Thursday, September 11, 2014

Toddlesworth Vegan Vindication

Bold by Lord Covington

While the health reasons are myriad, our veganess comes from an origin of ethics.We do not believe you can truly be a good person and endorse the torture of another being for your convenience or enjoyment. Since even the most casual research into factory farms (where most Americans get all of their meat) shows you that the animals suffer greatly, we can't in good conscience be a part of that.

From twelve to my early teens, I referred to myself as a "dedicated meatgan."  All the while, I would experience nausea from eating meat, but thought everyone felt the same way.  At this point in my thinking I was probably a Young Earth Creationist, so clearly, I had multiple ideas not based on sense.  About 18, I had a moment, about to  eat a Taco Bell Taco when I finally listened to my body and just put it down and decided not to pick it up again.  Midway through college, I was sitting around the table while people were talking about why vegans were stupid, because 'you have to kill something to eat.' Always one to argue for arguments sake, I explained it wasn't about killing, it was about suffering. I paused, dumbstruck by my own reasoning, and then said "I guess I can't consider myself a good person unless I'm vegan. I guess I'm vegan now."

(And now Lady C)

He got up from the table and announced this to me, who, unbeknownst to him, had been vegetarian for all of a week and vegan for three of those days. I was actually grilling my own vegan quesadilla at the time, and musing about how I would not want to date someone who was not vegan. He was probably not expecting my reaction of a thrilled hug.  I had tried to go vegetarian once before, when I was a preteen. I didn't live in the most conducive environment for it, and so failed immediately and repeatedly, (As in, I would be eating a turkey sandwhich, realize this, and think 'man, I was not going to eat animals anymore!  I guess I will try again tomorrow.) Eventually it slipped my mind entirely until my intro to moral issues class in college brought the subject back up. A few days into my being vegetarian, I mentioned to Lord C. that I would probably be going vegan soon. When he asked me why, I thought for a moment to come up with the most concise explanation of all the reasons I had recently been exposed to. I am not a naturally eloquent person, and the best wording I could come up with was 'Because hurting things is bad." 

People asked us even years before we were ready to have kids how we would raise them, so no one in our family and older friends circle was surprised that we are bring up Toddles vegan.  We have had the occasional person remark that we are forcing our son into our way of life. That's a pretty ridiculous claim, since all people everywhere default to teaching their kids their way of life, but especially when a balanced vegan diet is shown to be much healthier than the Standard American Diet.  I mean, shouldn't everyone bring their children up as smokers? They might want to smoke anyway, when they are older.

We haven't face much opposition to our lifestyle from our families, but it does occasionally show itself in ignorance (many years ago: "Condensed milk is ok, right?") or some misplaced concept that someday something will make us go back to "normal" (Several people in my family remarked to Lord C while I was still unconscious after my car wreck that I might want to eat meat again when I woke up. In fact, the hospital had been feeding me through a feeding tube in my nose, and one of the first acts I did upon waking up was to pull it out of there!) I will admit that it is frustrating when my mom makes holiday cheap toy and candy baskets for all of her grandkids but packs the same non-vegan things into Toddles'. (This is one of the instances where I'd prefer nothing to having to unpack dozens of tiny plastic packages, check the contents, and weed out bits of chocolate...which then lay around for a week until I find someone to take them.)

In general, when people see Toddles interacting with food they are impressed by his willingness to pick up and eat a raw carrot or tomato (often on the way to the register). We never have problems getting him to eat his vegetables, and he requests "tofu and vegetables" as often as "French fries and tater tots." We believe that the ethical lessons began to pay off just before Toddles hit 2.5.

We had some issues with day care on our brief foray into public care for Toddles. We had to provide a note from his pediatrician stating he was on a healthy diet (Thank you doctor, for that.), and we (or I, while Lord C. was out of town) made and packed lunch for him each day that was as similar as possible to what the other kids would be eating. There were some slip ups getting everyone on board, especially with the number of different teachers he had on various days, but overall it was clumsy but worked.  He told the teachers that we don't eat animals because it hurts the animals, and if he wanted something the other kids had that was not vegan, the teachers told him (as we asked them to) that it had cow in it. They told me a couple of times when this had happened and he always just said "oh, ok." and asked for something different.

Basically this is the way we handled teaching him about being vegan. Especially when younger he would grab random food things, and we would sometimes have to take them away and tell him why we didn't eat it, and redirect him to a food we can eat.  ("That is cow milk, it comes from cows. We drink soy milk, it is made from plants." "Yes, that is chicken. We don't eat chicken. Do you remember why?" ("It hurt the chicken") "That's right. What sounds do chickens make?") One day when he was he was behind the front desk where we store our breakfast food for hotel guests. He grabbed a prepackaged sweet cake and held it up to me in one hand: "Can I eat this?" "No baby, it has cow in it."  "Oh. This?" he asked as he held up the banana in his other hand. "Yes, of course!"  "Ok!" he proclaimed, and happily put back the sweet cake and ate the banana.

We are trying to be sure that Toddles grows up to respect animals in other ways as well. He went through a phase when he was a bit younger where he would chase our cat and try to pull it's tail. He would also hit the dogs if they (ok, mostly just one) growled at him or made him angry.  When this happened, we would react in the same way we would if he had hit one of us.. remove him from the situation, remind him that we don't hit people, that hurts people, and get him to apologize.  We feel that by elevating our animals (rather than diminishing Toddles by saying "oh, he's just a baby, he doesn't know any better") and making sure that he understand they have the right to their own emotions and space, we are helping to teach him respect for all life.

By the way, the dogs usually accept his apology by way of face licking.

In all seriousness, though, of course we hope Toddlesworth will choose to continue being vegan as he ages. It is a deeply held personal belief for both of us, and is the closest thing I have to religious beliefs. While we don't intend to attack anyone for their food choices, we do hope we lead some people to at least question them. We both very strongly believe that being vegan is the morally correct choice, otherwise there is little impetus for anyone to choose this way of life. We do also though tend to see everything in this world on a spectrum. Someone who participates in Meatless Mondays is still doing some good, Meaty Mondays (Where people DON'T eat meat the other 6 days) are of course even better. I feel there is no way at this point that Toddles can slide so far away from how we are raising him that he would end up at the default Standard American Diet. And so, we believe that teaching Toddles respect for all life and introducing him to the default of not harming animals by consuming their bodies or byproducts is another way in which we are trying to set Toddles up to have the best possible future.

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