I have been a vegetarian since I was nine years old and for me, being vegetarian is part of who I am, part of my soul and part of my every day life. I do not eat meat for many different reasons, but the main reason is that I do not believe animals should be for human consumption.
Aside from the environment issues including disgusting huge amount of water and energy wasted each year in the production and retail of meat, the very cruel ways in which as a nation we torture animals before and during their death makes my stomach turn and my blood boil.
Since I have had two children I have been subject to regular and almost prolific questioning, argumentative behaviour and sometimes abusive interrogation over my choice to raise my children as vegetarian, and that’s exactly what I see it as, my choice.
I’ve always known I’d bring my children up as vegetarian. For me, it’s an ethical and education decision. Surely if I fully stand by what I believe that I would incorporate it into every single aspect of my life? Surely I would be a hypocrite to raise meat eaters, to spend money on meat, to encourage and support a cause that actually personally, I am 100% against!
The way I see it is as parents, we all make choices for our children. Choices we feel are ‘best’ for them and will hopefully guide them into their adult life. The health and safety of our children is paramount, but I also want my children to be happy. I want them to be well informed and I want them to understand where meat comes from, how a vegetable grows and most importantly, how to eat and live a healthy lifestyle.
As a person, I am very aware of what nutrients, minerals and goodness my meals consist of. I take care to decide and plan what meals we will eat, and why. I ensure we all eat plenty of protein, iron and vitamins. My children WILL grow as strong and as their meat eating peers and they will not suffer any ‘nutritional deficiencies’ just because they are vegetarian. All these comments and opinions, they irritate me due to the fact that they are largely based on ignorance.
I try to encourage discussion with Gabriel (3) about what’s in his food and how it will help him grow or which part of his system it will support and provide for. I know what is ‘in’ the foods that I cook for my children and I also know that they are healthy and educated about food.
I promote vegetarianism not just because of the moral and ethical reasoning, but also because of the health benefits too. Vegetarian diets are low in saturated fats, high in fibre and low in cholesterol, this meaning much less chance of developing heart disease, high blood pressure or type 11 diabetes. My children will be much less likely to develop food allergies and most importantly, they will not be subjected to chemical hormones and pesticides passed through the meats, often given to animals before they are killed that are ‘destined for the plate’.
If my children want to eat meat when they are older, I will allow them. Of course I will. I believe in choice, and although I admit I would be disappointed, I would never attempt to make them feel guilty or stop them eating it. The last thing I want is my teenager hiding their McDonalds addiction from me. But, as a parent at least I will be confident that they made their decision on an informed basis. Rather than just eating meat because they ‘always just have’.
If I’m honest, the questioning upsets me and often makes me cross. ‘Is it healthy? ‘ ‘That’s cruel!’ ‘They need meat to grow’ You name it. I’ve heard it all. I just don’t understand why people think they can be so rude and judge about individual choice.
I chose to be vegetarian, and I also chose to raise my children, as vegetarian. It doesn’t (or very rarely) affect anyone else, it doesn’t mean they are fussy eaters and it certainly does not mean we are ‘odd’. I have friends who have chosen what football or rugby team their child will support before they’ve even been born, we as parents chose our children’s religion (or not) and we make early decisions about their education. How is being vegetarian any different?
So please, think before you judge, respect choice and most importantly remember that vegetarians have feelings too.