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Vegan People
Respecting All Animals
Vegans in school 
11th-Sep-2013 11:31 am
My son started school this year. ETA: He's only 4.5 and knows why we're vegan because "we don't need to use animals so we don't" and other simple and basic explanations.

The teacher seemed annoyed that we were vegan. She asked if I would make exceptions for some of her classes because "F is for Feather....you know, where we make crafts with feathers" and things like that. She also told me that one of the field trips is to a farm where they grow several crops, take a tractor hay ride, pick berries but also the farm produces eggs and milk (the kids get to collect eggs and milk a goat).

She told me that my son could opt out and stay home that day or I could join on the trip and explain to him why our family does not do such things and still get the other positive experiences of the trip. The farm doesn't gain anything financial from the class visit but does get to show "happy" animals where the kids will presume all animal products come from.

What would you do? Obviously my son would not be collecting eggs or milking goats and I know he would not put up a fight to do so. I think he would appreciate the rest of the trip but I'm still wary and unsure if attending while consciously avoiding exploiting animals is still ethical, or is going at all just not ethical because there is animal exploitation there?

Fwiw, we go to corn mazes in autumn which also have petting zoos. We did show my son how animals are kept and explain why it's not ideal (stress from visitors, separated from family (in the case of the calf alone in a pen where kids went and climbed all over him and I burst into tears). My son came away feeling that it was very wrong for the animals to live that life and while we've returned to the maze we have not gone back to bother the animals. Is it ethical to go to the corn maze at all...or not?

Then there's the huge amusement park every year where they have a show of trained dogs, a petting farm and a booth of exotic "educational" animals like snakes. Avoid the whole amusement park or just some of the independent areas where animals are exploited? 
11th-Sep-2013 07:07 pm (UTC)
I think that it is important to show him that there are some places that can harbor a positive experience for animals. This shows that humans can be compassionate. Now as far as letting a bunch of different inexperienced children milk a goat, I really do not think this is a positive thing for a goat unless they are strictly supervised but I am not one to judge.

I will tell you this...my dad is a subsistence farmer in rural Kentucky. He rescues horses and has a few chickens that are remnants/offspring of the cock fighting breeding ring that used to be there. The females lay eggs in certain areas of the farm...pretty much anywhere they want. He keeps the females in a separate area to prevent overpopulation as well because he does not want to attract too many bobcats, bears, or coyotes (honestly, he has never had an incident, even though he has seen evidence of them). In some cases, these eggs are eaten by foxes or other wildlife, but if he does not collect or dispose of the remainder in the compost, there could be serious sanitary/smell issues for him and the other beings living on his farm. One has to manage shit and rotting things to keep the bugs at a healthy level as well. I think that showing your son that there can be compassion toward animals is very important. Some animals in ethically ran petting zoos love to socialize with people, especially children, and do not get pulled from a family type of situation. My dad allows the school to visit his farm once or twice a year. His horses have a very strong bond with him, as he never rides them, he cares for their wounds, and he fosters them to develop into the intelligent, social creatures that they are.

All cases are not like this and I think that it is hard to figure out which places are treating the animals with the most respect. Some petting zoo animals that are shy should not be on display, especially if they are out there in a pen for profit. The animals that have the personalities that crave attention from humans or any creature for that matter should be allowed to do so with limits. I would suggest to maybe visit or at least start a communication with these places before allowing your son to go there. From my experience with growing up on my dad's farm, there have been a lot of vegans to visit him that do not know or have any understanding of horses or farm animals or animals in general.
11th-Sep-2013 07:27 pm (UTC)
That one petting zoo is the only physical experience my son has had with animals that aren't considered "pets".

I have a much broader experience which is why I hesitate. I've seen industrial chicken farming, geese farming, animal slaughter, I used to ride/race horses...I just like to be involved as little as possible. I'm Native, have been hunting and was raised with subsistent living as my dad/we would hunt the meat and all that.

