Remember those ads on TV in the 80s which insisted that every child must have at least 3 serves of dairy per day in order to prevent children’s bones from crumbling into chalky nothingness? Remember as a result, guzzling down litres of milk, eating cheese sandwiches for lunch and a tub of yogurt or a custard cup for a snack and some ice cream for dessert after macaroni and cheese for dinner? Remember how most people thought that being vegetarian somehow meant that you ate fish (maybe even ham or chicken) and the only thing in a restaurant that didn’t actually contain meat were fries but even they were cooked in tallow most of the time?
Do you remember how it felt like growing up as a vegan in those days? No…? Well, I know somebody who does.
I would like you to meet 30 year old, Shaun Durrance who was raised vegan in the 80s/90s and has been vegan from birth.
Shaun is the success story that every vegan parent longs to hear: you can raise a well adjusted vegan child who is compassionate, yet still fits into the mainstream world.
Shaun’s mother turned vegetarian at age 16 and became vegan not long before becoming pregnant. She felt no anxiety regarding the adequacy of the vegan diet in pregnancy because she ate a balanced diet, ensuring she was getting plenty of protein as well as taking B12 supplements and kelp tablets. She sought a homebirth doctor whom was supportive of her vegan lifestyle and was recommended to her by friends. She did, indeed give birth to a healthy baby boy.
Raising a child with positive values
Vegan parents often get accused of taking choices away from their children by not allowing them to consume animal products and we all get asked what we will do if our children all of a sudden want to try steak.
It’s true – not every single child who is raised vegan will stay vegan, but raising a child with compassionate values is more likely to have the outcome that we hope for: a person who is sensitive to his/ her environment and is filled with compassion and awareness towards all living beings.
For Shaun, growing up in the 80s and 90s as a vegan, where vegan food was scarce and basically unheard of did not result in resentment toward veganism, in fact, Shaun says that he can remember as far back as 3 understanding what it meant to be vegan and remembers explaining where gelatine came from to his classmates in prep.
Shaun can also pinpoint when it was that he began to take ownership of his veganism as his own choice. The curiosity that generally kills the cat, this time, did not kill the cat but actually revived it. When Shaun tried milk chocolate at the age of 13, he started to think about where the milk in the chocolate came from and from then on made a conscious decision for himself not to consume anything that harms animals.
You might also enjoy these related articles:
- Raising Vegan Children: Been There, Done That, the Kids Are Fine
- Mother, are You Telling Your Children the Truth?
- Explaining Veganism to Children
Concerns over social acceptance
Bullying and being picked on is another area of concern that is an issue for vegans and non-vegans alike. I know I have spent my fair share of time wondering whether my child will be a target for bullies or if she will be isolated just because she is vegan and I have certainly had many well-meaning people express their concern on the matter. For Shaun however, although he got asked plenty of questions about his diet/lifestyle, there were no feelings of isolation it was just one aspect of his life, not the be all and end all; aside from veganism he was otherwise just like any child. His hobbies included basketball, video games, woodworking and cooking and he enjoyed going to the beach and parks. At birthday parties, his mother always made certain there was something for him, even if it was just a bun with a pickle and tomato at McDonald’s parties.
Mostly, his friends felt uncomfortable eating meat around him rather than him feeling uncomfortable eating vegan in front of them. People did sometimes try to pick on him about his veganism but he quite enjoyed debating with them! Bullying was never a significant issue to the degree that he feared attending school. There was only one incident where a child tried to force cheese into Shaun’s mouth but mostly it was just annoying questions like ‘if you were in the desert and would starve if you didn’t eat the lizard. Would you eat it?’
Nurturing a third generation of vegans
Shaun these days is married to the lovely Patricia, also vegan, and they have a beautiful daughter Katarina, almost 3 who is also being raised vegan. Clearly Shaun wasn’t overly traumatised by his vegan upbringing if he has chosen to pass it down to the next generation. Shaun has never been malnourished, has never broken a bone despite many falls in sport and doesn’t believe that the anxiety in the public regarding raising vegan children is warranted. Shaun says he was given balanced meals – the key to optimum nutrition.
So based on our live specimen Shaun, I think all of us vegan parents can sleep well tonight knowing that veganism will not result in our children’s bones crumbling and they will not be social outcasts because of it! If Shaun’s mum could raise a well adjusted vegan child/ren in the 80s and 90s, then we all have a very good chance with all the knowledge, awareness, products and support we have these days. We truly are living in good times where veganism is evolving and coming into the mainstream. The future for our vegan children is bright.