Animal Aid

BUILDING A VEGGIE FUTURE - Part 4

In this final section of Building a Veggie Future we offer smart answers for children and parents alike when facing veggie prejudice.

A dozen top tips to disarm your critics

I always make some vegan goodies for my 5 year old when she goes to childrens parties, as there is often a lot of meat and cheese. Other parents say that she will have an eating disorder when she's older because she's 'singled out' and made to 'think about food'.

Far from having an eating disorder, your daughter will naturally know the good things to eat and will not need to worry about calories and saturated fat when she's older. You can give her extra vegan goodies when she goes to parties so that she can offer them to the other children to try.

At school, some of the boys in my year and the year above always make fun of me and call me names because I never eat meat. They say that I'm a 'sissy' and a 'girl'. I don't want to eat meat but I feel embarrassed.

Many leading male and female Olympic athletes - from body builders to basketball players, from skiers to runners - are vegetarian. Just because you care about your health, animal welfare and the future of the planet, it doesn't make you in any way weak. Gorillas, bulls and elephants are also vegetarian and no-one would accuse them of being feeble.

I am four months pregnant and although all the danger foods during pregnancy are meat or dairy-based, my doctor is encouraging me to eat meat for the protein for my baby.

Soya bean curd (tofu) is nutritionally equivalent to lean steak. Protein can also be obtained from all pulses, nuts, seeds, rice grains and grain products such as breakfast cereals. Pre-eclampsia (a syndrome linked to insufficient protein) is shown to be less common in vegan mothers.

People often say to me that I am really selfish not supporting livestock farmers when they are struggling to make a living.

Sheep and cattle producers receive massive public subsidies - paid out of our taxes. No other industry is cushioned in this way. And you can point out that taxpayers who eat no animal products are also forced to support these producers. Through your veggie diet, you do, of course, support non-animal farming.

At the playgroup where I take my two year old, the other parents think I'm depriving my child by bringing him up vegan.

Studies show that vegetarians and vegans tend to have more variety in their diets than their meat-eating counterparts. Millions of people around the world live on vegan-based diets out of choice, and produce delicious animal-free dishes drawing upon the earth's bounty of vegetables, beans, pulses, nuts and fruit.

I am later starting my periods than some of the other girls in my class and my nan says it's because I'm vegetarian and not getting enough iron.

Medical research shows that meat-eaters are just as likely to suffer from iron deficiency as vegetarians. Good sources of iron are: baked beans, whole grain bread, molasses, green leafy vegetables, dried fruit, cocoa, lentils and pulses and pumpkin seeds. Vitamin C increases the absorption of iron by a factor of six. Besides, medical research suggests that the trend in the West for girls to have their periods much earlier than in years gone by - a trend linked to the modern junk food diet - can be associated with health problems later in life.

Our doctor says it's wrong to bring our child up vegetarian/vegan because they'll miss out on vital nutrients.

This is a very old fashioned view, which sadly persists with some doctors. Animal Aid produces a range of information booklets and factsheets that are available free on request, or via our website. Arm yourself with the key nutrition facts when you next go to see your GP and explain that you know what you are talking about.

My mum looks after our four year old son sometimes, and she's started giving him meat, because she says that a bit won't hurt.

Explain to your mum that you understand her concerns but that she must stop, partly out of respect for your beliefs and partly because her actions could confuse and upset your son when he gets a bit older. You could always ask her what values she taught you when you were little and how she'd have felt if her own mother had gone against them when caring for you.

Our vegan daughter is starting school soon. She'll be taking a packed lunch, but we're worried that the other children will make fun of her food and embarrass her.

Parents generally deal with this situation by giving their child food that looks similar to what their peers will be eating. Most children are given things like fruit, sandwiches, chocolate, yoghurt and a carton of juice or milk. You can easily provide vegan versions of these things and the other children will probably be more curious than critical. Flavoured soya milk shakes are popular with all children!

Our vegetarian children are now old enough to go out shopping with their school friends, but they keep feeling left out because their friends always want to eat in a burger bar.

Burger bars are rarieties in that they go out of their way to welcome teenagers. Most do have veggie options but many vegetarians would rather eat elsewhere. Perhaps your children could persuade their friends to get takeaways so that they could all sit together, with your children eating their own lunch - like a pasty or sandwich. Or maybe the friends could be persuaded to eat somewhere in which everyone feels happy. Why not look out for suitable places to suggest.

We're having doubts about bringing our new baby up vegetarian because we're wondering whether it is right to impose our beliefs on her.

All parents have to impose their beliefs to some extent. Feeding meat to a child means imposing the belief that it is right to kill for food. Once your child is old enough, she can find out the facts and make the decision for herself whether to stay veggie.

Our young son gets very upset about people eating meat, or wearing leather. He called his uncle a 'cow killer' the other day. How can we stop him getting so angry?

Young children tend to want instant explanations for things. They are also inclined to believe that people are either 'goodies' or 'baddies' and become confused and upset when a 'nice' person does 'nasty' things. Try talking to him about some of the things in the world that don't immediately make sense, and make sure he understands that shouting at 'nice' people will just upset them and be self-defeating. You can also get good books these days that explore effective ways to communicate complicated ideas to young children.

Check out our special Veggie Month pages - you'll find a wealth of information on being veggie including delicious family-friendly recipes and nutritional and health advice. If you'd like us to post you a free pack, please send a SAE to the address below.

Building a Veggie Future was written and compiled by Becky Smith, Ronny Worsey-Richards, Tara Corcoran and Becky Lilly.

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