Thanks for your input. While I will never agree with petting farms and the like I do appreciate that some non-vegans treat the animals in their care with respect and love to a point. However I don't know that this is the case with this particular farm as I've never been there. I will definitely get in contact with them and see if I can make a visit alone prior to the school trip. My sons teacher really doesn't want to bring James unless I go because she thinks it will go badly/is not willing/equipped to answer his questions that reference veganism in that situation.
11th-Sep-2013 09:06 pm (UTC)
I met someone recently whose daughter went to a zoo as part of her camp and she made up a little worksheet to check off problematic behaviors and conditions and all that and also parts write behavioral statements. I thought that was a pretty smart way to go about it! Turn it into a learning exercise!
11th-Sep-2013 09:08 pm (UTC)
That's a good idea. My kid is only 4.5 though. I'm sure he wouldn't even know what or why something might be problematic without it being pointed out though, which is why if he goes, I'll go with him.
11th-Sep-2013 09:15 pm (UTC)
Ahhhh gotcha. Yeah, you'd need to wait a couple years for that activity (I think the girl was 7-8ish).

hmmm. Since we live in a non-vegan world, I think it's useful to have them see the problems even in these things that seem benign. However, at a younger age it would probably be a little harder to do that since you're not going to want to contrast it yet with more typical factory farming.

Good luck! I'm hoping to encounter this problem myself in the next several years, so I hope you'll let us know what worked!

I think the corn maze is like going to a nonvegan resto... some of us are cool with that, some aren't. I think that's up to you. I just went to the county fair and skipped all the horrible animal stuff, but there's clearly an argument that I should have just not gone.

Best of luck!
11th-Sep-2013 09:48 pm (UTC)
Exactly. I'm definitely not going to show him Earthlings and with a class of 25 other excited kids and adults telling him it's all good...I feel a bit stuck. I want him to have the exposure and experiences and to form his own opinion but this set up isn't reality for 99.9% of animals being used.

I feel the same way about the corn maze/amusement park/even farmers markets, just wondering if I was the only one/in the wrong about it. It's extremely hard to avoid all animal exploitation, especially when you have kids who want to do these things and there aren't a vegan alternative. I guess places with "animal side attractions" might be the best case to educate my kids with real life exposure until they're old enough to handle the more abusive reality animals face.

And I wish you all the best as you build your family! It's exciting new territory! :)

Edited at 2013-09-11 09:49 pm (UTC)
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11th-Sep-2013 09:15 pm (UTC)
I don't know what you mean. You wouldn't do anything about what? Yes, my son knows almost everyone else we know eats meat (we live in a mixed home where half of the people are vegan and half are not), but at 4.5 I don't expect him to know the significance about what might be controversial about picking eggs out from under hens without it being pointed out to him, especially if the hens seem relatively well kept.

I'm not sure. She said "Oh, I saw in the extra notes section of the application that you're Veg-guns...what exactly is that?" Once I told her she just seemed annoyed and accusatory. Maybe she owns dairy cows for all I know, either way she did not like it. I've met her 4 times as of today. I have no idea why. I said I would provide any alternatives including making paper feathers for my son on the 'F' day of the alphabet to which she snorted at me.

11th-Sep-2013 11:20 pm (UTC)
A lot of people take it like, "Oh, so you're better than me, huh?" I sure wish they didn't have that attitude, but a lot of them do. A lot are defensive because they feel threatened; it's almost like you want to take something away from them.

And there's the part of it where people are addicted to dairy products, so they will be resistant if a) someone else is different and b) they think someone's trying to change them. I've encountered this distrust a lot. My sister, for instance, has said to me, "I refuse to give up cheese! It's my favorite food!" as if someone was literally trying to take it away.

Sadly, she has MS and her doctor has still told her to eat as much dairy "as you can get your hands on." Most people don't realize how insane it is to try and build bones by eating dairy—but I'll get off my soapbox now before I go on a rant.
12th-Sep-2013 02:21 am (UTC)
But, she didn't even know what vegan is...I don't know how I came off like that! I just told her what it is by definition and offered substitutions when needed as well as asked her to clarify the field trip. It did seem like she was defensive but I certainly wasn't aggressive about it. :/

And wtf to that doctor! Ugh...no. I guess your sister isn't interested in doing some research on the subject? Maybe get her The China Study for Christmas...
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12th-Sep-2013 02:19 am (UTC)
Sorry, I did ask that too. I was just wondering why you wouldn't do anything. Like you wouldn't mention it to a teacher if your child was in school they were vegan and this trip might be an issue?

