Raising kids vegan is brainwashing, right? Vegan parents force THEIR beliefs on their children and severely limiting their choices. With all the concerns of a vegan diet and the social difficulties faced by kids seen as “different” is it fair, or even safe, to raise kids vegan?
Parents who raise their children vegan are often criticized for “forcing their beliefs” onto their kids. Or worse, accused of brainwashing their children and robbing them of their freedom to choose. Well today, the brainwashers answer back. [tweet this]
Raising children vegan is a surprisingly controversial practice. From concerns about malnutrition to projections of social isolation, sometimes the hardest part of being a vegan parent is fielding questions and criticisms from family, friends, doctors, and total strangers. [tweet this]
If you’re familiar with my channel, you’ll know that I have a video series just for kids, including several interviews with real vegan kids. Well today I’m excited to launch my vegan parents series featuring some fantastic vegan families.
So let’s meet the parents, shall we? [see the bottom of this post for links to their social media accounts to get connected!]
- Jesse from the Bronx in New York City, NY, father of Zachary, who’s 2 and 4-year-old Jesse Jace, whom you can meet in my vegan KIDS interview series
- Martin and Katie from London, England, parents of Sam, who’s 17, Jamie who’s 15, and 4-year-old JoJo, another KIDS interview series star
- Shantelle from Cambridge, MA, mother of 8-year-old Izzy, who lays down some serious wisdom in my KIDS interview series
- Raffaela, from Lisbon, Portugal, mother of 5-year-old Vasco
- Melissa from Anne Arbor, MI, mother of two young adults ages 21 & 18 and 4-year-old Reuben
- Ellen from Maui, Hawaii, mother of 1-year-old Sandy and 4-year-old Elvis, another show-stopper in my KIDS interview series
- Crystal and Eric from Virginia, parents of 14-year-old Jordan and 8-year-old Alejandro, both of whom feature in the KIDS interview series, as well as two young adults who are 19 & 21
- Theresa, mother of 10-year-old Amina and Kara, mother of 11-year-old Jude and 9-year-old Gala, with the whole lot them hailing from Brisbane Australia and appearing in my kid’s interview series
- In addition one of Kara’s three grown children, India chimed in as a vegan-parent-to-be
In this interview series, these parents will be answering a number of questions and responding to common concerns about raising vegan kids. And I thought what better place to start then asking for their responses to the accusation of making kids vegan by force.
Jesse (The Bronx, NYC):
“Well, I feel that it’s quite the contrary. When you raise your child eating meat, you’re forcing your beliefs on them because you’re not telling them what they’re eating. You’re giving them food-like items, like hamburgers and hot dogs, and chicken-shaped fingers in the shapes of hearts and stuff. You know, we have animals around him and he has no desire to eat the cat, no desire to eat the dog. In its purest form, he wants to eat fruits and vegetables.
So, at an older age, if he really decides of his own free will that he wants to eat animals, he’s more than welcome. But, you know, right now we’re giving him choices and he’s more than happy to stick with the vegan options. I feel it’s not forcing him at all. I’ve taken him to social events, and he never, ever once thinks about eating meat or eating animals. If anything, he asks me, ‘Wow, those people are eating meat,’ and he thinks it’s insane. So, I think it’s quite the contrary.
When we’re out and about, he never says, ‘Daddy, mommy please I want to eat chicken,’ like that doesn’t happen. He’s happy, he’s healthy, so I don’t see it as you’re forcing your child in any way.”
Martin (London, England):
“I think people have to remember that you’re not forcing anything, what you’re doing is actually closer to their nature. You’d have to be disturbing their nature more to redirect them towards meat, dairy, and eggs.
I think people get confused that just because it’s the majority it doesn’t make it normal. What we’re doing is allowing them to be in-touch with their nature and keeping them there. We don’t have to lie. [tweet this] Now we make sure we are absolutely truthful about everything. And they’ve made their own informed decision, we haven’t forced anything upon them.
