Children and compassion

Januar 03, 2022

Kinder und Mitgefühl


A friend of mine told me that she had been hurt by a colleague’s intense questioning of her family routines. The colleague asked her if she forced her children to be vegan, blindsiding her by asking out of the blue over lunch. Narrowing her eyebrows together, she looked fiercely at my friend while eating the schnitzel and french fries from her plate. She chewed quickly while waiting for an explanation from my friend.

My friend got a bit perplexed and said she didn't force anyone, but vegan food is what they cook at home. Her colleague followed up by saying that we shouldn't force our beliefs upon anyone. It’s okay if you want it yourself, but you shouldn’t drag the poor children along. Think about what everyone else will say; your children will feel different and left out. Don't you think about them? And besides, think of the poor children and everything they will miss out on!

On the way back home, my friend got angry with herself. Why hadn't she said more? Why had she just let herself be run over like that?

You probably know what it’s like to find yourself in a situation where in the moment you just sit there dumbfounded, but later you know exactly what you should have said.

Ahhh, she said to me, Why didn't I tell her that we cook delicious and healthy meals and that my children get all the nutrition they need? Or also that we take supplements since they are needed today with all the pesticides and because there is generally less nutrition in common food.

Besides, she continued, my children don't want to eat animals! We have informed them where meat and cows milk come from. I think we owe it to children to tell them the truth. It deeply saddens them to learn the way that pigs, chickens and cows are treated, and it makes them happy to know that they are doing something about it themselves by living as vegans.

Yes, I know,, I answered. Most children or grown-ups don't even know the true story about milk. I didn't see it myself until about 14 years ago! I had no idea about most of these things. I remember being told as a child something about milk cows and meat cows and you could see the difference in the colour.

How unhelpful is that?

But sadly, it is true that we are not told or informed about the facts.

Children have a natural instinct to see other animals as their friends. And, who wants to eat one's friends?


New study reveals: children don't want to eat animals

Do you know any child who would say no to a hamburger or a hot dog? Probably very few if any. But do they actually know what they are eating?  Researchers at Furman University in the United States found in a new study that children under the age of seven are often unaware that meat and other animal products come from animals.

Around 200 children between the ages of four and seven took part in the study and their job was to classify foods into animal or vegetable-derived products and to determine whether or not it is okay to eat them.

The majority of children don’t think it is okay to eat animals and almost half are ignorant of where animal products come from.

Major mistakes were made in basic food knowledge, especially about animal products. 41% of children claimed that bacon comes from a plant. The majority of 6-7 year olds did not think that chicken, cows and pigs were okay to eat.

The researchers say the cause of the children's confusion is that they are not given enough education about the food industry. Some schools offer to take the children on a farm trip, but that has nothing to do with the reality of the meat industry. Farm visits do not fill the gap in children's understanding, as the majority of animal products do not come from small farms and the production of meat is not disclosed there. The children see the cute animals on the farm, but still don't know how they end up on the supermarket shelf.

Another contributing factor to children's ignorance is that parents avoid talking about the subject. On the one hand, parents teach their children to be kind to animals, on the other hand, they give them meat from dead animals for lunch. This is difficult to explain to a child.

Many parents also fear that their children would refuse to eat meat if they knew that an animal had to die for their meal. The fact that most of the children in the study found it unacceptable to eat animals suggests that if they knew the truth about meat production, they might be reluctant to continue consuming animals.

This study clearly shows that children eat meat unknowingly and that we humans have no instincts about eating meat. If children are only educated in later years, or even in adulthood, it could be that their eating habits are already deeply rooted. Therefore, scientists believe that educating children about their eating habits would be a more effective approach to reducing the consumption of animal products than trying to change adult diets.

So maybe next time my friend will be prepared. When someone questions her family’s vegan lifestyle she might have a better response, such as: It’s been shown that most children would not choose to eat their animal friends if they were given the choice. So I feel sad for kids who are never given the opportunity to cultivate their natural compassion for animals.


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