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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Mixed Marriage, with Children

question.gif - 1.4 K My daughter who is two years old is a vegan, as am I. I have had no problems with her diet, however, her father is a meat-eater. He tried to be a vegetarian, but broke down and was sneaking out to McDonalds and eating Big Macs. Anyhow, he has a hard time understanding the reasons for being a vegan and also how it is possible that our daughter does not need dairy products. Would you happen to know of any literature that I could print out for him that would help him understand this? He is the type that needs it all in writing to believe it.

answer.gif - 1.3 K Living as a vegan is more than a matter of food preferences; it involves the philosophic reasoning behind what one eats or doesn't eat as well as numerous other lifestyle choices. It is much less a diet than an ethical conviction. This is a critical distinction to make because being vegan entails a resolution far deeper than simply favoring chocolate over vanilla, or vegetables over meat. When people take the leap to veganism they discover a new way of seeing and being in the world that can affect everything they think, say, and do.

A lasting marriage is a complex, intimate relationship between two people who are first and foremost best friends. The foundation of this friendship is built upon mutual trust and shared values. When one partner embraces drastically different ideals than those established at the outset of the marriage -- such as becoming vegan -- and the other does not, the relationship can become strained or threatened. When children are added to the mix, the problems are compounded even further.

Although people's values may progressively mature throughout their lifetime, they generally vary minimally. On the infrequent occasions when radical and abiding changes do occur, they are invariably predicated on evolving internal beliefs. That is, when people are awakened to the truth in their heart -- not something learned intellectually or externally, but validated from within -- they can be stimulated to re-evaluate their ethics and actions. Without this inward realization, however, few people are persuaded to alter their core principles.

There is no way to force an individual to adopt someone else's moral code, no matter how righteous the motivation. You can supply your husband with all the information about veganism he can absorb, but that doesn't necessarily mean you will render a permanent shift in his perspective. His heart must be open to seeing, hearing, feeling, and believing the reality that inspires people to the vegan way of life. Without an open heart, no amount of facts or figures can influence him.

Despite knowing that you cannot compel your husband to become vegan by sheer will, you can nevertheless help him to understand your own motivations. People learn in different ways. If your husband prefers the printed word, there is much literature available about the production of animal-based foods. Farm Sanctuary (P.O. Box 150, Watkins Glen, NY, 607-583-2225, or P.O. Box 1065, Orland, CA 95963, 530-865-4617) has numerous pamphlets and several books that detail the horrors and abuses faced by animals raised for food. A short and easy-to-read overview is their book "Battered Birds, Crated Herds," written by Gene Bauston, Executive Director of Farm Sanctuary. It contains many powerful photographs as well as critical data about various facets of food animal production. United Poultry Concerns (P.O. Box 150, Machipongo, VA 23405, 747-678-7875) can also provide abundant information about all aspects of the poultry industry. For an in-depth coverage of the subject, read "Prisoned Chickens, Poisoned Eggs" written by Karen Davis, Ph.D., president of United Poultry Concerns. Also check out "Vegan: The New Ethics of Eating" by Erik Marcus. An explicit and haunting book about the meat-packing industry is "Slaughterhouse: The Shocking Story of Greed, Neglect, and Inhumane Treatment Inside the U.S. Meat Industry" by Gail Eisnitz. For a grisly and highly disturbing visual record, read "Dead Meat" by renowned artist Sue Coe and Alexander Cockburn. Farm Sanctuary and United Poultry Concerns also have outstanding and very graphic video documentaries. Contact them directly for more information.

"The Vegan Sourcebook" is a comprehensive guide to the what, why, and how of compassionate vegan living and also contains a complete guide to vegan nutrition (written by Virginia Messina, M.P.H., R.D.), including lots of supportive material on raising vegan children. Two other excellent nutrition resources are "The Vegetarian Way" by Virginia Messina, M.P.H., R.D., and Mark Messina, Ph.D, and "Becoming Vegan" by Brenda Davis, RD, and Vesanto Melina, RD.

These books, pamphlets, and videos can assist you in conveying to your husband your personal impetus for being vegan, but do not use them to pressure him to "see things your way." Give him ample opportunity to digest what he is reading and seeing. Remember, you cannot pry his heart open regardless of how hard you try. He must come to an understanding of veganism in his own time and on his own terms. If you push him, he may very well reject whatever you ask of him and shut you out. The fact that he would go to McDonald's without telling you is evidence that he doesn't feel safe enough to be open about his divergent opinions.

For a marriage to endure, both parties must feel sufficiently comfortable in their own home to let their guard down and be themselves. It is vital that you both come to terms with your differences so you can relax and speak honestly in each other's presence. Let your husband know how significant veganism is to you as an individual and as a mother. Be willing to discuss your reasons in a calm, rational manner. If either of you is feeling upset, annoyed, tense, or defensive, it would be best to wait for another day when you can be more serene and cool-headed. Your husband also deserves equal time to express his viewpoint, but he will be candid only if his perspective is heard without judgement. Can you do that? You must ask yourself if you are capable of allowing him the freedom to believe and behave differently from the values with which you want to live and raise your daughter.

Your husband may never change his beliefs no matter what you attempt or how long you wait, and it is important that you prepare yourself for that very real possibility. It takes courage, tolerance, and patience to remain in a "mixed marriage" and to respectfully determine how to handle the matters of everyday life. There will be many decisions ahead of you, not the least of which are those surrounding the raising of your daughter.

Parents need to present a unified value system to their children. Therefore, you and your husband must come to an agreement about some very basic issues. Will your husband comply with and support your decision to raise your daughter vegan? How will you instill in your daughter the fundamental ethics of veganism while providing a way for her to honor her father's differences? Can you concur on what food choices are appropriate? Are you able to present a united position to grandparents and other relatives? Are you both prepared to explain to family members, friends' parents, and teachers what food, toys, clothing, and personal care items are or are not acceptable and why?

Then there are issues relative to your personal threshold. What is your comfort level regarding your husband purchasing nonvegan items, such as leather products, and bringing them into the home? Could you tolerate him cooking meat at home, perhaps in the same pans you might use to prepare a vegan dish? How do feel about him eating meat or dairy products in front of your daughter? How will you handle having company over for dinner or going out to eat? Can you trust that your husband will not offer your daughter meat or dairy products when the two of them are out of your presence?

These are profound concerns that can penetrate the nucleus of your marriage. You each have much soul searching and inner exploring to do before you can both feel reassured that your separate points of view will be reciprocally respected and valued. Nevertheless, try to begin the process as soon as possible because there are several entities at stake: your daughter, your husband, yourself, your marriage, and your family. Keep an open heart and let love and wisdom guide you to the best conclusion for all.




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