Compared to most non-vegans, I'm sympathetic to veganism. A well balanced vegan diet is perfectly healthy. And if you can live well without using animals, it seems reasonable to do so if you choose. Because a child of a vegan parent lives in a home with vegan pantries and refrigerators, he'll have to be almost entirely vegan by default, and that's fine. But I think things get a little more complicated when the child leaves the home. Should the child be burdened with upholding vegan standards amongst the non-vegans? Must he inquire of the ingredients of birthday cake and refuse it. Cupcake or pizza parties in the classroom? Meals at the homes of friends? Must the child refuse a gift of a leather jacket or belt or boots, say, when an aunt or friend of the family forgets about the family's unusual practices? Should they feel guilty when they accidentally imbibe something with milk in it? These hefty standards are too much.
The kids in the book are conveniently home-schooled. But if that weren't the case, my friend claims parents can send vegan snacks with the children to whatever events they attend, and supply teachers with vegan alternatives for snack occasions in the classroom. Kids should learn that it's okay to be different, of course, but I don't like the idea of saddling a kid with something that unnecessarily sets him apart from his peers.
More importantly, I suspect a raising a child as a strict vegan requires a certain amount of brainwashing. This was the case in the book. The ten-year-old from the book made this
Veganism (much more than vegetarianism) is indeed similar to young-earth creationism, extra-Utahan Mormonism, atheism, libertarianism, and eco-communism in this way. Richard Dawkins loves to point out that there are no Christian children or Muslim children, nor Republican or Democratic children, because these ideologies do not follow one out of the womb; they are learned. And the ideas underpinning the ideologies are far too complicated for a child to truly understand until they're much much older. Brainwashing them with belief systems before they have learned to think critically handicaps them. I think this is correct, and I think the case is stronger for the really bizarre sets of beliefs at the top of this paragraph. Democrats and Republicans are, for
It's tempting to think "My [quirky] philosophy is so obviously true and good, of course I should raise my children in this manner." I feel the same way about, say, atheism. But preserving a child's ability to form her own ideas, at least partially, inevitably porously shielded from the overwhelming influence of her parents is a worthier goal. I could raise my children explicitly as atheists, inculcating in them the fallacies of theism and images of all the horrible things people have done in the name of religion throughout history at such an early age that they would likely be forever immune to Christian proselytizing (unless that's their chosen form of rebellion). But I'd rather try to keep my biases and ideologies to myself as much as possible, teach them to ask questions, answer those questions honestly as they arise, and then hope that with curiosity and critical thinking, they will come round to my way of thinking anyway. A vegan parent should do the same. And a Marxist parent, and a kosher Jewish parent, etc.