While parenting a vegan child has so many positive aspects, raising your little one to be kind to all individuals, regardless of species, can involve the unfortunate task of explaining unpleasant things to them—like why some people eat animal-derived foods.
We’ve asked PETA staffers who are parents how they’ve handled this difficult conversation with their own little ones and what their best advice is so that you can have some extra tools in your toolbox when responding to your compassionate kiddo. Here’s what they had to say:
“I let my daughter know that not everyone has a mommy or daddy who has taught them that all animals are special. I then clarified that although others might not know this, she does. I reminded her that other animals all have family members and friends and that they like to play and cuddle, just as she and I do—and that maybe people who don’t eat vegan just need someone to teach them about animals.”
“My daughter is almost 4, and we’ve been explaining to her that animals are our friends and that eating them and using them for food is ‘yucky.’ We’ve gone to farm sanctuaries and otherwise learned about animals while respecting them in their natural settings.”
“I always try to add the word ‘vegan’ to everything—I’m always saying, ‘Let’s eat a vegan cookie,’ ‘These vegan chicken nuggets are made of plants,’ or ‘Almond milk is vegan and delicious!’ And when they say things like, ‘Grandma said people eat different things and that’s OK,’ I say, ‘Yes, that´s correct, but we don´t need to hurt animals to be able to eat.'”
“We haven’t had the conversation yet, but I know that we’ll need to one day. I anticipate saying something along the lines of ‘We eat and live this way because we know that no animal needs to be hurt for us to eat. But unfortunately, not everyone knows what we know, and companies that sell meat try very hard to keep people from finding out. It’s our job to help animals by teaching others what we know.'”
“We avoid saying, ‘People who eat animals don’t yet know what really happens to animals used for food,’ because that’s not entirely accurate—I think a lot of people do know but choose to overlook it. Instead, we say, ‘It’s not our place to judge. But we can try to show them how amazing animals are and why they deserve respect by watching animal-friendly movies or reading animal-friendly books with them or in other ways.'”
“My kid sometimes says that she wishes some of our family members were vegan. We respond by agreeing with her and then suggest that we bake vegan cookies to give them the next time we visit.”
“My plan is to explain to my son why we don’t eat animals so that he’ll be confident about it and won’t feel pressured by others to change his ways. I want him to be able to see farmed animals happy and playing at sanctuaries so that he will understand that they don’t want to die and that the ones he got to see are just like the ones being killed for food.”
“My daughter is 5, and my son is 2. I’ve told my daughter that sometimes, the people we love make bad choices. That doesn’t mean that they are bad or that we can’t still love them. It’s just the choice that is bad. I tell her that if she wants to, it’s OK to remind them that animals are our friends, not food, and that it’s not kind to eat them.”
Looking for more tips? Check out more resources for raising a compassionate kid in our parent section. Or consider joining our Vegan Mentor Program—check the “I want a mommy mentor” box to get paired up with someone who can help you navigate vegan parenting.
Have your own suggestions for explaining to kids why some people aren’t vegan? E-mail us at [email protected] and we may share it!