In a rage of preteen hormonal angst I swore off consuming the flesh of animals, screams of fairness and the interconnection of living beings matched by a silent acceptance from my mother and a gift of a vegetarian cookbook. She accepted my choice, which stayed with me until the power of my pregnancy cravings for street-vendor lamb meat silenced my urge for animal rights.
We are raising our children as conscientious eaters and consumers of animal products; we purchase our meat and produce from an Amish market whenever possible, opting for antibiotic free and hormone free when we can’t. We also eat vegetarian around 60% of the time. To me, this was enough of a compromise to ensure I was living my values while also providing a nutritional balance for our kids.
This week Twinkle asked me why we go to a special meat store. I explained the difference in how animals are raised, I showed her a happy farms video (sponsored by Chipotle, a marketing ploy for sure but at least it was a non-graphic representation of healthy farming choices). Her response was, “why wouldn’t we eat the sad cows in cages, instead of making the happy cows dead?” I explained the health benefits to humans, the reasons from a human-centric perspective because, you know, I am a human and all.
Her response was the same as mine was 20 long years ago, except she replaced my preteen hormonal angst with a smart and reasoned argument, “I think the animals deserve happiness. I don’t want the happy ones to die just because it’s better for me to eat happy cows than sad cows. I want to try being a vegetarian.” She’s 6.5 years old, she may change her mind next week. But she might not. It isn’t that big of a stretch for her to choose this—the inherent worth and dignity of all living things is a principle of Unitarian Universalists after all.
Dave looked at me like I was crazy but I said yes. I can’t spend my life telling my children that their words matter, that they have the power to understand right from wrong, but then deny them the opportunity to live those values when they make the call for change. It wasn’t easy for her to decide that for her eating happy cows was wrong, but she made the decision and was brave enough to tell me about it. By respecting her enough to let her live out that choice I hope she sees that she can trust me enough to disagree respectfully with the choices we make for her and, if her choice is valid, she will see she has the power to change her own situation.