Earlier this year, I was asked to provide insight for a media company creating a short online video on the misconceptions around raising kids on a vegan diet.
It was an awesome opportunity to help spread awareness around how far the plant-based movement has come over the past several decades.
And I of course wasn’t nervous about my face being seen by millions of people in a viral video setting because, you know, vegans are no longer seen as weirdo hippies who live off of lettuce, and it’s been accepted as a totally normal way of life for kids (<<< insert totally sarcastic laugh here).
(me not being nervous before filming)
In all seriousness, the video turned out great and I’m optimistic that it, indeed, started a lot of important conversations among those who spent the 3 minutes watching it. I believe that little educational resources like this can significantly help the efforts to normalize the plant-based lifestyle for all ages, and provide a nudge toward a shift in societal ethics when it comes to food choices.
That being said, I couldn’t help myself but to scroll through some of the comments a few days after the video was publicized (Rule #1 that I’ve read from anyone who has ever been in the public eye: never read the comments….oops.)
Now before I get into this, a lot of the comments were positive! But rather than directly addressing the one guy who commented on how pasty I look (because hey, it’s the #truth), I wanted to share some of the recurring themes that came up from those who aren’t quite on board with the “vegan agenda” (oh man, I can’t even type that without snickering).
Participating in this video showed me something very important: that there are still a lot of HUGE misconceptions around who vegans are and what veganism is really about. And when you put kids in the mix, people get even more ragey and defensive.
But when it comes down to it, there’s one simple thing that the vegan community needs to remember to do to start radically changing the stereotypical image that has been bestowed upon us. I’ll share my thoughts on this at the end of this post.
[P.S. All grammatical and spelling errors in the quotes below are as is from the original posters. You should know by now that I don’t subscribe to the laziness of poor communication skills. #boom]
Misconception #1: Veganism is for rich white people.
“These are the kinds of issues the rich and affluent have. Poor people are just trying to get enough to eat. It disgust me to even read these kinds of report, when I know there are So many people who are Hungry and would eat anything they could get their hands on.”
“Let me guess but I would suppose you’re living in a first world country and can afford to live like this. Most people in the world just want to meals a day and they don’t care what it is as long as they get something to eat, let’s start there!”
“I’m not saying it’s bad but vegan-ism is a hassle and expensive.”
Misconception #2: Veganism means forcing your beliefs on your children.
“I think it’s great! However, my job as a parent is to make sure my babies are fed, which means I will not force or impose a lifestyle if the babies are not eating and it’s affecting their growth. I’m an adult whose body can adopt to dietary changes, but I’m not about to force feed my kids just because I want to.”
“Just don’t get mad at them if they eat meat later. Just like you don’t get mad when a cattle rancher’s daughter goes vegan. she just has to learn to cook for herself.”
“Raise your children to think for themselves!!!!”
“Let me start by saying, some of that food looked hideous. But my main point is this: The same group of people that wants us to let our children choose their own gender, doesn’t want us to let them choose their own dinner?”
Misconception #3: Veganism is deprivation (of food and nutrients).
“ugh. I would never and won’t raise my kids vegan. Meat is a delicacy of life! Let the kids make their own decisions you immoral parents.”
“Show me a vegan kid that does not take supplements and isnt malnourished at the same time
Let’s be honest You can’t”
“it’s good to eat healthy. But I think a 100% Vegan diet lacks nutrients needed by the body, unless substituted by pills.”
“My opinion: It’s wrong to deprive your children of food just because the parent don’t eat it. Poor kids out there that just want a cheeseburger and instead get vegetables with a side salad.
Play reverse role for a second vegans….say you were raised to eat nothing but meat and drink milk, would that be ok because the parent forced their diet on you??”
“The vegan culture never tells the whole truth. Where do you get your vitamin B12 which you can only get from meat? If you didn’t have supplements you would be vegetarian, because humans are omnivorous. Not all plant, not all meat. Variety is key.”
“healthy brain of a kid needs a lot of calories. It it’s too hard to get them without meet. Just compare sizes of vegan and meaty meals that have same calorie values.
even cows need to chew grass for a whole day.”
“ A vegan diet is unforgiving if you do not know exactly what you’re doing. Liver failure, increased toxicity, weaker stomach acid leading to less nutrient absorption, thyroid issues, hormonal imbalance. Meat has amino acids that are essential for your cells and muscles.”