I was just a little confused, but I'm a little off these days too (running after sick twins all day).
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12th-Sep-2013 03:14 pm (UTC)
I've never met a vegan in real life (or actually online either) who works at the zoo or being okay with milking animals and such. To me those things are inherently non-vegan. I try to be as anti-speciesist as possible and it sounds like you're more focused on welfare so that must be where the differences in approach are, because I don't consider these things as acceptable or necessary. I know you're answering for what you would do if you had a kid but I also assumed vegans just didn't do those things period and that's why I was confused about how your answer related.

We don't need to milk goats even if the goat is well cared for so that's just something I would never be okay with doing as the goat has her own preferences and inherent rights and perhaps doesn't want to be milked just because she's producing milk for her baby.

To me a zoo sounds like a horrible place for an animal to be stuck, even if they're treated well by human standards. I've been to the zoo before and saw a panther going back and forth pacing in his cage...it was really sad. :(
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12th-Sep-2013 09:21 pm (UTC)
I posed the question to another vegan group and was accused of vegan policing! Consider me educated! Honestly, it never occurred to me that people are more concerned with welfare in vegan issues, I was always an abolitionist and most of my vegan AR friends are also abolitionists so I've never come across this! I was told I was trying to define someone else's vegan-ness....which pretty much blew my mind wide open. Maybe that's true but only because I had never considered veganism other than from an abolitionist POV, simply because I knew some vegans who liked to get together for potlucks and never discussed AR but I was never close with them. I've always been really involved in protests and the political aspects of it, it's never been a causal lifestyle thing to me! On that note, I'm sorry if you felt I was taking away your definitions of what a vegan is/how a vegan should live. It was not my intention.

While I will always be rooted in an abolitionist approach and will likely avoid the zoo for the rest of my life I appreciate where you're coming from and thank you for the discussion! It's given me a lot to think about! :)

13th-Sep-2013 12:54 pm (UTC)
I was thinking about this more and I have an honest question, I hope it doesn't sound aggressive or stupid or anything, but because I've never really had these discussions with vegans who are interested in welfare, humour me.

Are you alright with the ultimate killing of an animal if the welfare of the animal is acceptable? Like small family farms who treat the animals like pets until it's time to kill them?

Obviously it's better than living on a factory farm but the end result is the same in which a sentient animal who wanted to live was killed. To me doing any kind of thing (like collecting eggs for example) perpetuates the idea that it's okay to use animals and thusly promote their inevitable death, since I feel we can't pick and choose which activities are morally and ethically subjective and have to avoid all superficial animal interactions whenever possible. Like, we wouldn't even have rescue pets if I knew they wouldn't have be killed if we didn't share our home.

So, thoughts? I'm definitely not going to ask the other group I'm in and get lynched again.
15th-Sep-2013 07:10 pm (UTC)
And should we take into account the idea that the superior treatment of animals on small farms is more theoretical than real? Because in my experience with small farms, there's still a fair bit of cruelty (even ignoring the exploitation).

Idk, I must just be an abolitionist in the context of this conversation, as allowing any of that stuff is not okay by me. I'm not big on labeling my brand of veganism beyond just 'veganism'.

Anyway, I super-dig this question. I'm tempted to say to go and traumatize your son with this experience. It WILL be painful for him regardless, but at least this way you can use it as a teaching experience. I think it may be painful for you, too - I know it would be for me. Have you thought about how it will be for your son if he doesn't go? I'm thinking several things - other kids may be enthusiastic about it and leave him feeling left out when they discuss it, he'll have to take accept word that it was an awesome time (even though he'll logically know it probably wasn't, but if he's not there - why would the consensus of other children takes his doubts seriously), and perhaps you'll miss out on a chance to affect how your teacher is going to treat your son from here on out (teacher vs student bullying is pretty depressingly real in my experience, too, and it sound like this ignorant lady is a prime perpetrator of that kind of behavior).

Idk, I just keep thinking 'teachable moment' and 'chance to maybe change other kids' minds.'
15th-Sep-2013 10:18 pm (UTC)
I've been to family run farms too and have seen terrible things, which is why I hesitate to agree with everyone that collecting eggs/milking goats is as innocent as it seems (and it doesn't even seem innocent to me at all but I understand why it might look that way to others).

