So my daughter (Arcadia, 5 yrs old) has started to notice that Ed and I don’t eat meat, eggs or dairy and is beginning to ask questions. This shouldn’t be tricky but of course it is because all I want, as a parent, is to be able to answer any questions my children might ask me, as honestly and thoughtfully as I can and with eating animals this is tricky. For example… here’s yesterday’s conversation:
Me: “Because sausages are made from pork which comes from pigs and I don’t want to eat pigs”.
Arcadia: “Sausages don’t come from pigs mummy they come from shops”.
Me: “Yes we buy them from shops but they are made from pigs that have been raised and killed for their meat”.
Arcadia: “But that’s horrible. Why would people kill pigs?”
Me: “Because they like the taste of sausages”.
Arcadia: “Maybe they don’t know their sausages come from pigs – I think we should tell them. Or maybe it should say pig on the packet and not sausages and then people would know not to eat them. I don’t think the school knows that sausages are pig because then people wouldn’t eat them”.
Now why people would choose to kill and eat pigs when they don’t need to is completely flabbergasting to me so how on earth I explain it to a 5 yr old I don’t know. Because of course it makes entirely no sense to her – as it doesn’t to me. Now I could tell her what my parents told me which was that pigs and cows are here to provide us with food. I could say that they live long and happy lives on Old Macdonalds farm before one day, after a long and happy life, they wander down the lane to the cosy slaughterhouse and get turned into scrummy sausages for the lovely butchers. But of course I can’t because we all know this is utter bullshit. So I am left with trying to tell her the truth, to arm her with the facts so that she can then make up her own mind, without leaving her entirely dumbstruck, appalled and confused because these aren’t things that a 5 yr old should be feeling. But the facts leave her feeling all of those things.
Luckily there is a Rastafarian boy in her class who is vegetarian and a Hindu girl who doesn’t eat beef and a Jewish boy who doesn’t eat pork and only eats kosher and lots of Muslim children who only eat halal so she can discuss all of their food choices with them and make up her own mind.
Today she told granny that she didn’t want to eat the fish that she’d bought her for lunch because she didn’t want to ‘kill fishes”. Granny promptly cooked and fed her fish anyway so its clearly going to be a long and bumpy road…
Any advice from parents, teachers, siblings etc who have fielded questions on the subject from curious small people is very welcome!
It is so blisteringly obvious that fish feel pain that I just don’t understand why we don’t care more about their suffering. Surely if more people were urged to watch videos like this and confront the reality of their suffering they would think again before opting for the catch of the day…
This video from thekillingoftuna.org is another brutal reminder of why fish should not be on any menu!
Susannah Constantine has caused outrage by posting a picture of her ten-year-old daughter Cece proudly clutching a dead duck and with her face smeared with blood to mark her first kill.
I’ve been reading all the various reactions from people and mostly the debate has developed into whether or not you should be honest with your children about where meat comes from. And this is missing the point entirely.
1. How much of the meat that you eat on a daily basis was killed on a country estate by posh people for ‘sport’? The odd pheasant casserole possibly if you’re in the 1% of the country that takes part in these country pursuits but otherwise basically none of it. So if ‘education’ is really what this is all about then you would presumably be as keen to take your kids around a slaughterhouse, a factory farm or a chicken shed? No I thought not… The reality is slightly less palatable isn’t it?
2. Of course you should be honest with your children about where meat comes from – but not if you’re feeding them totally incorrect information. Not if your moral compass is completely out of whack. I was told from a very young age where meat comes from (I was raised on a small farm) but I never witnessed it. The closest I came was when mum insisted we stay inside whilst dad strangled all the chickens that had stopped laying eggs so were now ‘surplus to requirements’. Funnily enough, my parents weren’t shuffling us into ringside seats for this barbaric spectacle. Alongside my education of where meat comes from I was also told that these animals were put here to feed us – that that was their purpose, their raison d’etre. I was told that we needed meat to survive and that is was an entirely natural process. What total nonsense!
3. I was certainly not told the whole truth. How most animals in the world are kept in horrific concentration camp conditions for their entire lives before being needlessly slaughtered at a dismally tender age. I wasn’t told what happens to every single male chick born to the egg industry – minced alive at less than a day old by thousands. I wasn’t told what happens to the dairy calves that aren’t wanted for veal – killed within the first week as ‘by-product’ of the dairy industry. And I certainly wasn’t told that I could live a perfectly happy, healthy, compassionate life without ever having to eat, wear or use any animal products ever again.
So if the person guiding you through life’s moral maze is a member of the third reich and is telling you that it’s ok to gas someone because they are Jewish it’s probably not the kind of education I’d be wanting for my kids and its certainly not a defense to say that at least their being honest!
A child is incredibly easily influenced by what their parents say, as we all are by people in positions of authority to us, which is how otherwise decent human beings throughout history have been coerced into doing horrific things under the misguided guise of ‘doing the right thing’.
Teaching children that it’s ok to kill animals for sport or food is not okay in my book. It’s wrong, it’s confusing, it’s deeply irresponsible and it’s dangerous. If we want to raise the next generation of children to be compassionate, free thinking, rational individuals then we need to start being honest about how inexcusable it is in this day and age to consume any animal products of any kind.