We told them, this food comes from these animals or we educated them and they all responded with wanting to go vegan. And that was contradicting, especially for my teens. Thirteen, fifteen years of information telling them otherwise. So, I think people have to realize they’re forcing more negative stuff on their children by saying eat this stuff which causes this harm to your body and causes harm to animals and the planet.”
Shantelle (Cambridge, MA):
“I think the same could be said about a traditional American diet. I think that if you are giving your child hot dogs and hamburgers and chicken, isn’t that forcing your beliefs onto your child, as well?
So, you know, I always tell Izzy, if you decide when you get older you want to eat meat — which, he’s always like, ‘no way – never!’– that’s your choice, but I want you to have the information. I want you to know how this impacts your body, this impacts the world, this impacts the lives of the animals that we share this world with.
Because the world is not ours. The world belongs to all of us. So, you have to respect everything that is on earth with you. So, if you can decide that you want to eat meat down the line, and you feel comfortable with that, you know, I’ve done all that I can do. But, you know, my goal is to give you the information and lead you down the path that I think is best for you, as your parent.
So much of it is about just educating your children and, I feel like with veganism, the only thing we’re trying to do is make the world a better place. Anybody that tries to fault you for that, I feel like they may need to take a look at themselves a little bit and try to ask themselves why they feel like it’s so offensive to try to live cruelty-free and be healthy. So, I think that’s a bigger discussion than anything else.”
Raffaela (Lisbon, Portugal):
“Accusing parents of forcing their beliefs on children doesn’t make much sense to me, because all parents – vegan or not – will use their beliefs as guidance to raise their children. That is kind of a normal process.
But, in case of veganism, we are not using our beliefs. We’re using our knowledge. [tweet this] These are two very different things and this knowledge is so valuable for them, that it would be very stupid for us not to use it.”
Melissa (Ann Arbor, MI):
“Raising their child with meat is forcing your beliefs upon someone else. I was forced to eat meat as a child. That was a belief that was put on me, so.”
Ellen (Maui, Hawaii):
“To me, it just doesn’t make sense that you would think that it would be brainwashing. Because all that we’re doing is informing them of the truth. There’s nothing brainwashing about it. The opposite is more brainwashing than the other. You know, to lie to them and to tell them that something is pork, not pig, You know, to say that it’s beef, not a cow. That’s more diluting the truth than just simply saying, this is a cow.
We never try to talk to Elvis like, ‘you need to feel this way, you need to think this way, this is how we think.’ I always respond to his questions with like, ‘well, this is how I think. You can decide for yourself.’
If you’re raising your children in something they naturally think on their own: be kind to animals. Something that they naturally don’t want to hurt animals, they don’t want to see animals suffer. And also to respond to their questions, and to just speak about the topic, in a way of like, ‘this is how I think, you can do your own research, you tell me how you want to do the research, what do you want to learn about.’
In no way is When he asks, people say, ‘oh do you want to try this?’ Like his friend was eating kiefer the other day – ‘do you want some?’ And he said, ‘is it vegan?’ And she said ‘no, there’s milk in it,‘ and he was like ‘oh, no thanks.’ He didn’t say like, ‘oh, well I’m not allowed,’ or ‘my mom doesn’t let me.’ He was like, ‘no I don’t want to eat that.’
As parents, it’s our duty to raise our children on the foods that bring the most health. We’re doing our children a disservice if we’re getting them addicted to junk food, and food that is not healthy for their bodies. I think it’s important to raise our children to not feel like they have to be like everybody else.[tweet this]
This is what everybody’s doing, so you should be doing it even if it’s unhealthy for our bodies, even if it is harming animals that don’t want to die. We should be encouraging our children to be who they are, as individuals.”
Eric & Crystal (Virginia):
Eric: “I thought that’s what parents are supposed to do … We raise them to what we think is what’s best. And people won’t understand it unless you’re a parent, then you know that everything I do is what I think is best for them.
Our beliefs of treating others how we want to be treated — I don’t see how there’s anything bad as far as raising them to not have the mentality of hurting animals and eating them.”
Crystal: “Other parents think that, if you eat meat … you’re not hurting animals – there’s a disconnect…”
Eric: “We’re extreme because we’re vegan.”
