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!

Why Shopping Makes You a Pig

December 18, 2013

Our local outdoor mall has a gorgeous fountain as its centerpiece which, all year round, dances to Frank Sinatra tunes piped into the air through meticulously placed speakers no one can see.

I realized, back in July, that this makes you feel like it's constantly Christmas—and like festively, generously spending money.

Now I've always been pretty anti-consumeristic (a side effect of environmentalism, yes, but also possibly due to being petite and short-waisted, which makes shopping a paid nightmare). In any case, I prefer the bare essentials in my closet, kitchen, and studio. When I do indulge in some purchase, I often end up returning it from guilt of not needing it...admonishing myself for wanting something new, just because.

But studying pigs has changed my mind.

It's known that pigs love novelty—change in environment, new objects to play with, fresh things to stimulate their senses (it's the flip side of this coin that drives them mad in farming situations).

Being social animals ourselves, we humans share with pigs in the appeal of the novel. Have you felt the small high of enjoying something new? Pigs do! I now recognize that feeling as a biological urge and feel better about giving myself and others that satisfaction from time to time. Novelty is not so frivolous—it's part of our nature, a reminder that we, too, are animals whose instincts and urges, like pigs, are real and intact, whatever our environments may be.

Only, we need to make our purchases conscious ones to do right by our human faculties.

Whatever you're shopping for this holiday, look for the "alt" version (organic, vegan, recycled, local, sustainable, wood, fair-trade, etc). It exists—Google it, browse Etsy, you'll see! The treasure hunt itself is a novel high! Have an "alt" gift suggestion? Leave it in the comments below!

Happy holidays, happy new year, and thank you for all your positive work in 2013!

The Proof

December 3, 2013

A vegan mama sent me her son's kindergarten book report on Vegan Is Love—I could die happy! Truly effective change is underway RIGHT NOW, proof that if you give kids the education they need, they'll choose wisely.  My heart beats faster for our future!