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Raising Compassion

By: Mandy Parry

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              Last year my 7 year old son came home from school looking dejected. He pulled out a worksheet he was given for homework. The instructions were to draw a line from the farm animal to the thing it “gives”. This week his 1st grade class was learning about farm animals. The curriculum didn’t bother to mention how the animals look, sound, think or live outside of exploitation. Instead it only focused on how a cow “gives” milk, a hen “gives” eggs and a pig “gives” pork. Give is a funny word to use because it’s as if the animal was asked and had first right of refusal or they have a choice in the matter. The reality is that they have no choice. These things are not only taken, the sentient beings they are taken from, endure a life of suffering..

            I expected to run into a time when my son and I would have deep conversations about veganism but not in 1st grade. To my surprise he already understood what was wrong with these teachings. He’s been to farm sanctuaries and has a better understanding than I assumed he did. What a relief. He continued to bring home worksheets along the same lines. I was upset that this type of thinking was being ingrained into young minds. I went to the school and talked to his teacher but she didn’t see my concern. She went on to say this was standard curriculum from the district and she couldn’t change it if she wanted to. As disappointed as I was to hear that, I’m grateful this gave my son and I a chance to discuss farm life in greater detail.

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              My family and I became vegan a little over 2 years ago. My husband and I decided we didn’t want to contribute to violence against animals and we studied some amazing health benefits from plant-based diets. The switch was easy, but we worried how the kids would adjust. What I didn’t consider is how compassion in children is so innate. They get it better than most adults and before we knew it we had re-placed calf growth fluid (milk) with almond milk, cheese by delicious Follow Your Heart, and beans or lentils in place of meat. Contrary to some beliefs, we didn’t starve and in fact our pallets developed a new appreciation for foods we used to eat sparingly. Not only do we find ourselves getting sick less often, but our recovery time is quicker. Our kids come in contact with kids with viruses at school often and rarely do they contract the illness. Their immune systems kick ass! Same goes for working out and being athletic. My recovery time reduced though I’m getting older.

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               In my experience the most powerful tool to raising compassionate children is to lead by example. They watch as I volunteer at animal sanctuaries and rescues. They come with me when I go to protests. They see my passion and love for all beings. Even though we haven’t always been vegan we never supported animals used for entertainment. My husband and I never felt right going to circuses, zoos or aquariums so that wasn’t a shock for them. Now I watch as my children explain to others why we don’t support the animal entertainment industry. My daughter has a Dr. Suess book where a cartoon girl is riding a rhino. Each time we read it she says “Momma, it’s so sad that she’s riding that rhino. Animals don’t like to be treated like that”. My son comes home upset because kids were stepping on bugs at school and he couldn’t get them to stop. What so many adults are unable to see, children just know. I hope they never lose that. I want them to question everything and refrain from following the status quo.

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I know there may come a time when they decide to step away from veganism. To say this possibility doesn’t terrify me would be a lie but I want them to find their own voice and passion for veganism. What I can do is be the example and hope what they have learned is what they already know in their hearts – compassion.

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               Another great tool for raising vegan kids is finding community. It can be lonely without it. I was amazed at the amount of support I found online and in my hometown. Our first discovery was Esther the Wonder Pig and Ziggy the Traveling Piggy. I was able to show my kids videos of beautiful animals living free from harm. We love watching the videos on The Dodo and Peta Kids has some great information too. We were able to find a community of local vegans that put on holiday parties, potlucks and meet-ups. Being around like-minded people with children that have answers to your questions and an understanding for the hardships you face is incredible. It’s one thing to go vegan yourself, but when it comes to raising vegan kids everyone has an opinion. I personally have extended family that thinks we’re “too extreme” because we don’t share their views on animal exploitation. It’s not always easy, but it is definitely worth it. It’s not even as close to difficult when you consider the challenges the animals face being raised for food.

