nursing cow

Photo credit: Kim Wall via Flickr

Over the last few years of vegan pregnancy and parenting, I have fielded far fewer questions (the kind that seem well-meaning that are really meant to second-guess our deepest values) than I anticipated. I expected to be a vegan Kung fu-Mom, fending off accusations from relatives and strangers, alike. Outside of the usual litany of uninformed questions most vegans get, it has been pleasantly criticism-phrased-as-question free.

But one question that I got repeatedly is so idiotic that it surprises even this seasoned fender-offer of stupid questions/ignorant assertions. I try to recall times when I asked questions that revealed how totally dumb I was about a topic so I can attempt to sympathize with the people who have asked me: “Is breastfeeding vegan?” And these were grown people, supposedly with fully developed frontal lobes.

This question assumes that vegans are so preoccupied with useless abstractions that they think that breastfeeding, an essential, life-sustaining function of mammals is stealing milk from a mother.

nursing human

Photo Credit: Sergio Maistrello via Flickr

I have three basic responses:

  1. Drinking cow’s milk and other mammal’s milk IS stealing milk from a mother! Baby calves are ripped from their mothers right after birth or after just a few days to become dairy cows, beef or veal. The mothers wail and mourn while the babies suffer from the separation and imminent terrible fate. Then the cows are impregnated, again, to repeat the cycle until they wear out and become meat. Adult humans who still drink mammal milk needed to be weaned long ago.
  2. Being vegan is not about abstract ideals that are detached from reality. Billions of animals, land and sea, are killed each year after enduring horrific conditions and horrible abuses to become food. Trying to pin a vegan down to silly hypotheticals (If your mom and a dog were drowning, who would you save?) is a waste of everyone’s time when the meat, dairy and fishing industries are abusing animals, destroying the environment, and pedaling unhealthy products.
  3. Infant formula, the only responsible alternative to breast milk during a baby’s first year, is far from ideal for vegans. When vegan families need alternatives to breast milk, there are decent options, but for people to ask “is breastfeeding vegan?” ignores that breastfeeding is THE only truly vegan option for babies.

Of all of the vegan questions and comments I’ve gotten over the years, this one seems to top my shit list. Maybe it was the sleep deprivation in those early months of parenting that thinned my patience?

nursing elephant

Photo Credit: Alex Berger via Flickr

What questions have astounded or stumped any of you? How did you respond? Perhaps more patiently than I have!