I'll probably cry when we get home. Ugh...I'll be thrilled to see the animals because I love animals but then knowing their lifestyle sucks... :(
15th-Sep-2013 10:57 pm (UTC)
trigger warning for descriptions of fucked-up systemic anthrocentrism:

Yeah, even if everything's nicey-nice... the animals are still kept as chattle. People seem to forget that part of animal husbandry is in the breeding of animals - dairy for continued milk production for one and then production of more animals to be slaughtered for the rest. Those goats had to get impregnated to produce milk, after all. And the chickens have to be kept from breeding so they produce unfertilized eggs, which might not seem so bad until you consider that to keep having chickens around to make eggs you then have to breed them and any resulting chickens that aren't layers or breeding cocks are of no use to the farmer alive (all of which I'm sure you know, but it always bears repeating for people reading this comment thread).

And to do that, part of you has to devalue the life of the animal to mere property. And people forget that sometimes property gets treated 'nicely', like a fancy sports car or a prized family heirloom or wtfever. But at the end of the day, it's still property to them and it serves some kind of purpose. And if its purpose is to feed those people - ultimately that's what it's going to do. Those crying little 4H children who are parting with the animal they raised either get over it or block it out and continue on (I suppose some become vegans! but that's hoping a bit much). But they learn the lesson - that animal exists solely for the purpose of continuing the system of animal exploitation.

Sorry to rant... just thinking back to trying to justify working with a goat/duck/chicken farmer and how I had to turn off my heart. It was the best gig I had as a gardener, but I just couldn't bear contributing to his microcosm of oppression. Recently, I had someone I thought was a friend tell me that you have to do whatever it takes to achieve what you want. It's bad enough as it is, though - how can we actively contribute to that system? Our passive participation in it is bad enough. That same 'friend' also told me that no one is entitled to help. Technically, I guess that's true, but how can anyone get anyway if we don't help each other, other than by stepping on others? Again, a contribution to oppression. She's not entitled to my friendship, that's for sure. But it makes me awfully sad that people are such heartless bastards.
15th-Sep-2013 07:12 pm (UTC)
PS - No way would I let him participate in the exploitation itself, just the observation thereof. Admittedly, even observing is participating in a way :(
15th-Sep-2013 10:13 pm (UTC)
Absolutely. That's what was getting me, just observing is still a form of participation against animals. Like even going is kind of a grey zone that makes me feel shady but I guess I'll look at it as a prime time to educate my son on the lives of animals in our system (even if it appears their needs are met which we know as adults is not true).

This is how it is for me and the zoo as well. The day will come where his class will go to the zoo and I will probably handle it the same way as this. Assuming he's older he'll probably be able to take a lot more out of it as far as understanding an abolitionist POV too since he'll see wild animals caged as a result of humans greed (even animals that can't be released and need to be taken care of by humans got there by the pure unadulterated greed of someone).
15th-Sep-2013 11:04 pm (UTC)
Reveal the illusion for what it is, yeah. And remember, we're passively made to be witness... if we have to actively witness, maybe we can approach the animals with respect, offering them apologies and thanks. I know it doesn't really do anything to help them, but it seems right. What else can you do, you know? Shit, now I'm crying... It's all so fucked up.

This is true... and what a torturous irony to be killed off by materialistic bastards until one becomes a specimen to be caged and maybe hauled around like some kind of exhibit (perhaps even called that - but what do we put in exhibits? objects), where people will stare and laugh, eat their candy and popcorn, and then be on their way to the next 'exotic thing'. If one has a plight, a grievance, a dying wish as a individual or group, it will be either unheard or quickly forgotten. And perhaps someday the killing ends for the most part... but by then, home is gone. Existence is a cage. Born there, mate there, die there, never see the world for what it truly is. Sorry, ranting again...
15th-Sep-2013 11:10 pm (UTC)
I feel the same way you do. These animals have become an abstract concept, in and of the world but not deserving of their own personhood, their own life, their own desires, family, culture or body. Something that people see to serve us. Even the best intentions see to have them objectified and it seems like it will never change for them.

