An almost-vegetarian friend just showed me Ruby Roth's book That's Why We Don't Eat Animals, A Book About Vegetarians, Vegans, and All Living Things. My meat-eater's defensiveness immediately kicked in. "She makes my darling daughter and I out to be monsters!"
The book is loaded with adorable drawings of chickens, and is full of lines like this:
"We are all earthlings. While some animals are protected by laws or born into loving homes, others live painful and lonely lives on factory farms where hundreds of thousands of animals are raised for meat and dairy. But they too live and breathe. They too have feelings and families."
Now that's not fair! Don't be tugging at my heartstrings and tear ducts like that! Let me mindlessly inhale my chicken-fries and pepperoni circles without thinking about where they came from, please.
Then as I thought about it, I grew more sympathetic to Roth's preaching. We've all come to accept, respect, and even envy our vegetarian friends, but for some reason we think they should shut the hell up about it and let everyone make an independent decision, even their own kids.
But we've all got moral issues that we shout about, that we pass on to our kids, that we plaster on our bumpers. Why should being a vegetarian, vegan, or fruitarian be any different? There's very little I'm willing to shut up about, and I shouldn't demand something else from my friends.
Yes, I've been a very meaty dad (or "grave belly" as one veggie friend calls me), and raised an even meatier toddler. She would rip through a whole bird -- skin, bones, and all like George Clooney in Fantastic Mr. Fox -- if I let her. And there were times that if we didn't have rotisserie chicken, I feel like she would've had to live on goldfish crackers.
But she developed into quite the veggie-loving kindergartner, and we're both perfectly poised to cut way back on the carnage. I think we'll start with a Meatless Monday.
I'm on the fence about a lot, but I have no doubt about this: Let the kids know what they're eating. Call it by its name, and serve it with the bones and skin on it when possible instead of trying to turn it into innocuous nuggets or patties. (Be careful of those bones, of course.) Do the same for yourself. Running away from the reality of the animal behind the food is more cruel, not less. And if you decide to let your toddler decide for themselves, at least they'll be making an informed choice.
Do you teach your kids about what they eat?
Image via Amazon.com