How to Help Kids Relate to the Ethics of Veganism

January 7, 2014

While oodles of kids are being born and raised vegan these days without a bump in the road (they’re like a new super-species of human, right?), many other kids are newly being introduced to the lifestyle through parents or other family members who’ve only recently gone veg.

The transition can be immediate—some kids get it like *snap*—but for others, the road can be a little rockier:

I want my chicken nuggets!

But everyone else is eating string cheese! Why ca-ha-ha-an't I?!

Or, cue the adult peanut gallery: For god’s sake [your name here], let him have the birthday cake. It’s just cake! (It is of course not just cake, you will say to yourself, but a suffering pus-muffin).

So when the entire world is set on undermining the vegan choice, you just have to work a bit harder to get kids on board.

One way you can help a child relate to the ethical motives of veganism is through movement and physical play or role-playing. Using movement and imagination helps kids with ideation and conceptualization, engaging their motor skills, attention spans, and focused awareness. You might read my books if you need a visual starting place, or watch a nature program, or wait for a moment where animals come up in the conversation. Then, for example, try these questions:

Let’s talk about the animals we’re not eating. How does a happy chicken move? Can you show me with your body? What does she do with her wings? How does she show her feelings? What if she’s in a cage and it’s only a little bigger than her body? How does she behave now? How about a herd of wild elephants in the desert—what do they look like when they’re running free? What are they doing with their trunks and legs? Ok, now you’re an elephant in the zoo all alone. What does that look like? Wow, I can tell you really understand animals.

Instead of telling your child what to think, invoke his or her own capacity for empathy and understanding. It’s there—make room and your kids will start to formulate their own opinions and considerate values. By physically experiencing their soul’s capacity, they’ll begin to answer their own questions about veganism and our treatment of animals, breathing life into the space that connects humans to the living world. This is the grandness of a vegan education—it is expansive and mind-opening far beyond its practical benefits. So much so, that what seems at first like a rocky road ahead might just turn out to be a treasure trail.

In the comments below, tell me who you'll try this strategy on and how—specifically—you foresee it being a help in your life. Report back once you've tried it, too!

5 Words to Help You Speak Up for Animals

November 19, 2013

'Tis the season of holiday parties, when a significant portion of vegan brainpower is devoted to striking a balance between not "ruining everyone's fun" and the desire to expound on factory farm methods of turkey insemination at the dinner table.

Knowing you'll likely be surrounded by non-veg friends and fam in the next few weeks, I want to share 5 words that always help me speak up for animals and veganism in any situation, without feeling awkward or pushy:

"Take it or leave it."

Tack this puppy on to your opinion and you disarm others from being totally reactionary. A "suggestive" tone can push you forward if you're feeling iffy about speaking up—and in my experience, you get ears and continued conversation instead of a figurative palm-to-your-face.

For example, something like this:

(Silently) Actually, Uncle Bob, tryptophan is destroyed in cooking, so what's really making you tired is the obscene amount of undigestible carcass lodged right there...RIGHT. THERE. I can see it. It's right there."


"Well here’s what I’ve been learning about the amino acids in animal protein...So take it or leave it, Uncle Bob, but I think it's the animal flesh itself that's a burden on our systems."

You set yourself up to sound casual and friendly while speaking up for animals and veganism—without shutting down the room (always an option, too).

Try it and report back!

P.S. Do you have a speak-up-strategy? Share it in the comments area below!


October 22, 2013

I took a meat-eating acquaintance to a cold-pressed juice bar recently, where he complained to me about a vegan woman in his group of friends.

"She just talks about veganism too much—it's laughable. We've made our decision, stop shoving it down our throats!" he said.

Ignited by my disdain for over-used idioms, I countered, "First of all!" before my defense of this fellow unknown tribeswoman had properly cohered.

Long pause.

I felt bored disappointment picturing this oafy bunch laughing at their friend. I wished (again) for the invention of Understanding Through Osmosis. Yes. Via a brain-to-brain firewire cable through which all that we've seen and studied of veganism can be instantaneously uploaded.

I came to. "At the root of this woman's passion is love," I suggested, "An urgency to protect animals and you all, as her friends, from unnecessary suffering."

"Of course, of course," my acquaintance said, sucking down his watercress-parsley-apple-ginger-lemon juice like a sport! Clearly the green juice had alkalized him into empathy!

Or. He was done with my story.

I said nothing more, but thought of a line from David Wolfe's Sunfood Diet Success System: "If one exploits the animals and the Earth, the subtler truths of life will remain hidden—that is the fact, simple as that."  As I went back to my firewire fantasy, I thought—if the unaware could, for an instant, be engulfed deeply and completely by the innards of a soul motivated by veganism, by a torrent of footage—blinking eyes and beating hearts, the begging and bleating of animals, rivers of farm waste choking out ocean life, suffocated arteries, cancer wards leaking radiation into water supplies, barren and bleached reefs, on and on—they'd most certainly be in awe of the subtleties of life—a friend's love, for example—that they'd missed before.

I know the awe of realized ignorance because I myself was once an oaf who laughed at my vegan roomates. The torrent was Earthlings. I was never the same. Besides the shame of what I had been a part of, I was embarrased by not having seen it sooner. But it took a number of influencers, not one passionate vegan, to finally flip my switch.

I'm glad no one gave up on me.

Veganism, at it's best, is a vehicle of psychopoiesis, or "soul-making"—an obscure psychological/philosophical term I've recently come across and fallen in love with. For me, going vegan kindled a physical, political, and spiritual change that unveiled subtleties invisble to me prior—even as a progressive, educated, health-oriented person—and forced me to evaluate, ongoingly, my deepest morals and values versus my behavior. It wasn't instant.

Here's what I'm getting at...I know the crusading laughingstock of this story has known the psychopoiesis of veganism. I automatically love her. She feels an urgency to share what she knows—and should. It can actually saves lives. I consistently try to get as many people interested in veganism as possible, everyone knows I talk about it a lot. But I would tell my fellow vegan friend this—for the sake of her own frustration: with a small percentage of people, whose disinterest never lets up, I settle for being more an ambassador than an evangelist. It's not a cop-out. It's strategic.

Whether you're outspoken, just helpful, or you quietly bring a dish labeled "vegan" to the potluck, you're an influence on the community around you. Giving them time to adjust is not giving up...after all, there's a reason more people than ever are drinking green juice.

N.B. By the time I bid my meat-eating acquaintance adieu, he had asked me for some vegan recipes.


Do you relate to the psychopoiesis of veganism? How has your transformation influenced your community? Leave me a comment below!