Heather Doherty: Parenting Vegan Children And Evolving The Ethical Business
Heather grew up as an animal lover — as she feels most kids naturally do.
This drove her to go vegan as soon as she realized it was an option, at around 14 years of age. Into skateboarding and punk rock — in her scene, it was seen as a pretty normal choice.
A few years after meeting some older kids who identified as vegan and, frankly, thinking they were a bit bonkers, she picked up a pamphlet on veal crates at a punk show and made the connection — a moment which fast tracked her switch to a fully vegan diet.
This was 23 years ago.
Now, she juggles the tasks of an ethical entrepreneur with those of plant-based motherhood from a little town up the coast from Vancouver, British Columbia called Powell River — which she is always sure to assert lies on the traditional territory of the Tla’amin Nation.
What follows is some of what she’s picked up along the way.
Heather and her husband had navigated through skepticism about veganism so long before their first child, backlash was not even considered when thinking about how their little one would be raised. And for the most part, the positive has outweighed the negative as other parents have shown them how accepting they can be.
“My friend who raised vegan kids many years before me once complained to me about how many cupcakes she constantly had to make for her kids,” she told Raise Vegan.
“I thought it was hilarious until it happened to me years later. When my son entered kindergarten, I was making cupcakes or cookies all the time. Every birthday party you get invited to, every time there is a party in the class, or a parent brings treats for everyone. Have an easy cupcake recipe handy because you will need it! Make sure the lines of communication are open with other parents, teachers and staff at the school. You need them to understand that it’s very important to you in the nicest way possible. Over the years of my son being at the school, more and more parents started making vegan cupcakes.”
Heather says it’s now normal for her son to be invited to birthday parties and have him be welcomed by nonvegan families to a fully vegan affair. She has found other parents to be so caring — which she considers an amazing gift, and says that all it takes is them getting to know your child.
“People are observing you and your children when you look different or are doing something unconventional,” she said.
“When you are a part of a community and you involve yourself and volunteer and teach your children to do the same, you will be accepted and loved. Other parents will watch your children grow along with theirs and will become accepting as time passes.”
Other than donating some of the sales from her business to charity, Heather finds that the most effective activism for her as a mom is bringing vegan food into her community. When she first went vegan, she was quite politically active and cooked for Food Not Bombs. Now that she is a parent, her activism has changed only slightly as she has shifted her focus to sharing food with other families.
One event that Heather successfully organized in her community was a free vegan cooking and info class which garnered a great turn-out. On top of this, her and another vegan friend and mother do a free vegan buffet for all of the kids, teachers, and volunteers for their children’s elementary school sports day. Both on the PAC committee as volunteers, they get reimbursed for what they spend with the small budget available.
After a bit of a battle the first year convincing some to let them do it, it went forward and both years were a huge success. Kids came back for seconds and talked about how much they loved the food.
Transitioning Your Kids To A Vegan Lifestyle
Heather notes that veganism is a positive step forward for those who have the ability to engage with the lifestyle, and the recent uptick in mainstream conversation about meat alternatives will only continue to grow. Her advice for anyone thinking of transitioning their child to veganism is to tell them the truth — but, leave out the gory details — and to keep things tasty, of course.
“Start with what they already eat but veganize it,” she said.
“Kids go through phases of pickiness, so don’t give up and keep getting them to try new things. I rely a lot on smoothies when my children are saying they are hungry but won’t eat anything I suggest. I make a sweet smoothie with ripened frozen bananas, a scoop of almond butter, a pinch of cinnamon, hemp hearts and almond milk. If I have kale or spinach on hand, I’ll throw that in. I had that smoothie a lot while I was pregnant with both my kids, and they still love it.”
Heather also acknowledges the struggles that come with raising kids vegan in a decidedly nonvegan world.
“In my experience, it has been a daily conversation with my children when questions come up about the society that we live in,” she said.
“When it comes to advertising, consumerism, poverty, colonialism, sexism, and other extremely loaded subjects, it is very difficult to explain these things to a child in a way that they can understand. Yes, they are natural animal and nature lovers, but there is a lot more to raising caring children these days.”
That said, she’s hopeful and excited to see young leaders stepping up to fight for a better world.
“We need educators, entrepreneurs, politicians, and lawyers to change the system from within. Leading by example and sharing your journey with friends and community members is also very effective.”
Ethics-Focused Vegan Business
Heather started making shirts for herself, for fun and for her friends about 9 years ago — after a friend from Cedar Row Sanctuary asked her to make some designs, which gave her the push she needed to learn how. She listed one of the shirts on Etsy, just to see what would happen, and her brand, VeganPoliceShop, grew from there.
Her goal with her designs is to plant seeds — to make people laugh and think. She hopes that her designs have inspired people to try veganism and she wants to keep her brand as earth-focused as possible every step of the way.
“VPS is always evolving,” she told Raise Vegan.
“As I learn and grow, it comes with me. Over the years, I have always tried my best to source clothing that is fair labor and eco-friendly. The more I learn about the fashion industry, the more turned off I am from purchasing large amounts of clothing to sell. It’s hard for me to say that it’s earth friendly when I know that the last thing this earth needs is more stuff. As I very rarely purchase new clothing for myself, it seems like the only thing that makes sense for me moving forward is up-cycling. Not only can I have more freedom by making everything one of a kind, but I can do some sewing as well, which I have always loved.”
Check out VeganPoliceShop for Heather’s new up-cycled line.
What’s your favorite vegan cupcake recipe? Let us know in the comments below.
Tags: ethical business, heather doherty, indigenous values, raising vegan children, raising vegan kids, transitioning to veganism, upcycling, vegan clothes, vegan clothing, vegan dad, vegan interview, vegan mom, vegan parent, vegan parenthood, vegan parenting, vegan parents, vegan police shop