Raising My Son Vegan


The following article originally appeared on and was written by PETA’s executive vice president, Tracy Reiman.

As a vegan and an animal rights activist for more than 20 years, I was prepared to raise my son, Jack, vegan. I knew how kids’ health can benefit from vegan meals—including the reduced risk of obesity that comes with naturally high-fiber, low-fat, and cholesterol-free plant-based foods—and I knew how to “veganize” just about any meal under the sun.

Of course, we did run into some challenges—10 years ago, many people still thought a “vegan” was someone from Las Vegas, and we didn’t have anywhere near the wide variety of vegan meals and snacks that are available in grocery stores and restaurants today. But I used these challenges as opportunities: When Jack first went to preschool, for example, I met with his teacher to see what I could do to make sure that he got vegan snacks every day. Some days, everyone had crackers and peanut butter or one of the many other “accidentally vegan” treats available (such as popcorn, Scooby Snacks, and even Oreos!). Other days, I sent Jack in with his own snack. A month or so into the school year, I asked Jack’s teacher if he seemed bothered by having something different from the other children, and she said that it was quite the opposite—they all wanted what he was having!


And of course, an added benefit of teaching kids to “be kind to animals” is getting them to eat their veggies! Like many kids, Jack can be picky at times, but we’re lucky that his favorite foods are quite healthy, with miso soup and tofu at the top of his “yes, please” list. He loves to snack on vegan cheese pizza and faux meats like Tofurky and chicken-free tenders—the same foods his friends love but with a vegan twist—and he eats loads of broccoli, carrots, green beans, potatoes, corn, and more.

But being vegan is more than just the food we eat—it’s a way of living. Just as we don’t eat animals, we don’t wear them or support using them for entertainment, either. I’ve always been open with Jack about the reasons for making these choices, and of course my explanations have been tailored to his age and ability to understand them. For example, I’ve told him that circuses hurt animals, but no 3-year-old needs to see photographs of trainers beating elephants with bullhooks. As he’s gotten older, I have explained in more detail—and he gets it!

Jack is definitely his mother’s son. Ask any of his teachers or his friends, and they’ll tell you how much he loves animals and wants to protect them. He thinks it’s ridiculous that people love kittens but eat chickens, and he can’t imagine why someone would want to go to the zoo, where animals look bored and lonely—especially when he knows how much fun it is to watch wildlife films like the DisneyNature documentaries, visit museums, go hiking, and participate in other activities that don’t hurt animals.

Like all parents, I want Jack to follow the Golden Rule, and teaching him why we eat veggie burgers instead of hamburgers is a big part of teaching him to have compassion for others. I’m glad that he is learning to respect all life, and it brings me even more joy to know that he is as proud of his efforts to help animals as I am.

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  • Chris commented on May 22, 2013 at 11:26 am

    This is a very well-written article and I especially enjoyed reading about how this mother explains things to her son. While I am not vegan (I put those people on pedestals), I really don’t see anything wrong with eating eggs “if” they are from TRULY 100% free-range chickens.

    • The Verde Vegan commented on November 28, 2014 at 4:46 pm

      Hi Chris! I know this is an older comment, but I saw it when reading this article and wanted to respond to it. Sadly, not only are there no regulations on the term “free range” but even so-called “happy hens” from those keeping backyard chickens have reason for ethical concern. Below are two links that explain more when it comes to backyard chickens. Even if you maybe don’t get this comment, I hope that others will be able to check out these links and choose to say no to eggs.…standing-harm/

  • Kelly Ryan commented on May 22, 2013 at 11:27 am

    I am also raising my son vegan and my son’s name is also Jack! He is 9 years old and as you explained raising him has been very positive and he is as commited to not eating animals as I am.
    When he was in kindegarten, he even held a “Vegetarian Conference” at our local library! The was all his idea! His father and I helped him and we had PETA literature and had animal friendly craft projects and did an activity from the PETA website called “How Green is Your Diet?” It was really fun!

  • 4mula1 commented on May 22, 2013 at 12:44 pm

    vegan by design!… also please visit, (no lie can live forever!).

  • Rebecca commented on May 22, 2013 at 1:08 pm

    Can you imagine what it was like over 30 years ago? I started my son off at birth being vegetarian, as a toddler, he really did not like eggs, so that stopped. only carob and not chocolate and nothing with msg or processed. 7-11 would carry carob milk just for him. I had to change dr’s as 1 did not believe he would strive, though he had no cavities and iron level up so much, it was an art and we read up on balancing all foods. Another Dr. applauded this and says all physicals show he is healthier than kids that eat hot dogs and hamburgers daily. He got violently ill getting into spaghetti sauce with meat one day so I introduced him to bologna and hot dogs before kindergarten thinking other kids will share foods and snacks at school or at their home. He really did not like meat or Hostess cupcakes.Had to go gradually of course as he lost the enzymes that break up meat. He rarely had meat at all with peers, Not as much in late 80’s and early 90’s. He chose to go vegan and still is and healthy and happy. My husband went from vegetarian to vegan and so much is out there now that wasn’t. We had to make alot of our own patties from scratch or go to a few out there that tasted like dog food.I love this site . Good ideas. Good luck to mom’s out there going the vegan route on their kids.

