How do we raise a new generation of vegan kids?
Teaching young humans to respect animals and nature can challenge even the most conscientious crunchy granola parents. We live in a culture in which people seek to contain, control, poison, kill, trap, and exploit all beings–even other humans. How do those of us who are parents, teachers, aunts, uncles, or neighbors of kids engender respect for animals and nature in the face of frequent ambivalence toward them?
The truth is, I’m not sure. But here’s what we’re trying with my vegan kid:
We’re going camping. Like, real camping, where we don’t bring the electronics. There’s nothing to do but commune with nature, stare at stars, and wake up to the birds.
We have rescued fur-kids in the family, and we foster more when we can. This is just good sense, but it also means that our son will never remember a time without companion animals. With him, we identify types of birds, bugs, plants, trees, rocks, etc. in the yard or on a hike. Oh yeah, we go hiking. We visit and volunteer at Sunrise Sanctuary for farmed animals, and we visit others on our travels.
We don’t take it for granted that our son will be vegan because we said so. We maintain a garden. It’s little, but we let him participate in all facets of building and maintaining it, to give him ownership. We make food with our kid and talk about what we do.
Come back in 5 or 10 years for the update on how it’s going with my kid. I can, however, offer just a few anecdotes from my teaching days of being the token vegan:
Once, a few of my junior students found a dead cat in the school’s yard. The students sought me to help them bury the cat, after we left it for a day in case the owners were looking. After a day we did the respectful thing and gave it a resting place in the garden area out front. The small group was a mix of young women and men (high schoolers), and the one who dug the hole stayed after we had said a few words to reflect on the moment. It was sweet, and I’m glad they thought of me as someone to help them.
I also had a whole class report to me every time the yellow “Happy Chicken Farms” truck passed by. They told me that based on what I had them watch and read, that those chickens were not happy at all.
How can you, in your sphere, influence the young ones around you to connect to nature and animals positively?
Photo credit: KD Traegner