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:
Arcadia: “Mummy why don’t you eat sausages?”
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!