  • chander kumar soni commented on May 22, 2013 at 1:08 pm

    good efforts.

  • Cynthia commented on May 22, 2013 at 1:52 pm

    Chris, think about what an egg is. Then think what happens to the chickens once they stop laying!

  • VeganMomToo commented on May 22, 2013 at 2:18 pm

    I’m glad you have had such wonderfully positive experiences. I have two vegan sons, ages 14 & 11. I guess my 11 year old is at a rough age to be around other boys as he has gotten many negative comments as well as very offensive gestures such as other kids putting their non vegan foods such as hot dogs in his face during lunch time. He doesn’t get invited to many sleepovers or as many parties as he use prior to being vegan – I think the “whole vegan thing” scares other adults. When they are invited I find out what the other children are having and send a vegan similar item and always including cake or cupcakes for the cake ceremony. It is difficult at times especially when they take camp trips (my son’s 5th grade class just went away to camp for 3 days) or athletic camps to make sure they can be sent with their own food. I can’t wait for the day that there are more accommodating restaurants (for when you are traveling), facilities and accepting people. Some people actually get mad when you tell them you are vegan, a concept I don’t quite understand. If I told them I don’t eat rice – they wouldn’t care, but say you don’t eat animal products and for some reason it elicits hatred from some people. It seems if you have allergies to foods or religious reasons for not eating certain foods that it is more acceptable to others than someone who has made the decision based on their own moral conscience (and knowledge too). Nice to hear other people’s stories about their children. I wish my boys had vegan friends to share their similar stories and feelings regarding their choices. But at least they have each other and me to talk to about these things. I think it has actually brought them closer together -as they are great friends not just brothers. It would be wonderful if they had a vegan website, game or something for vegan kids- I think it would be great moral support to know there are actually other vegan kids out there who share the same beliefs. We are moving from a fairly “accepting” community in the northwest to the southern U.S. where these types of beliefs are even more rare. It’s a bit scary for me and I feel like my boys shouldn’t tell people they are vegan right away because I want people to like them for who they are not just for what they don’t eat. Sort of a dilemma for me, as I believe they should stick up for their thoughts, feelings, etc. however, kids can be cruel, mean, bully and play some pretty horrific “practical jokes.” I couldn’t bear the pain of my boys being picked on because they care tremendously about the welfare of animals and their own health.

  • Debby Sunshine commented on May 22, 2013 at 3:39 pm

    I really enjoyed reading your uplifting article about raising your vegan son. Since you explained things to him in age appropriate ways, it must have “felt right” to him not to partake in hurting animals. One of my biggest regrets is not raising my children vegan (they are 19 & 17 years old now) so I applaud you in every way!!!

  • Erika commented on May 23, 2013 at 1:59 pm

    Jack is very sensitive and i like people and the children sensitive that respect the animals,the nature,the earth.

  • Marta Venade commented on May 24, 2013 at 5:31 am

    Hi everyone.

    I am so glad to hear these news!!!.

    I am going to bring up my kids to be vegan or vegetarian.

  • asha foote commented on May 25, 2013 at 5:41 pm

    It’s really comforting & inspiring to know so many people are raising their kids vegan. My husband & I only recently became vegan after being vegetarian for many years. We didn’t know about bobby calves nor the male chicks that are killed. You might not know about this yet either Chris. Even if you buy free uye range organic eggs, the male chicks born into the egg industry are systematically killed day 1 of their lives, as they will never be able to lay eggs. They will not be grown for their meat either, as a different breed of chicken ‘broiler’ is used for their meat as they grow faster & bigger.
    That is why we stopped eating eggs. It’s been easier than we expected too!

  • Chris commented on May 29, 2013 at 11:24 am

    I know about eggs and chickens and the horrors of factory farming. I’m just saying that suppose you were an individual who had a farm with some chickens…I don’t think it would be wrong to eat unfertilized eggs….of course you would NOT be killing the chickens once they stopped laying either…you’d just keep them and feed them as the pets that they are.

  • Johnnas commented on August 9, 2013 at 7:19 pm

    I have just turned vegan ( 1 week today!) and I have four children who will be raised vegan. They are 11, 9, 3 and 7 months. They are embracing it wholeheartedly, and their natural innocence and empathy make it a very natural change. Even after only one week, all are happy and inspired. They have a newfound sense of self esteem, knowing that the choices they are making save animals, and they are not supporting those who are unjust. I am so proud of my family.

