Being a Vegan Kid
2012 Update: Thoughts on Being Vegan – Now with 50% More Experience!
Hallo! I’m Ellen, as you already know, of Arizona. I graduated high school this year as the captain and resident geek of my cross country team, and I’m heading off to California to attend Pomona College. Before I go, I thought I would give my parting advice for vegetarian and vegan kids after the experience of high school, mainly by addressing the most common questions and responses I’ve found to peers finding out that you are veg*n.
First off is the obvious one, “Why are you veg*n?” Of course, this is going to vary from person to person, but my main advice is be brief, be polite, and be enthusiastic as possible. Something simple such as “Well, I know I don’t want to suffer, so I don’t want to make animals suffer” is sensible – you don’t need to go into a whole spiel about the practices on factory farms, although having some details in mind if you’re asked isn’t a bad idea. Be polite, as well – the last thing you want to do is come across as accusatory. Again, show enthusiasm – to do your best for the animals, you want to present as positive a picture of veg*nism as possible. This can occasionally be frustrating when you get the question every time you sit down to eat with a new group of people, but just try to be prepared, and realize it’s a great opportunity to be a representative for the animals.
The next one is the usual follow up, “What do you eat?” Again, this is going to vary from person to person, but you want to emphasize variety and desirability – I don’t think any of us are actually living on kale and raw soybeans, but people seem to think that’s the case on occasion. If you’re a big faux carnivore like me, you might want to point out the variety of fake meats that have been developed in recent years, and are now widely available. If you have the opportunity to go to banquets or bring in food in other situations, I highly advise doing so – people are always surprised at the quality of veg meats and baked goods. You don’t even have to be an expert – Boca chik’n nuggets have been huge hits at Science Olympiad banquets for me.
The third response, and the one that has become more common recently, is “Oh, I could never be veg*n.” This is the one I, personally, have the most trouble answering, but I think one way to approach it is to say, “It might not be as hard as you think,” and elaborate a little on how veg foods have become more available (and tasty!). One point that it’s important to emphasize, though, is that it’s never an “all or nothing” proposition. Maybe mention things like Meatless Mondays, or cutting back on chicken – options that people tend to find more approachable.
Lastly are the aggressive responses that you may get – although, of course, the more veg*nism becomes mainstream, the less this happens, so with luck, you might be able to skip this paragraph! In any case, aggressive responses can vary from the weird thought experiments such as, “What if you were stranded on a desert island with a cow?” to “I just ate a hamburger, nyeh nyeh nyeh nyeh.” There’s no catch-all response for these, but my main advice is don’t get angry. I’m going to say that again, because it bears repeating: don’t get angry. Be polite, be rational, be focused. The issue is the animals, not personal purity, not moral superiority. It always, always, always has to come back to the animals’ suffering. There are some arguments you can’t win and some jibes that will make you furious, but you want to do your best to be a polite and reasonable representative for the animals. It’s not a question of persuading the person you’re arguing with, necessarily, but a question of whether the people around you will see you as that angry, uptight vegan who yells all the time, or a polite, fairly normal kid. None of these people are your enemies – they are the ones who have the potential to make the change for the animals, and the impression you make can have a big influence on that. It’s a hard thing to do, and you will make mistakes – I spent a lot of elementary / middle school in “angry vegan” mode – and it’s not the end of the world. It will get better, both as you move into high school and people are often more open-minded and aware, and as veg*anism becomes more and more mainstream. Enjoy the ride!
Original, from 2006
Hi, my name is Ellen Green, I’m twelve years old, going in to seventh grade, and have been vegan all my life. To tell you a bit about myself, my parents are Anne Green and Matt Ball, and I have a pet guinea pig named Sunny. I love animals, particularly wolves, horses, dogs and cats. I’m interested in mythological creatures, dragons especially. I’m also a big fan of Harry Potter and Star Wars. I enjoy reading, surfing the internet, drawing, and writing. I am on the cross country team for my school and enjoy running. My favorite subjects are art, German, science, and reading. I have a few close friends, none who are vegan but all who are really nice, smart kids. Lastly, I think factory farming is much worse than Voldemort, the Death Eaters, Dolores Umbrige, Emperor Palpatine, Darth Vader, and Jar-Jar combined.
I’m going to be blunt: being a vegan kid is going to severely decrease the number of people willing to be your friend. Even if you don’t advertise and promote the fact that you are vegan, this fact is going to make you less likely to get “cool” (cool being used as a derogative term representing the unintelligent, petty, unconscientious, intolerant jerks generally regarded by the majority of the school population as “cool”) friends. This is a benefit, in my opinion. If you advertise and promote the fact that you’re vegan, the people who are willing to be friends with you are more likely to be uncool, and therefore nicer people who are more likely to be good friends. With your friends, as long as they know why you’re vegan and find it reasonable, you’re good to go – you don’t need to convert them to veganism then and there, just giving them a positive attitude towards veganism will make them more likely to be converted in the future. Also, if you have your friends over, introducing them to some of the things you eat is a plus.
As a vegan, you are likely to get a lot of questions,
“What is a vegan?”
“Why are you vegan?”