It's overwhelming and horrific.
15th-Sep-2013 11:35 pm (UTC)
I just hope that someday necessity understanding will trump... this system, people's broken way of thinking, all of it. I have to keep hoping that. I just wish I had more tools with which to bring that about. But it is so overwhelming and horrific - much more disturbing than a horror movie and what's worse, real and constant. It's a sickness - not like a disease inside our body, but something eating away at at people's minds, at their thoughts, at their ability to feel and make decisions for the greater good.
12th-Sep-2013 03:42 am (UTC)
He's 4. If he were mine, i'd let him go on the trip and when he's old enough to understand what it means, explain to him the reality of animals in those situations. All he'll understand at this age is that everyone got to do a really fun thing that he didn't get to do.
12th-Sep-2013 04:13 am (UTC)
You would be comfortable enough to let him milk goats and collect eggs as a vegan or just go and see how things are run? Do you think that conflicting your message about veganism and animal rights "we don't do this because it's not vegan except in this instance because it's fun" is not harmful in the long run for the child and animals (in general)?

I'm lucky that I know my son well enough that he won't be upset about not doing such things. My son consistently passes on "fun" things on his own accord he knows aren't vegan like going to the zoo or going out and eating ice cream with the family at DQ or something.
13th-Sep-2013 01:24 am (UTC)
I would be totally comfortable letting him milk goats and collect eggs. Those things aren't inherently harmful to the animals, and I certainly wouldn't describe them as "fun." I would NOT let him go if the chickens were caged or they were using milking machines or something... if he were older, I'd let him go as an informative experience, but not at 4. And honestly I don't think many people consider the farming experience "fun" so I wouldn't worry about him getting the wrong idea there.

Personally, I don't see what conflicts in the messages "we don't use animal products because we don't have to" and "hey, here are some animals and their products." But frankly, the kid's 4. Maybe he is a super genius, but he probably isn't giving a whole lot of thought to stuff. The vast majority of 4 year olds in America hear the messages "be nice to the kitty" followed by "eat this murdered cow" without appreciating the conflicting messages... hell, the vast majority of ADULTS in America do, too. I'm just saying in most cases, 4 would be a little early to worry about your kid calling people out for their omnivorous hypocrisy or whatever.

You asked what I'd do, and that's what I'd do. It's your kid and you can do whatever you like, even if a stranger on the Internet would do it differently. *shrug*
15th-Sep-2013 11:09 pm (UTC)
One other aside... I keep thinking (directed at the teacher, not you) that "F stands for F-you, lady! You know, where you F the F off and quit acting like I'm the F-head here for making a perfectly F-ing reasonable request." Of course, that wins no points in the eyes of the society, especially in a school setting. If anything, it's the tar that one gets covered in Fs with.
16th-Sep-2013 12:35 am (UTC)
Seriously made me LOL! Or like, fruit or fan or fabric...or or or flower! How hard is flower to think of!?
16th-Sep-2013 12:41 am (UTC)
Haha, I'm glad it was worth a chuckle - yeah, all of those work. Or friend, family, or freedom, does it even have to be objects? Eff, so many other words other than 'feather' that would be great to focus on. Or heck - flip it on its head and have F be for Faux-fur.
16th-Sep-2013 01:33 am (UTC)
Seriously. This teacher needs to get with the times and expand her horizon. If feather is the only thing she can think of then I'm not really sure she's the right person to trust to teach my son anything, let alone the alphabet.
16th-Sep-2013 01:45 am (UTC)
Yeah, that feather fixation is kinda funky - and not in a fresh way - more like freak-ay.

But seriously, if her mind isn't stuck in kink mode, then at the very least it's a failure of imagination on her part.
20th-Sep-2013 02:57 pm (UTC)
You are a great parents! I think its a perfect way to raise the children, at least its fair. The person who are not afraid of saying "I don't want to raise my kids with a flock syndrome of ignorance, so i give them a choise" deserves some respect.
I dont have kids, so im not sure my point of view can help in this case. But if i were a parent, i probably would not avoid my child of seing animal exploitation for human entertainment. I believe, being well-informed about reality from an early age helps to accept the world as it is, which can be very not easy for some adults.
20th-Sep-2013 06:35 pm (UTC)
Thank you. After much consideration my son will be going and I will be there to answer any questions he has and to keep him as educated as possible for his comprehension as he grows.
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