Crystal: “Yeah, we’re different, we’re hippies, and what else? We’re aliens. My mother-in-law says we’re not ordinary people.”
Theresa, Kara & India (Brisbane, Australia):
Theresa: “Yes, I had one friend tell me that I’m forcing veganism on Amina , and she’s only doing it because she’s scared of me and doesn’t want to lose my love, or approval, or whatever.
And then I said, you know, I never got an option when I was a child. I never got an option to go vegetarian or vegan, meat was forced on me, dairy was forced on me. Are you giving your children a choice? That’s what I asked her. And then later on, I told Amina that she said that and Amina laughed pretty hard because there’s no way I can force anything on her, she has a very strong mind, she’s very strong-willed.”
India: “Someone has said to me before, you’re just going to raise it vegan, it doesn’t get a choice. I just said to them, if you raise your children eating meat, then did you ask them if they wanted to eat meat? Did you ask them if they wanted to be a Christian, or did you ask them if they wanted to wear clothes? Parents just bring their children up…”
Kara: “…by your own standards. You bring your children up by your own standards.”
India: “By whatever you think is right, that’s what you should do.”
Kara: “And, you know, what I like to say is when I’m against cruelty, I’m not going to allow my children to be cruel to animals. No way! I want them to be better people than that. I bring them up vegan so that they’re helping the animals, and the planet, it’s for their health. Why wouldn’t I teach my children that?”
Theresa: “You teach your children tolerance, to accept all ethnicities, and all cultures, and to accept all lifestyle choices, and be kind to everyone. But as soon as you suggest being kind to animals, everyone loses their s—, you know.
It’s really crazy. If you educate your children, and are honest about where your food comes from, I doubt that any child will willfully choose to continue eating animals.” [tweet this]
I hope you enjoyed hearing from all of the parents! Be sure to check out the links below to their social media accounts so you can follow each family’s journey. I’d love to hear your thoughts on raising kids vegan in the comments below!
Check out the rest of the Vegan Parenting Series for more on raising kids vegan.
— Emily Moran Barwick
Chandler Klebs says
The way I see it, children are all equally “forced” into eating, wearing, or believing whatever their parents want them to. It’s not like any one way is more or less “brainwashed”.
But some forms of brainwashing are better for the animals and the planet in general. So let’s force people to do the right thing when possible.
Linda O'Dell says
This is an awesome video, Emily! I really liked Raffaela’s saying, “We are not using our beliefs. We’re using our knowledge.” That’s so true!
sally anne hubbard says
All these vegan children look extremely healthy. When are people going to stop believing that humans have to eat rotting, decaying animal flesh to be healthy?
Raising children to be vegan is wonderful, they are raising children to be compassionate.
My son is always given the option. I have told him that when he gets older and goes out to eat with his friends, he can get what he wants. He told me, “Mom, I know where that stuff comes from and I don’t want to eat animals.” It is a choice for him, and while we have expressed our beliefs, and read/shown him articles and information that back up what we do, it’s always going to be up to him.
Emily Moran Barwick (BiteSizeVegan) says
SO great to hear that he’s made that connection. I think it’s easier for kids than adults for sure!
I am a recent raw vegan (used to eat fish once every 2 weeks or so and dairy as well). I am VERY happy and excited about my change!
I also have a wonderful very non vegan family; my husband and my two kids (4.5 and 1.5 years old). In an ideal world I’d have them all at least vegan if not raw vegan, but(!) I can’t change my husband’s mind with any logical, health and ethical aspects, not until he himself wishes to go there.
My greatest concern is for my kids, my 4.5 year old girl is a SUPER problematic eater, right from her birth. Currently she will only eat either chicken nuggets (dinosaur shaped) with rice or fish sticks with couscous. She eats very little fruit and her only vegetable is french fries… I constantly try to influence her diet without success. I can not and will not force her. She knows it is animals she is eating, we haven’t lied to her about that from the beginning…
My 1.5 year old is much more interested in fruit which is great, but I still feed him meat and fish since my husband does not agree with my views…
Does anyone else here walks in my shoes?