“Not wrong. No law against it, but dang it would suck to grow up that way. I mean come on, a life without bacon?”
“The first time those kids eat steak or bacon, and they will, they’re gonna want to slap their parents.”
“No Parrent has time to cater to a Vegan child! SO feed your child eggs, vegitables, jello, and Bacon! You will be making their lives easier!”
“If it’s enough why use supplements?!?! The idiocy… Poor kids”
Misconception #4: Veganism is child abuse.
“Veganism to children is basically abuse! Their metabolism and bodily requirements are different to a grown human! Forcing a child to be vegan is as disgusting as anti-vaxxers or religious zealots who refuse medical treatment for their children! Vitamin supplements aren’t anywhere near as effective as meat!”
Misconception #5: Veganism is for misinformed trend followers.
“No paediatrician I know recommends vegan diet for children. No gynecologist I know recommends vegan diet for pregnant women. This is just a fashionable trend for illiterate people who don’t know how their bodies function. Under no circumstance should a child be deprived of major food groups, neither should they be made to eat fast food. It is essential for a child to eat various foods in order for them to grow healthy. If you have a problem accepting your omnivore nature, do not impose it on your child. Humans lived as omnivores for hundreds of thousands of years and this had major role in our evolution. Read some evolutionary biology. Food is fuel there is nothing about morals here.”
“vegan is a lovely philosophy however, the nutritional pitfalls of this can wreck havoc on the body’s ability to assimilate protein. The 20 essential amino acids necessary for this cannot be found in plant protein alone, therefore all vegans and vegetarians should supplement with free amino acids to ensure both they and their children have the appropriate materials to build a body.”
“there is no such thing as safe vegan diet, this is a very unhealthy way to eat, de deprive your body of ket proteins and nutrients you can’t get without meat, anyone who believes this is heathy is crazy”
“ this video is one of our worst nightmares. bring on the veg-holes who know nothing about environmental and human health effects of veganism”
Misconception #6: Veganism is an unethical human experiment.
“Yes. 95% of ‘vegan’ diets only last less than 18 months for a reason – the body starts to crave the things that are denied with a vegan diet. This basic fact needs to be fully acknowledged when we start to mess with a child’s diet, since they are in a developmental phase, and the nutrient deficiency has longer term effects than if it is simply adults experimenting with this very dubious ‘historical’ diet.”
“The sad thing is that we will only find out what effect a vegan diet has on children is when they are grown up. They might have weak bones and muscles. How sad.”
Misconception #7: Veganism is for people with an agenda to bully others.
‘“Veganism is a personal decision and shouldn’t be pushed on anybody. I feel the exact same way about organized religion.”
“No. There is something wrong about judging others for life choices they make that are different from yours however which is the main issue I have with most vegans who decide to make a big deal about their veganism”
“ I don’t care if you are vegan just quit trying to force other people to follow your life style!! Quit trying to make people who eat meat out to be horrible villans !!”
“you vegans need to stop trying to push your bullshit on everyone”
“No it’s not wrong to raise your kids vegan. What’s wrong is raising kids to be hateful bullies. So there you go”
Misconception #8: Veganism is evolutionarily incorrect.
“It maybe healthy for some but it’s not natural human beings are omnivores. Period. Just eat everything in moderation and you will be as healthy as you can be.”
When it comes down to it, plenty of people still think vegans live a certain way solely to annoy everyone else. A lot of these same people also:
Haven’t made a personal connection with their food.
“I think it’s great..I’m not vegan…I doubt I would servive more than 2 meals with out chicken at least… But if you can get a kid to eat just veggies and fruit! That’s amazing! And a great future of health….as long as he or she is getting all the nutrients they need…who cares!”
“More power to them. I wish I could be vegan but I love my meat!”
Don’t know what vegans actually eat.
“well i suppose They dont have much of a choice what they eat as they are kids and have to eat whats put under there nose. nothing wrong with a nice healthy salad. but personally i could never turn down a steak on offer for salad and watercress”
Base their presumptions about vegans on (often unfortunate) anecdotal experiences.
“Parents, feed your child as you please. All I know is I observed a child that on a vegan diet was very thin, was whiny, and never looked happy. Now, on a meat and veggies diet, the child filled out, grew inches, is happier, and smiles a lot more. Coincidence? I think not…”
“ I only know a couple of hardcore vegans, they are always agitated. I eat meat, eggs etc. Last cholesterol test was 160.”
