Parents

A Vegan Child’s Journey

The following was adapted from an article written by educator and mother of 4, Genelle Palacio and originally appeared on VeganPublishers.com.

My young daughter’s vegan journey started at the age of 3. I served her chicken nuggets when she asked me a question that changed our lives forever. Genesis asked, “Mom, how do you get this food?”

I wanted to take the easy way out, so I told her I bought it from the store. My daughter has always been very intelligent, so I should have known that this would not be a good enough response for her. She asked, “It’s from the store, but where do the nuggets come from?” I stopped for a moment to think about my reply. I have always wanted to be honest with my children, so I told her the truth and said, “Baby, we have to kill animals to get your food.”

She looked at me in disbelief and started to cry. She told me she never wanted to eat animals again, and I told her I would think about it and secretly hoped she would forget our conversation, because I knew if she gave up eating meat, I would have to do it, too.

Genesis passing out cruelty-free eating pamphlet.

Now 8 years old, Genesis speaks up for animals whenever she can by leafleting in her town.

Months went by, and she didn’t ask, but I started to research vegetarianism and watch food documentaries. I stopped buying processed food, artificial sugars, and food containing artificial ingredients, but I continued to purchase animal products because I thought I could not live without them.

On occasion, my daughter would ask if we could stop eating animals, and each time, I told her I would think about it. I was considering it because of the health benefits but did not see the ethical aspect to it until I saw pictures posted on Facebook by vegan friends I met online.

After a year of having blinders on, I took them off, and when Genesis was 4 1/2, I told her we could stop eating meat. My husband jumped on board to support us, and we quickly found that going vegetarian wasn’t as hard as we thought it would be. But we never considered going vegan, because we thought we couldn’t live without cheese.

Genesis protests animal testing.

Genesis cares about all animals and knows that hurting them is wrong. That’s why she decided to attend a protest against animal testing with her family. She even helped make this cute sign!

One year into being a vegetarian, Genesis asked me how cheese was made. I told her cheese was made from milk and milk is taken from cows. I was nursing my baby at the time I told her this, and she said, “Mom, that is like someone taking the milk you are making for my baby sister and giving it to someone else, right?” I looked at my baby, who was nursing, and tears started rolling down my face as I realized she was exactly right. How could I take part in such a cruel industry? Was my love for cheese greater than a calf’s need for his or her mother’s milk?

I told my daughter that if we stop consuming dairy products, then that means no pizza, no mac and cheese, no ice cream, and no birthday cake since these were her favorite foods. She told me, “Mom, if it means a baby cow can have his mother’s milk, then I am OK with that.” I realized that if a young child thought she had enough will power to live without dairy products, then I could, too. From that day on, we have been vegan.

Genesis and friend advocate for veganism.

Is there anything cuter than vegan kids like Genesis and her friend speaking up for pigs? We think not!

I have had people question me when I share her thoughts because they cannot believe a young child would say these things. It does sound hard to believe, but we have to remember that children are so much smarter than we give them credit for. This is one reason I have always felt the need to tell her the truth and be honest with her.

Parents may find themselves in the same situation as their child starts to question eating animal products and may even want to go vegan. As an educator, I truly believe that knowledge is power. Research veganism and children, and you will find that children can have optimal health through a vegan diet. Discover various sources of nutrients and protein, and then incorporate them into your child’s diet. My daughter loves smoothies, so I make her a smoothie every morning and add chia seeds to it because they are packed with protein!

Genesis wins title of MVP in flag football, proving how strong vegans are.

Genesis was named Most Valuable Player of her school’s flag football team, proving how strong vegans are!

Also, sit with your child and make a list of all his or her favorite foods then go on a shopping trip together and discover vegan alternatives. The more you learn, the more confident you will be raising a vegan child.

It was difficult discussing the deaths of animals for food, and it is very hard trying to explain to a child why humans feel they can do this to animals, but I am glad I did it. Her love for animals and desire to help as many animals as she can has led her to activism.

Genesis and her brother stand up for animals.

Genesis and her brother love speaking up for animals together!

Genesis wants to speak up for animals and show other children that they are never too young to stand up for what they believe in. I know she will encounter obstacles throughout her journey, but I am confident that she will continue to stand up for what she believes in as long as she has support from family and the vegan community. Oftentimes, children say they want to be just like their parents when they grow up. Personally, I want to be just like my daughter.

Genesis shows that you're never too young to stand up for what you believe in.

Genesis’ story is proof that you’re never too young to stand up for what you believe in.

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  • Jia Hui Lee commented on December 5, 2014 at 6:45 pm

    I love this family!!!

  • Jennifer G. commented on December 5, 2014 at 8:47 pm

    That is such a beautiful story and she is such an amazing little girl! Bravo!!

  • Karin Nelson commented on December 5, 2014 at 9:42 pm

    Thank you sweet child for having the forsight and compassion that many adults don’t have. Keep spreading the word!

  • Jessie Gray commented on December 6, 2014 at 12:26 am

    What a wonderful story! My 5 year old niece has been asking me about eating the same vegetarian foods I eat, so I offered her some “vegetarian chicken nuggets” the other day and she LOVED them!! I plan on only feeding her vegetarian meals and snacks from now on when I am babysitting her.

  • Mercedes De Windt commented on December 6, 2014 at 3:56 pm

    Thank you for sharing this lovely story. Tears are rolling down my cheeks, sweet tears… This is how it should be. I wish all parents were so honest, compassionate and caring. Thank you Genesis, I don’t know you but lots of vegan hugs also for your little brother and parents. xox

  • Kelly commented on December 6, 2014 at 8:19 pm

    What a brave, curious, and intelligent little girl you have! I’m sure you are so proud of her. Thank you so much for sharing Genesis’s story. She is truly an inspiration, and she reminds all of us how loving, emotional, and connected to animals we were as children. What happens to us as we grow up? How wonderful that you have taken this journey together as a family. Blessings to you! Please tell Genesis thank you for her compassion, and also for being so true to herself. That strength and conviction will help her throughout her life.

