I joined PETA in 7th grade, the same year I stopped eating meat. It all started with the book, Diet For a New America which I read in Foods Class and was never the same.
Still, I had always been reluctant to eat meat, even as a little girl. I was a lover of all animals and dreamed of becoming a farmer when I grew up if only to keep cows and pigs as pets. Eating meat always seemed unnatural to me so it didn't take much to turn me into a vegetarian animal-rights activist which I decidedly became at the ripe old age of twelve, writing angry letters to Gillette over animal testing and Barnum and Bailey Circuses for their inhumane treatment of animals, not to mention participating in PETA pamphlet parties and donating portions of my allowance to the cause.
I also worked for years trying to convert my parents and siblings into vegetarians. It only took twelve years before my mom stopped eating meat, herself, but I think it had more to do with these books than my dinner-table preach-sessions in defense of "poor piggies."
I went from vegetarian to vegan in High School and then started eating fish, which I continue to eat regularly now so yes, the title of this post is deceiving. I'm a seafood junkie. I'm also not opposed to the occasional turkey sandwich or Cobb Salad (hold the bacon.)
Beef, Pork, Chicken (and everything else)? That's another story.
Bottom line? I don't believe in the consumption of most meats. Not only for environmental reasons but because, plain and simple, I don't like the idea of hormone-pumped animals spending their lives suffering in their own shit and disease only to be slaughtered in horrific ways. Not appetizing to me is the thing. Don't want that karma in my bod.
The mass-production of meat in this country is so out of hand I cannot even fathom how the (meat) industry gets away so much of what it does. Some blame fast-food. Some blame overpopulation. Meanwhile: heads fall into the sand and stay there.
When Archer was born I wrestled with how I would raise him. Would I learn to prepare meat for my son? Would I be okay with his eating of meat, specifically beef and pork products? I was okay with Hal eating meat, so long as he knew and understood I would never prepare it in our house. (Which he does and is cool with.) It wasn't like I would be putting meat in my body. Except, actually, as I soon found out: It kind of was. Because he's my son. And every time I fed him meat I felt guilty. Awful. Like I was damaging him. Because children eat what is put in front of them and they trust us, their parents to make good decisions in terms of their early eating habits. I found myself caught in a bit of an ethical dilemma...
If I don't believe in the consumption of meat, does that mean my child isn't allowed to eat it?
I'm not a religious person by any means but I started to understand parents who force their beliefs on their children. Plain and simple, its hard not to. Especially when one believes so strongly in something. I'm doing what's best for my children, they think.
And so do I.
It didn't take long before I starting serving Archer meatless alternatives. The same meatless alternatives I've eaten most of my life. Tofu and Boca burgers and soy meatballs...
Over the years, however, the thought of Archer eating pork chops or hot dogs has become terrifying to me. I have become increasingly paranoid that my son might grow up carnivorous with a voracious appetite for hamburgers and bacon -- two items that I cannot look at without feeling nauseous and flat-out sad.
This proves awkward when people offer Archer bacon or meatballs and I say, "No. He doesn't eat that," because it sounds like I'm speaking for him.
Being a parent in the land of health-food, tri-weekly farmer's markets and vegan diners, it's far easier for parents to be understanding when I tell them that "No, Archer isn't allowed to go to McDonalds" or "no thanks" when he's offered pork products, but enforcing this no-meat policy for years-to-come is a completely different story. I mean... isn't it?
Who's to say Archer won't feel the need to rebel against my rules and at sixteen come home late one night stinking of a McDonald's double-cheeseburger, which might honestly be worse than him coming home stinking of beer and cigs.
These are my fears, people. And they make me feel like some kind of zealot. (Am I one?) Which is both scary and annoying. Archer should be able to make up his mind about what he believes in and what he should and shouldn't eat and yet.... NOOOOOOO!!! Don't do it! Nooooo!!!!
Perhaps my main fear isn't that Archer will experiment with hamburgers as a teenager so much as the possibility that ( like many and most) Archer will become a complacent eater: someone who eats what is put in front of him without thinking, knowing or caring where it has come from. I want Archer to know. And to care. And to understand what it means to eat certain things, but I want to teach him without scaring or upsetting him or being manipulative when it comes to my personal food ethics and beliefs.
The issue isn't to raise my children Vegan or even Vegetarian but to raise educated eaters who know and understand where their food is coming from, how it lived and what we sacrifice physically and environmentally and (if you're like me) emotionally (poor pigs!) when we decide to eat certain food. Specifically, certain meats. This is one of my main goals as a parent, which I guess makes sense being that PETA was my pre-pubescent cause. (I dropped out of PETA at 15 because it was a little too over-the-top for me, ex: I wore leather shoes.)
I guess I just fear the judgment of others.
I can already feel myself turning into the mom who freaks the fuck out when the school tries to feed her kid hot dogs at lunch and I really don't want to be that mom.
I might just be.
I'd love to hear from some of my vegetarian/vegan/ anti-red meat parents on how you plan (or have already) raised your children in a meatless (or meat less) household and how you have enforced rules like "no fast food" and "no meat" without coming off as some kind of food-totalitarian, if that's even possible.