not To Have Kids. Here’s Why: http://www.1millionwomen.com.au/blog/age-climate-change-ive-decided-not-have-kids-heres-why/
Veganism gives children best start in life: https://www.vegansociety.com/whats-new/blog/veganism-gives-children-best-start-life
Can Children Thrive On A Vegan Diet? http://www.1millionwomen.com.au/blog/can-children-thrive-vegan-diet/
Vegan diet for children and in pregnancy: https://www.vegansociety.com/resources/nutrition-and-health/vegan-diet-children-and-pregnancy
Diet, Children, and the Future: https://www.forksoverknives.com/diet-children-and-the-future/
Why Moms Should Want Vegan Children: https://www.forksoverknives.com/why-moms-should-want-vegan-children/
Proposed law to jail vegan parents for abusing their children: https://tenplay.com.au/news/national/august/proposed-law-to-jail-vegan-parents-for-abusing-their-children
Vegan children’s book author, Ruby Roth, interview: https://www.facebook.com/garytvcom/videos/1014976795224235/
Most information on vegan pets sourced from: http://freefromharm.org/common-justifications-for-eating-animals/vegan-dogs-and-cats/
Purchase vegan cat and dog food in Australia: veganpet.com.au
Should we feed cats a plant-based diet? https://www.facebook.com/veganpublishers/videos/1027776527348159/
Cats and Dogs are People Too – Sharon Gannon