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

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Family Friction

question.gif - 1.4 K My mom and relatives are against my vegetarianism and concerns for animal rights. My mom does not take me seriously when I try to discuss buying cruelty-free products and not wearing fur and leather. When I wrote to vegetarian groups requesting information, she wrote them also telling them to stop sending weird pictures of factory farms, etc., to children. My relatives try to trick me into eating meat by wrapping and concealing it or trying to tempt me. Also, people think I'm weird when I eat salad and stuff at school instead of pizza or hot dogs. Everyone thinks animal cruelty is bad, but think it doesn't affect them. Yet they are supporting it by using products from companies that conduct animal testing and by eating meat.

When a person's eyes and heart become open to veganism, it is exceptionally frustrating to realize that others generally do not feel the same way. It is particularly hard to be a young person living with family who doesn't understand or support vegan beliefs. Although young people must acquiesce to certain family rules, your body is your own domain. As long as you are getting proper nutrition from a variety of wholesome foods, and your attire is within whatever guidelines your family establishes, you should have the final say about what you eat, what you wear, and what products you put in or on your body.

It is unfortunate that your family does not respect your beliefs and it is unfair of them to taunt you and try to undermine your choices. It takes inner strength to withstand such antagonism, so it may be necessary to muster up some fortitude to maintain your vegan lifestyle. It will also take a lot of patience, since it's quite possible that your mom may never change her perspective.

One of the secrets to surviving friction is to decline being an active participant. Go about your business as usual, making all the vegan choices you normally do, but don't make an issue about them. Try not to draw attention to yourself or point out the reasons behind your actions. It's tempting at times for vegans to adopt an air of moral superiority, but don't allow yourself to be pulled in that direction. Don't announce what you are planning to do, just do it. For instance, if you want to write to vegetarian groups, don't discuss your intentions -- simply write your letters quietly and privately.

Have confidence in yourself and your decisions. Although it would be wonderful to have your family's approval, their consent is not necessary in order for you to know you are making a moral choice that feels right to you. Try not to be hostile or disrespectful in the face of ridicule and animosity. As much as possible, be a living example of the love and compassion that forms the foundation of your vegan practice. This means extending your concern for all life to your family and friends, even if they sometimes infuriate or demean you. Demonstrating grace toward those who give us the hardest time can be one of the toughest challenges of being vegan.

Without family members or friends who can support your convictions, you are forced to persevere against the odds. Nevertheless, be on the lookout for others who may share your vegan stance. One or two understanding people can make all the difference in the world, regardless of whether they are peers or adults. Explore vegan Web sites and participate in vegan discussion boards where you can vent your feelings, receive feedback, and know that you are not alone. Read books and magazines that will boost your morale or advance your understanding of vegan issues. Many publications are available from libraries, so you don't need to spend much money. Reach out in whatever way you can to develop a network of allies who will be there for you during times when you may feel isolated, discouraged, or just down.

Don't give up completely on your family and friends -- they may eventually come around, especially if you are a living example of compassion in action. "Be" vegan without preaching about it. Nothing will impress them more.

Hang in there. Use this time of living with your family to learn more about yourself -- your strengths, weaknesses, and the areas you want to improve. Study how you respond to conflict, how you treat other people, and what you can do to make yourself a more peaceful, kind, and generous person. Do volunteer work related to veganism, such as assisting at an animal shelter or researching and writing an article for an animal rights magazine. Think of ways to utilize your time constructively, develop your talents, and have fun.

You are to be commended for stepping outside the mainstream to make such a strong ethical commitment. As a young person, it is important to feel your passions and beliefs and hold on to your dreams. They are precious and you are entitled to them. You may not be able to fully express your desires and aspirations while you are living under your family's roof, but do your best to keep the sparks aglow. Once you are out on your own, the embers you tend lovingly now will ignite into a vibrant and productive blaze.

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