  • Susanne commented on December 7, 2014 at 11:15 am

    Parenting – you’re doing it right! 🙂 <3

    Kudos to you. I am impressed and deeply moved by your willingness to be honest to your child and by your readiness to re-consider your beliefs and convictions. This is so rare, especially among adults.

    Thank you for this story and all the best to you, your very special husband, and your fantastic, beautiful children. 🙂

    Many greetings from Germany! <3

  • cat land commented on December 7, 2014 at 4:46 pm

    What a Sweet Child! Hope for the future! Cruelty Free. <3

  • PATTY JACKSON commented on December 8, 2014 at 1:43 am

    Thank you Genesis for this article & for being kind to Animals.

  • Joe Pincin commented on December 10, 2014 at 8:56 pm

    I am moved by this story. She is so adorable. I believe that most of the younger generation will not accept the BS that’s dished out so intensely by marketers. May Genesis influence many!
    Blessings!

  • GIAN CHAND PINJANI commented on December 17, 2014 at 9:01 am

    Wonderful child with a great virtue of Compassion. May the Blessings of God be always with her & her parents.

  • Arnie commented on December 19, 2014 at 3:42 pm

    All Love! 🙂 <3

  • Cynthia K commented on January 1, 2015 at 10:55 pm

    I am very impressed with Genesis. I too have a daughter who is 10 and has recently decided to become vegan. She has watched documentaries on the mistreatment of animals and on healthy eating. As a result, she has decided to become vegan. The first time she questioned eating lamb chops when she was about 3 or 4, and became very sad when she found out what they were.

  • Juliet gaeta commented on February 24, 2015 at 9:43 am

    Congratulations to this family!!!

  • Yoko Rubenstein commented on March 25, 2015 at 1:43 pm

    I hate to burst your bubble, PETA, but veganism for kids is extremely unhealthy. It can lead to tooth decay, anemia, weak bones, failure to thrive, rickets, and even death. According to Shape.com, “A vegan diet filled with grains, white bread, and fruit is just as unhealthy as the Standard American Diet.” (rant written by a twelve-year-old non-vegan)

    • Carley Bowering commented on April 3, 2015 at 6:49 pm

      Thanks for reaching out to us! Acclaimed pediatrician the late Dr. Benjamin Spock wrote in his book Dr. Spock’s Baby and Child Care, “Children who grow up getting their nutrition from plant foods rather than meats … are less likely to develop weight problems, diabetes, high blood pressure, and some forms of cancer.”

      Foodborne illnesses affect more than 48 million people annually and kill more than 3,000. Consumer Reports found that 97 percent of chicken breasts that it tested “harbored bacteria that could make you sick.” E. coli bacteria can be deadly, especially to children, and sicken thousands of people each year, with the most common cause being the consumption of ground beef.

      Nutritionists and physicians have learned that plant products are good sources of protein, iron, and calcium because they can be easily absorbed by the body and don’t contain artery-clogging fat. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics states that “[w]ell-planned vegan … diets are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including during pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence.”

      The following is a list of nutrients and the ways that you can obtain them on a vegan diet:

      Protein: In the United States, consumption of too much protein is a much bigger issue than not getting enough. Protein deficiency is common only in countries suffering from famine. Children can get all the protein that their bodies need from whole grains in the form of oats, brown rice, and pasta; nuts and seeds, including sunflower seeds, almonds, walnuts, and spreads such as tahini and peanut butter; and legumes, including tofu, lentils, and beans.

      Iron: Some babies’ intestines bleed after drinking cow’s milk, increasing their risk of developing iron-deficiency anemia since the blood that they’re losing contains iron. Formula-fed babies should be given a soy-based formula with added iron to minimize the risk of intestinal bleeding. Iron-rich foods such as raisins, almonds, dried apricots, blackstrap molasses, and fortified grain cereals will meet the needs of toddlers and children 12 months and older. Vitamin C helps the body absorb iron, so foods rich in both—such as green, leafy vegetables—are particularly valuable.

      Calcium: Broccoli, kale, tofu, dried figs, tahini, great northern beans, blackstrap molasses, and fortified orange juice and soy milk are all excellent sources of calcium. As with iron, vitamin C will help your child’s system absorb calcium efficiently.

      Vitamin D: Cow’s milk does not naturally contain vitamin D—it’s added later. Vitamin D–enriched soy milk provides this nutrient without the animal fat. A child who spends as little as 10 to 15 minutes three times a week playing in the sunshine, with arms and face exposed, will also get sufficient vitamin D because it is synthesized in the skin when the skin is exposed to sunlight.

      Vitamin B12: Whereas other primates get their necessary vitamin B12 from dirt, unchlorinated water, feces, and insects, commercially available B12 tablets will ensure an adequate amount of the vitamin for your child.25 Vitamin B12 is also found in fortified soy milk and many cereals.

      We hope this helps! If you have any further questions, please e-mail us at [email protected].

      • leticia chaw commented on April 9, 2015 at 3:28 pm

        Made me cry and inspired me !! great mom!! Keep up the fight Genesis!

  • Cate commented on June 5, 2015 at 8:01 pm

    I didn’t become vegetarian until I was almost eleven. Genesis must be such an intelligent and thoughtful child to want to turn vegan at such a young age. Congratulations, Genesis! I hope you continue to stand up for animals and their rights! 😀