On Sunday our eleven year old niece Isabella came to stay with us for a week. She is here from Florida. We picked her up at the airport and took her right to one of our favorite vegetarian restaurants in Ann Arbor. We had a phenomenal lunch, sharing different dishes, fresh juice concoctions and two vegan desserts. It was the perfect way to welcome Isabella into our vegan world.
In the car on the way home she asked me, “Why do vegans choose not to drink milk if the cow isn’t harmed?” I hesitated, then took a deep breath. You see, Isabella is brilliant, kind, intuitive and curious. She responds well to honesty and is as caring as any adult woman I have ever known. For a split second, I didn’t want to say why. I wanted to tell her a watered down version of the truth because the truth is so horrifying and inhumane, it felt a thousand times worse than de-bunking Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. I didn’t want to tell someone so beautiful and kind that there are so many ways that we are unkind to living things, simply to satisfy for our palette preferences.
For an instant I thought about hiding those ugly truths, but that isn’t who she is, and that isn’t who I am. My niece is old enough to gather her own facts and to make her own choices based on all of the information she can find. Every time we eat or drink we make a series of choices. Our bodies and our lives are worth making those choices with all of the information, not just some or half of it. I shared with her that the majority of milk that is purchased today is produced in commercial farms, places that are inhumane to dairy cows. It is a place that they never see the light of day, are kept in tight quarters not fit for such a large animal and kept constantly pregnant, so they continuously produce milk….never with the privilege of keeping their young.
Our conversation continued with how delicious almond, coconut and soy milks are and how easy it is to get more effective and use-able calcium from whole foods. Then calmly and matter of factly she said,”Wouldn’t it be wonderful if everyone stopped drinking milk because there are so many alternatives?” She said this with the conviction of Nathan Runkle (CEO of Mercy For Animals) and the compassion of my eleven year old niece.
Yes indeed that would be wonderful.
Isabella will be with us for an entire week of vegan ice cream making, tempeh trying and fresh juicing together. We just made bracelets and vegan peanut butter dark chocolate ice cream. Aunt Sandy is about to show her how to whip up some vegan macaroni and cheese and then Isabella is going to teach us how to make her favorite , “Chop Salad.”
Here is a link to PETA Kids where they have loads of games, contests and information that help answer questions like why don’t vegans drink milk? You can share this site with your compassionate and curious young adult. There are things on this site that some kids may already care about like animal dissection, which Isabella brought up in a conversation, the circus and saving the whales at Sea World, which she also discussed with us.
I look forward to telling you more about our week of listening, learning and sharing.
Have a delicious day.
Factory farm milking image courtesy of healthykitschyvegan.wordpress.com
PETA kids image courtesy of Facebook.com