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Vegan People
Respecting All Animals
Vegans in school 
11th-Sep-2013 11:31 am
Garm
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? 
Comments 
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!
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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.

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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.
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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