Vegan Deli

Vegan Deli  by Jo Stepaniak

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Raising Vegetarian Children
by Jo Stepaniak, M.S.Ed., & Vesanto Melina M.S., R.D.

Raising Vegetarian Children

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Do you have questions about being vegan? Send them to Jo using this easy form. She would be happy to address your individual concerns as well as general inquiries about vegan ethics, philosophy, practical applications, and living compassionately. Jo cannot respond to questions about nutrition or answer questions that have already been addressed in the Archives

Jo will make every attempt to answer each question personally, however, due to her schedule, this may not be possible. If a reply is forthcoming, it could take up to a few weeks, so please be patient. It is also possible that your question will be answered directly in the "Ask Jo!" column rather than an individual response.

If you'd like to view previous questions Jo has answered, visit the Ask Jo! Archives.

Should Vegans Have Children?

Should vegans have children?

In a democratic society, the notion of mandatory reproductive restrictions is anathema. Forced sterilization and birth control were outlawed many years ago in the United States, even for those with impaired judgement or a limited capacity to make reasonable decisions for themselves, such as people with mental illness or mental retardation. Reproductive freedom is perceived as an inalienable right, and this viewpoint is unlikely to change in the foreseeable future. Furthermore, some faiths laud the birth of a child as a gift from the Creator and, in a society that extols religious autonomy, there are few who would debate this prerogative. When sovereignty over one's body is considered fundamental, and when children are viewed as blessings not burdens, it is impossible to impose limitations on human breeding.

According to estimates by the U.S. Census Bureau, the United States population increased by approximately 47 million people from 1977 to 1997. At a current annual growth rate of 2.4 million people, the U.S. population will continue to expand by more than 2 million people a year well into the 21st century. Worldwide, the human population is increasing by an astounding 80 million people a year. These figures are staggering, and should call attention to the labyrinth of consequences linked to the explosion of our species.

More people means:

  • rising demands for housing, resulting in greater loss of native flora, habitat, and wildlife;
  • escalating consumption of nonrenewable natural resources;
  • widespread congestion in cities, suburbs, and on roadways;
  • increased environmental degradation and pollution
  • elevated energy demands;
  • more unhoused people and abandoned children;
  • reduced access to basic necessities;
  • diminished community;
  • and a greater dichotomy between the haves and have-nots.

There are a number of social scientists who concede that the majority of our modern problems -- ecological imbalance, environmental destruction, species extinction, anger, violence, hunger, poverty, homelessness, and others -- stem from our inability to control the growth of our own population. Granted, this is not the sole cause of our current environmental crises and social dilemmas, but it appears to be at least a contributing factor.

There are a few organizations that have been working for decades to mitigate population growth. Unfortunately, their success has been minimal. Education, easy access to contraceptives, and encouraging adoptions instead of new births are all prudent means to population control. In a free society, other possibilities are unthinkable.

Each individual's circumstance, rationale, and motivation for having or not having children is unique and personal. Nevertheless, vegans and nonvegans alike should evaluate the issues and statistics prior to making a choice about parenthood. Having children means creating more people, which can only worsen our existing problems. Even if we believe that our children will be more aware or better equipped to solve the world's problems, we all must weigh the consequences against any expected benefit from reproduction.

Whether or not vegans become parents, there are endless opportunities to nurture youngsters including caring for the children of relatives, friends, or neighbors, foster parenting, becoming a big brother or big sister, or doing volunteer work. We can also nurture the life around us -- plants, animals, and people -- thereby encouraging a more hospitable, habitable, informed, and loving world.

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