For Christmas this year I have my eye on a few new books that teach about compassion. One of them is “V is for Vegan,” which goes through the alphabet giving the why’s and how’s of veganism. The other, “Santa’s First Vegan Christmas,” is a story about a fun-loving reindeer who meets Santa and shows him how we can all be kinder to animals. Kindness is a gift we can never give or get enough of.

“It is vital that when educating our children’s brains that we do not neglect to educate their hearts.”

Dalai Lama

From Activism Blooms Friendship

By: Sahna Foley

Sage Mountain Reads

Sage Mountain Reads

By: Natalie Blanton

When people begin their education or transition into the plant-based lifestyle–so often we hear that books significantly impact this dietary, lifestyle, and paradigm shift. Because these stories have so much power, we decided to compile a list of our favorite reads, with a bit of our commentary:

  • How Not to Die
    Dr. Michael Gregerhow-not-to-dieWe included this in our latest newsletter because we feel it is the most comprehensive and innovative plant-based health argument and guide out there!The vast majority of premature deaths can be prevented through simple changes in diet and lifestyle. In How Not to Die, Dr. Michael Greger, the internationally-recognized lecturer, physician, and founder of NutritionFacts.org, examines the top 15 causes of death in America-heart disease, various cancers, diabetes, Parkinson’s, high blood pressure, and more-and explains how nutritional and lifestyle interventions can sometimes trump prescription pills and other pharmaceutical and surgical approaches, freeing us to live healthier lives.
  • Do Unto Animals: A Friendly Guide to How Animals Live, and How We Can Make Their Lives Better
    Tracey StewartThis is on our gift guide — because this adorable, accessible and powerful read is on all of our lists this year. We especially love the illustrations and Tracey’s individual and humanizing stories of each of the animals that have changed her life.
  • Ishmael
    Daniel Quinn
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    This book, with its fascinating and obscure plot, juxtaposes consumer culture and nature and calls on its readers to become proactive stewards of this earth before it is too late. Quinn explores an understanding and appreciation of animals unlike anything we have ever read before.
  • Animal Liberation
    Peter SingerProblematic and provocative, this is a foundational text to the animal rights movement.
  • Total Liberation
    David Naguib Pellow
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    Utilizing Singer’s animal liberation framework as a jumping off point, Pellow integrates and intersects the human liberation and earth liberation movements to show that unless we all work together, we will continue to see destruction and oppression of this earth and all its inhabitants.
  • Sexual Politics of Meat
    Carol J. AdamsThis is a vital read that connects animals to humans in such an intimate and provocative manner. Think: the brutality of the dairy industry in relation to societal oppression of women. Adams argues (and we wholeheartedly agree) that the exploitation of female bodies, both animal and human, is absolutely unacceptable.
  • Consider the Lobster
    David Foster WallaceA provocative must-read essay on the history, zoology, and society of the lobster family and its unfortunate celebration and consumption in the western world.41WGczn93HL._SX319_BO1,204,203,200_
  • Making a Killing
    Bob TorresThis book is an awesome expose on the horrors of big agriculture and factory farming. Well-written and witty, not to mention free on Google Books!


Other must-reads:

  • Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy – Matthew Scully
  • Farmageddon: The True Cost of Cheap Meat – Philip Lymbery
  • The Dreaded Comparison – Marjorie Spiegel
  • Animals Men and Morals – edited by Stanley and Roslind Godlovitch and John Harris
  • When Species Meet – Donna Haraway
  • The Postmoden Animal – Steve Baker
  • Empty Cages – Tom Regan
  • The Moral Relevance of the Distinction between Domesticated and Wild Animals – Clare Palmer
  • Surface Encounters – Ron Broglio
  • Sistah Vegan – A. Breeze Harper

Note: remember to shop local and Park City’s very own Dolly’s Bookstore stocks many of these titles! 

What are your plant-based/vegan/ethical/environmental/health conscious favorites?

Which would you add to our list? Tell us here!