“ I lived nextdoor to a militant vegan who preached and lived the vegan diet for many many years. When she was in her late 70’s she told me, “The worst decision I ever made in my life was to be a vegan! My body is completely broken down due to not eating a diet including meat!” A parent has the right to raise their child any way they like. But they shouldn’t be shocked to some of the repercussions or resentment from their children when they reach adulthood”
Have terrible insults. (<<< Come on, there has to be some entertainment value here).
“Whey do all vegans look like they just snorted a Zanax? Seriously, they look like there on tranquilizers with the big Doe eyes and no facial expressions, talking like there in a library. Not to mention they have no energy. I worked with one and he would be ready for bed after unloading for and hour. I used to scream at him to go eat a pork chop or something. You vegans are weird.”
“I don’t give a shit what you eat just don’t tell me what to eat cause all your meals look like throw up.”
“It is a known fact that 100% of vegans are annoying.”
“So not right. But OK, Darwin needs losers.”
“Look how pasty and weird these people look. Vegans are gross lol”
“It’s always wrong to be vegan.”
“why do you look like a ghost then? no thanks give me a rib of beef any day!!”
Rather than bore you with what my detailed responses would be to all of these statements (if I cared enough to spend time responding to people on the Internet individually, which I don’t), here is the Cliff’s Notes version:
- Veganism can be as cheap or expensive as you want it to be. It’s the difference between a can of beans and brown rice compared to a brand-name veggie burger and out-of-season produce.
- Veganism sees no race, gender, ethnicity, or age. It is a non-discriminatory movement about connection and is available to everyone. No golden ticket required.
- Veganism is about giving your children the best start, and providing them with the opportunity to grow up with more knowledge than most of their peers. With that knowledge, comes great power and responsibility (kind of like Spiderman). It’s not about denying them anything (except maybe the years of wishing they had gone vegan sooner).
- Veganism, based on a variety of whole plant foods, can provide all of the nutrients we need, with a couple of small exceptions for which there are fortified (plant) foods and supplements available if needed. That goes for kids, too. And elephants, gorillas, and dinosaurs who clearly get enough protein from a plant-based diet.
- Veganism is about connection, not about separating ourselves from one another.
- Raising vegan kids is usually a family decision based on important morals, values, and ethics. Choosing to raise a family omnivorous is also a choice parents can make on behalf of their kids. If you want your child to choose their own diet, put them in a crib with a bunny and an apple and let me know which one he eats, and which one he snuggles with (thank you for that, Harvey Diamond).
- Veganism is an entirely normal way of life for humans, who have the digestive and physiological makeup more similar to other herbivores than carnivores on the planet.
- Veganism is for fearless leaders. Small groups of people who have chosen to think differently from the norm, for a greater purpose, are the only people who have ever been catalysts for positive change in the world (right Margaret Mead?). Remember the civil rights and women’s rights movements?
- Vegan food is delicious.
So, what can vegans do to help change the image of vegans?
Always strive to be a good example.
Yep, that’s it. That’s my one and only piece of advice (see how easy this is?).
Because being a good example means:
- Not wasting time getting into arguments online with trolls or people not capable of having productive conversations
- Respecting and acknowledging others, regardless of their opinions
- Answering questions with facts, understanding, and openness- not defensiveness
- Lifting others up when they attempt to bring you down
- Refraining from being the loudest or the most insulting, even when you’re feeling the angriest
- Never passing judgment on others’ food choices or way of life
- Speaking the truth, always
- Remembering that you were (most likely) not always a vegan, and therefore can actually 100% relate to people who choose to eat animal products
- Raising awesome plant-powered kids who are kind to others
What does this do for our cause? It shows people that vegans are normal and kind.
It’s true that the vegan movement has come a long way, but it also has a long way to go. We’re not going to get there by inadvertently perpetuating it with our emotionally-charged actions or words. We’ve all seen this happen, or maybe we’re guilty of it, but a heated debate between a passionate vegan and someone who is just trying to start an argument never ends well.
Being empathetic, walking away from conversations that are a waste of time, showing compassion – and maybe making some extraordinary vegan food for others – now, those are things worth spending time on (and teaching your kids how to do, too).
My hope is that as time goes on, more people will see videos like this one and have a different response from the ones we see above. But this will only happen if the vegan community comes together to consciously show the world what we’re really about, even when it’s not easy.
Until then, you can watch that video here. If you feel so inclined, please share it with a positive message!