I recently did an online chat with the kind folks at AR Zone. We'll reproduce some of the questions and answers here over the next few weeks. The first starts with an inquiry about Ellen:
You and your wife have raised your child as a vegan from birth. Could you tell us some of the hurdles you found difficult to get over, and offer any advice to those of us trying to accomplish the same now?
I would like to hope that the situation is different and easier today than it was in 1994! Raising Ellen really didn't have a lot of hurdles, regarding veganism. People asked us questions, and we answered. We had done our research and knew more about nutrition than our interrogators. And the people who were belligerent, we just ignored.
Oddly, the main question we got, over and over and over, was, “But what about birthday parties??” It seemed as though everyone's only memories of childhood was eating cake and ice cream. It was crazy. The main pieces of advice I'd give are:
1. Know your nutrition. Not from propaganda that seeks to glorify a certain diet, but from legitimate sources whose main goal is an honest and thorough evaluation. (Here is another recent reason to get honest and thorough info: )
2. Take advantage of the community – there were no vegan parenting boards on the web in 1993-94.
3. Don't let the haters get to you.
I think the last part is key, pretty much for any vegan in any situation. I understand taking attacks / ignorance personally – it is so hard not to, especially when it comes to the welfare of your child. And I sure identify with the desire to be able to “win an argument” with a meat eater. But the reality is that there are some people who will be belligerent regardless of what we say.
I think we will all be happier – and thus better examples, and thus better advocates for the animals – if we accept that some people will just be jerks. (And let’s be honest – that’s true about vegans, too – there are vegans who will be loudly belligerent with anyone whose thoughts deviate ever-so-slightly from theirs.)
On the other hand, loads of people are initially hostile, but come around when treated with respect. Bruce and I talk about that a lot in The Animal Activist’s Handbook.