Youth Can’t Handle the Truth?

Seth Victor

I happened to watch CNN this afternoon at the deli where I had lunch. The featured story focused on what age is too young for a child to be vegan.

Recently there has been a stir surrounding “Vegan is Love” by author Ruby Roth. To quote the Amazon summary,”Roth illustrates how our daily choices ripple out locally and globally, conveying what we can do to protect animals, the environment, and people across the world. Roth explores the many opportunities we have to make ethical decisions: refusing products tested on or made from animals; avoiding sea parks, circuses, animal races, and zoos; choosing to buy organic food; and more.”

Such brashness.

Ms. Roth has upset some people because her book does not depict animals in bucolic landscapes, but instead shows them with sores in labs, and advocates against zoos and animal exploitation. There is a fear that her book will scare children into becoming vegan, and that the result will be malnourished children who do not get the nutrients they need. Where to begin?

First let’s consider whether the “fear” argument has merit. Ms. Roth defends her work, stating “if it’s too scary to talk about, the reality of where those pieces of meat come from, then it’s certainly too scary to eat.” Children are impressionable, and can be frightened. They are also incredibly perceptive, and often have an uncanny sense when something is wrong. Perhaps there is a reason why children find this upsetting. This isn’t some invented horror show to terrify kids; this is our food system. This is happening. Is there merit in hiding the cruelties of the world until they become habit and society enforces the concept of meat as the center of every meal ? As for traumatizing kids, I don’t see how we can do much worse than Grimm fairy tales, or Disney animated movies (is there even one Disney heroine with both parents alive?).

Next let’s consider diet. If we scare kids into realizing the truth about  animal consumption, there is a risk they won’t eat animal products. Such a shift could apparently cause health risks in our nation’s youth. No, much better to make sure they keep eating mass-produced meat, eggs, and cheese, keep calm and carry on. That is unless the current American diet is cause for concern, but if that were the case, certainly there would be some kind of study showing an increase in child obesity linked to over-consumption of meaty fast food. Oh. So perhaps the key is making sure meals are nutritious and proportional in general, and not whether there is enough animal protein. Or maybe we could all just eat more broccoli.

So what did CNN teach me today? It taught me that many people don’t know what “vegan” means (since there were bullet points to demonstrate the definition). More importantly, it taught me that some people are desperately afraid that a children’s book that hints at the reality of the CAFO industry could actually affect change in the next generation. This, of course, is unacceptable. Children today already have it rough. They already have to deal with the fact that two people of the same sex might love each other and have a family. If they have to process that dinner might have once had a face and feelings as well, they’ll crack.

6 Responses

  1. Nice, inoffensive use of tongue-in-cheek, Seth.

    Roth’s book is perhaps a restatement, in language children can understand, of Leo Tolstoy’s famous utterance in Anna Karenina: “Hypocrisy in anything whatever may deceive the cleverest and most penetrating man, but the least wide-awake of children recognizes it, and is revolted by it, however ingeniously it may be disguised.”

    Adult carnists, especially those profiting from the trade in animal flesh and fluids, are probably deathly afraid that children really do get Roth’s message.

  2. We all need to go back to the innocence of childhood,where watching snails leave their trail on a summer sidewalk, and seeing water pour from drainspouts suddenly become magic moments.

  3. I do not know if i could become vegan. Now I am vegetarian but I could not force my child to eat what I want. On the other hand I could present my ideas but I think children should have choice to decide what they want.

  4. I love Ruby Roth’s new book. It’s refreshing to find an author who will tell children the truth, instead of the tiring Old Macdonald trope.

    And you’re absolutely right, vegan kids who eat a wide range of veggies, fruits, grains, and proteins, and who have a reliable source of b12, are vibrantly healthy! As Ms. Roth said in a recent interview, McDonald’s already markets to American kids — should we allow companies to push that diet without ourselves encouraging kids to make healthy choices? I, for one, don’t think so.

  5. Sarah, you CAN go vegan, you just don’t want to. If you didn’t want to support animal exploitation and torture, you WOULD want to go vegan and you would become vegan right away. Being vegetarian doesn’t help animals in any way, you still morally support the notion that they are objects we are free to use and dispose of at our will. It only helps you feel better (by lying to yourself), not them. They are just as tortured for milk and eggs as for meat, and they all end up in the same slaughterhouse. All male calves (from dairy farms) and male chicks (from hen farms) are killed as babies, even on so-called “good farms”. This is what you are paying for.

    Your children SHOULD have the choice. They should be able to choose whether they want to kill animals or not. I think it is clear what they will decide if you are truthful with them and stop concealing where their milk glass came from. They don’t want to hurt animals, they just don’t know that they are doing it (because of you).

    This is not rough, this is simply the truth, plain and simple.

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