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Marriage, with Children
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
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
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
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 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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