“Nothing will benefit human health and increase the chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.” ― Albert Einstein
I recognize how people must view my raising my family vegan. At best, the majority of people might think I’m depriving my kids, at worst, they might think I’m malnourishing them (in fact, a well-planned–and shouldn’t every diet be well-planned–vegan diet has been deemed appropriate for all ages by the ADA). Others might think I’m imposing my own fringe beliefs on my children.
Knowing I’ll face judgment, I need to remind myself of reasons to go vegan. Every vegan probably has a certain story or statistic that cemented it for them. Here are a few of mine:
- Meat: There are no “humane” slaughterhouses. I appreciate the people who have worked to give animals raised for food the best lives possible. However, in the end, we need to kill the happy chickens in order to have meat. These animals are not killed as they were by our hunter-gatherer ancestors. The vast majority also aren’t killed by the small family farmer. Instead, they’re packed into trucks and go through an assembly-line style slaughterhouse. There are not organic or free range slaughterhouses. Not only do I not want an animal to be killed this way, but I don’t want other humans have to kill in such large quantities every day. Slaughterhouse workers can suffer from PTSD and towns that have slaughterhouses experience higher rates of violence (take a look at this article from The Texas Observer for more information).
- Eggs: Just as I know many people who try to eat “humane” meat, I also know many people who try to eat free range eggs. Some even raise chickens in their backyard. I so appreciate the care that many I know give their backyard chickens, and it’s definitely the best solution we have if we’re going to eat eggs. However, the core problem for me is how we get the chickens who lay the eggs. Currently, when male chicks are born, they are ground alive or suffocated, since there is no need for them. I don’t need to eat eggs to survive, so I don’t need chicks to die on my behalf. As for the question of free range eggs that are store-bought, unfortunately, the labels on the egg containers in the grocery store don’t always mean what we wish they would. For instance, “cage free” means no cages–it doesn’t mean that chickens aren’t still packed together and these chickens can still be de-beaked. “Free range” can be a large warehouse with one small door to access the outdoors.
- Dairy: I’ve had many people say to me, “I could definitely give up meat, but not cheese.” I agree–dairy can be the biggest hurdle to going vegan. As a girl from Wisconsin, it was for me. What keeps me dairy-free is realizing the link between dairy and meat–male dairy calves are raised for veal, and old dairy cows are slaughtered. However, what really keeps me from eating that delicious cheese, is the experience of losing a child to miscarriage. I’ve never experienced such profound, unexplainable grief as that, and I had never even seen that child. In order to produce milk for human consumption, we need to constantly impregnate cows, but then take their calves from them. I’ll admit–I’ll never know exactly what cow cognition is like. But I know this, they cry when their calves are taken. As a mother, I understand this with the core of my being.
There is one over-arching reason that’s perhaps even bigger for me than these questions of cruelty: the environmental impacts of eating animals and animal products. The amount of resources it takes to produce the amount of animal products humans currently want to consume is unsustainable. Animal agriculture creates emissions that contribute to global warming; it is also the leading cause of rainforest destruction, takes vast amounts of water, animal waste pollutes our land and water, and fishing has pushed many species of marine animals to the brink of extinction. Simply put, we can feed more people, and preserve more resources, if we eat plant-based. Many would argue that instead of giving up animal products, we should move back to more small-scare farming and fishing operations. While I appreciate those who work towards solutions like those, the small-scale operations simply cannot feed our skyrocketing global demand for animal products, which is why we have to take the demand down. Way down.
All these reasons keep me vegan, and keep me believing that veganism is best for my family. However, what really keeps me vegan is parenthood itself. I want my kids to grow up believing in radical kindness, believing that individuals have power to minimize the amounts of violence in the world. I want my children to grow up believing that they can have an impact on the world by the choices they make. I want my children to be able to give their children a world as beautiful as the one we have now.
In the past, animal products were necessary for humanity’s survival, and they are still necessary in some regions of the world. However, they are no longer necessary in industrialized nations. The amazing thing about humans is their ability to change, adapt, and evolve. Our children will learn things about their place on earth beyond our wildest dreams–just think of all we’ve already learned. Kahlil Gibran writes on children in The Prophet:
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
I do not know what the house of tomorrow will be like for my children, but I want to give them the best opportunity I’m currently aware of to get to a beautiful house of tomorrow. That’s why I’m vegan. I’m vegan because I love animals, because I love the earth, but most of all, because I love humanity.