“What do you eat?”
“How do you get protein / calcium / nutrients?”
“Aren’t your shoes leather?”
“What’s wrong with milk / eggs?”
“Can you eat…?”
To all of these questions, if you are in a hurry, you can just hand them a leaflet and say, “Here’s some information, if you’re curious.” I try to always have some Vegan Outreach booklets in a folder. If you do have some time and they are genuinely concerned, it’s always good to talk to them about the question, and then give them a booklet if they’re still curious. If they don’t seem genuinely concerned, try to just answer them as quickly as possible with a yes / no answer if possible, or tell them to “Talk to me later.” (Unless they are really concerned, they almost never do.) In all cases, try to be as polite as possible.
You are going to get teased. It’s a plain and simple fact. However, it’s always good to know that the fact these people are teasing you is a testament to their lack of awareness and kindness, and because of this they won’t be able to succeed – you will. Also, you can know that you are by far a better person than the people teasing you. That being said, here are some facts about teasing and how to deal with it.
Bullies are highly unimaginative. They will use one method of teasing for years, even after it is clear that it has no effect on you whatsoever. The favored form of teasing that I’ve encountered is the “I ate / killed a (type of animal or type of meat) last night” type. The bullies I know have been using that with minimal variations (such as “I will eat / kill a…” “I went / am going hunting / cow tipping” “I killed a (animal). I (describes method of killing)” “Mmmmmm (type of meat)”) since about second grade! How stupid can you get – that affected me for about two milliseconds, and they’ve been using it for five years!
There are three main ways of dealing with teasing.
1) Ignore them. This can be done by sticking your head in a book (or something else to that effect) and pretending they don’t exist. However, a lot of the time this does not work as well (and isn’t as fun) as the other two.
2) Use a witty remark, such as:
“Please, stop, you’re hurting my feelings.” (Said in a dull monotone)
“You’ve been doing this for ages. Get it through you’re thick skulls: I. Don’t. Care.” (Also “Why should I care?” “I care, why?” etc.)
“You know, teasing people is a REALLY good way to become liked and respected.” (Sarcastic)
“The fact that you have nothing better to do than repeatedly say stupid stuff in useless attempts to annoy someone shows that you are really intelligent and well liked.” (Sarcastic)
(Yawn) “When you annoy me, I’ll let you know.”
“(Your name) is not here right now. Please leave a message after the beep. Beep!”
“When you say something I care about / intelligent, let me know.”
“Now now, do you want Moody to come and turn you into a ferret?”
“I’m not sure if you know this, but the ability to speak does NOT make you intelligent.” (“The ability to speak does not make you intelligent.” Qui-Gon to Jar-Jar, Star Wars, Episode 1)
(Wave hand) “You do not want to say something stupid in a useless attempt to annoy me again.” (Wave hand) “You want to sit down and be quiet.” (Jedi mind trick)
“Luke, I am not annoyed.” (Speaking like Darth Vader)
“Annoying me, you are not. Find a better use of your time, you should.” (You can do this in non-Yoda talk too)
“May the Force be with your brain – it needs it.”
“Use the Force. Use it to get a brain.” (This is one of my favorites)
Or any others you can think of. Another one that has been suggested to me is to repeat their comment with, “I think it is great that....” So, if they say, “I ate a deer yesterday!” reply with, “I think it is great that you ate a deer yesterday.”
3) Weird them out (say something totally weird and strange that creeps them out) such as:
“Now I get it! You’re the monkey’s sister’s best friend’s son-in-law’s uncle’s second cousin’s daughter’s nephew’s cousin’s step-father’s aunt’s son!” (Or anything similar to this)
“What in the name of the flying spaghetti monster!?!?” (Or anything else to that effect that is weird)
“If you wanted to make Serak the preparer cry, mission accomplished.” (from The Simpsons)
“How ‘bout them Chudley Cannons?” (Ron’s favorite Quiddich team, from Harry Potter)
“Kneazles and Nifflers and Puffskeins Oh My!” (Creatures from Harry Potter)
“Are you going to put your name in for the Goblet of Fire?” (Harry Potter)
“Oh go kiss a dementor.” (Harry Potter)
“I just realized it – I love Jar-Jar! (Star Wars)
“Yousa talkin to mesa?” (Star Wars Jar-Jar talk)
“Will someone please get this walking carpet out of my way?” (Princess Leia Organa, Episode 4)
“Obi-Wan, Chaka Khan, Chaka Khan, Obi-Wan!” (Star Wars nonsense)
“May the Force be with you.”
You can always use random things from books, movies, songs, etc., use animal noises, just make up nonsense, or anything else that’s weird. Have fun with it! Take note of weird things you hear for later use. Take pride in original and funny responses! You can make getting teased fun! (I know how weird that sounds, but it’s true – I know from experience.) Bullies can’t get you down if you have fun getting teased! One more bit of advice – don’t bother going to teachers, it’s useless. In the vast, vast majority of cases, they’ll waste your time telling you to ignore them and you’ll be right back where you started. Have fun!
May the Force be with you.
Subscribe to the Vegan Outreach enewsletter to keep up on events