Why I Sometimes Let My Kids Eat Animal Products

by | September 10, 2018

My nine-year-old old son, Josh, attended a school camp a few months ago. As is customary, the school sent out a questionnaire and indemnity waiver. I was asked to fill in my son’s dietary requirements. Simple. “Vegan”, I wrote, without a second thought, we didn’t eat animal products. 

He returned home after the two nights away. As you can imagine, I was over the moon to see him and ran to give him a hug as he stepped off the bus. Immediately I noticed his face was ashen, and he nudged me away with tears running down his cheeks.  

The car drive home is usually a time when I can extract some details from him about his day, but I got nothing on this particular day.

When we got home he ran away and I found him about 200m down the road sitting under a tree, sobbing. I was determined to find out from my devastated child what exactly had happened that had made him so upset.  

It was the “V” word.

Josh had been ridiculed by his friends, alienated at meal times and fed food that almost any child would turn down. He recounted stories of cold aubergine on bread for lunch, potato fries for dinner, and no ice cream or cake to celebrate his best friend’s birthday, because he didn’t eat animal products.  

It had been a tough few days for him and he had now decided that he definitely wasn’t a vegan anymore and that no amount of discussing it further would make him change his mind.  

What did I do next?

I let go a little. Yes, I let my child take the lead. In the house, we were vegan. Outside the home, he could make some of his own choices to eat animal products. 

Did I like his choices? No. But, I did decide to make this a learning experience for the both of us.  

Being a parent has some serious challenges but bringing up vegan children in a non-vegan world – yes, you need a superhero suit to cope with that. It’s tough, really tough. And I can sympathize.  

eat animal products
CREDIT: SHUTTERSTOCK

So here are a few ideas to help you out. These are purely from my personal experience as a parent and why I sometimes let him eat animal products:

  1. Allow your child some freedom at some point to explore the non-vegan world (if this is their desire). By being totally inflexible (with some children), you can end up with a child that rebels against veganism or engages with “short-lived veganism”.  What I mean by that, is that when your child is a teenager and can make their choices, they may choose to include animal products in their diet again. By allowing some freedom earlier on in life, the likelihood is that they will stay vegan for longer.  

  2. Remember, your child is not you. It is up to you to teach them the values that you hold as a family unit. You are there to guide them and inspire them. If they make different choices to you as they get older, don’t take it personally or as a sign you have failed.  

  3. Keep mealtimes exciting. Get creative in the kitchen with your children – try making food art with the vegetables (think Rainbow Wraps, Noughts, and Crosses (winner eats all) and become a master of disguise (hide the veggies they don’t usually like to eat!).

  4. Tell stories. My kids grew up calling broccoli “fairy trees”, beans “Jack and the Beanstalk”. Make vegetable part of a fun, fantasy world.  

  5. Talk about the food you have made. Let your kids know about the health benefits (educating yourself and your children will greatly benefit you all), the way you prepared it, and where it comes from (for example if it’s homegrown, from a farm nearby). Talking about where animal products come from too, may help the rest of the family understand your point of view (keep emotions out of these discussions – be frank, honest and logical).  

  6. Realise that everyone is on their own journey. You cannot enforce your own feelings on others. Listen to their point of view, be kind, and give your own thoughts in a non-confrontational way. Plant seeds. Do not judge. Be compassionate.  

  7. Be prepared for events. School “sausage sizzles”, fundraisers, get-togethers, and kids’ parties all typically include animal products. Pack some options for your kids. I always take a packet of Fry’s Sausages or Sausage Rolls so that my children get to participate in these events without feeling left out.  

  8. Connect with animals. Go to a farm sanctuary together and spend time with the rescued animals. Make sure your kids have a real connection with real animals.  

While I want my children to be vegan, I don’t want them to just live this lifestyle because it’s forced on them when young and then they can’t wait to ditch it as they get older. Allowing kids the freedom to make their own choices of what they eat when they’re outside of the home, in my opinion, is the best strategy to create happy, compassionate, long-term vegans.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are prepared in the author’s capacity and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Raise Vegan itself.

eat animal products
CREDIT: SHUTTERSTOCK
Tammy Fry

Tammy Fry is the international marketing director of The Fry Family Food Company and a health and wellness advocate | inquiries@raisevegan.com

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4 Responses to “Why I Sometimes Let My Kids Eat Animal Products”

  1. What to do as a vegan if your child wants to eat meat? - Seed Blog
    September 10th, 2018 @ 10:48 pm

    […] Why I Sometimes Let My Kids Eat Animal Products […]

  2. Trisha
    September 11th, 2018 @ 2:25 pm

    You are taking a speciesist viewpoint here. You don’t consider that you are contributing to your kid’s developing cognitive dissonance – he or she is a living sentient animal but it’s ok to have it killed for you if you feel like a treat? Better to set boundaries for your children and teach them self discipline. How can they learn respect and self respect when they don’t know where the line is drawn and they’re confused by your mixed messages? You don’t think other kids will pick up on that? Plenty of vegan kids across the world understand that it has to be consistent, because taking life for enjoyment is backwards, not evolution.

  3. Stacey Ann
    September 17th, 2018 @ 6:34 pm

    There is nothing wrong with being different. It is our unique qualities that divide us from one another. I know as a child it is difficult with peer pressure and the need to want to fit in and be accepted but if you believe what you’re doing is right one needs to stand their ground. If someone doesn’t like it, it’s there problem not yours. You tell them this is the way it is going to be and move on. If someone is truly your friend they will accept you for who you are, not who you should be.

    Quotes:

    If you do the same thing everyone else does, you’ll have the same impact everyone else has.

    If you’re doing what everyone else is doing, you’re doing it wrong.

    If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking.

    Stand for what is right, even if it means standing alone.

  4. Mari
    September 23rd, 2018 @ 12:01 am

    I agree with you. In fact, that is one of the main reasons I’m not a vegan yet. Me and my daughter are vegetarians. As for the previous comments on here… Wow, how judgy. When did compassion for animals became different from compassion for people? As far as I know, everyone here is trying to do their best.

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