  • Toktam commented on October 2, 2013 at 5:36 am

    I’m really touched by this article. if one day i have a child i desire to raise him/her as a vegan too.

  • Vanessa commented on October 24, 2013 at 3:59 pm

    Thanks for this article! I have been an ovo-lacto vegetarian for 23 years and am raising my 4 year old daughter this way too. We are talking more about becoming a completely vegan family, but doing it the right way to ensure all her nutritional needs are met. So good to hear from others who are doing this, and doing it well!

  • Tanisha commented on August 25, 2014 at 7:25 am

    Hi Tracy, I really enjoyed this article of yours because it made me realize that I am actually doing something right with my little boy who is only 3 years old. I have been perfectly up front with him about stuff we eat; anything that has milk that is made for baby cows, he knows about and knows we don’t drink that milk but its really hard when someone shoves a dairy chocolate in front of his face – how do I take it away from him? I have never been able to but I have explained to him that there is baby cows milk in it but he is still small so kind of forgets the reason why I don’t want him eating it. Anyway, its really challenging and I could really use some advice as my husband eats animals and even though I have forbid animal products in our home, its not quite that simple. HELP PLEASE :0(

    • Whitney Calk commented on September 2, 2014 at 1:54 pm

      Hi Tanisha! Where is it that people are giving your little one chocolates? If it’s somewhere like preschool or daycare, I’d recommend talking to his teacher and letting him or her know where you stand on the issue. We’ve heard from several parents who make it easy by keeping a stockpile of treats in their child’s classroom so that if something pops up, like a classmate is handing out candy, desserts, etc, for a birthday, the teacher is able to quickly substitute in something for their child that is OK for him to eat. Keeping small treats in your purse, in the car, etc, can also help ease the awkwardness if someone hands him something made from dairy or other byproducts. The good news is that the older he gets, the more he will understand and be able to say “Nope!” on his own. 🙂 Hope this helps!

  • Bethany commented on October 20, 2014 at 7:00 pm

    Hi… I did also enjoy this article. Any advice on how to get Dad to allow you to raise your kid vegan? Meat is apparently very important to his culture- he accepts that I am not interested. Yet insists that our son (3) has the opportunity to eat all this ‘vitamin-rich’ meat and tears up bits all over his plate, every time he is present. Sometimes our son will eat it like normal, other times he loses interest in the entire dish. Hmm :/

  • Megan commented on December 6, 2014 at 5:15 pm

    Thank you for this article. I always feel so encouraged when I read about other parents who’ve raised their children as vegans from the start. My small children have been vegan since… Well.. Conception. I’ve been very clear since the begging that this is how they would be raised and I’ve come up against a lot of opposition from close family and friends. My toddler is at an age where she doesn’t quite understand why she can’t eat what everyone else is eating, though I always try to have the vegan equivalent on hand for her. I’ve explained in very simple terms that animal products are”yucky.” But with close relatives I’m still trying to find a way to tell her these things without being offensive. They often feel that when I don’t allow her to eat the snacks,( often pure junk) that the other children are eating that she is being deprived.
    I find it particularly frustrating because my husband is an omnivore and she often gets frustrated when Papa won’t share. I don’t feel that it is my place to tell him what to eat, (though I suspect the moment my daughter confronts him about his choices, will be the last time he eats animals.) Thank you for the encouragement.

  • Kalla commented on January 15, 2015 at 12:52 pm

    I’ve recently became vegan(3 months now). I have never felt better about anything in my life, other than of course having my own family. I made the choice myself first, then I decided to get my 3 year old into this lifestyle.
    Everyone in my family and around us began to tell me how awful that is to not give my son meat and dairy. How I should be letting him make his own choices. If i did he would already be obese, he loves donuts, cookies, and soda :/
    I am glad to see that there is a light at end of tunnel that my son won’t grow up thinking he is being treated unfairly (at school ). Thank you!

  • Anna Chatterton commented on March 11, 2015 at 10:50 am

    Has PETA considered funding longitudinal studies on Vegans from Birth? Would love that so much, feel like it would make such an impact on how people view parents raising their kids vegan, and might encourage them to do the same.

  • Julie commented on July 24, 2015 at 10:16 pm

    Great article. Just wondering about you and your kids teeth. I really would like to go vegan but I worry about my kids teeth. I’ve read and heard that this is a problem with vegan kids. Any info?

  • Sam commented on November 11, 2015 at 1:45 pm

    This truly brought me to tears reading how he is so passionate about such a great cause.
    I’m only 17, I’ve been a vegan for about a year and a half now, and if I ever have a child, I hope to raise him with the same values.
    This article was wonderful, thank you.

  • Tiffany commented on November 22, 2015 at 10:49 am

    What an awesome boy and awesome parents! I wish I had vegan parents. 🙂