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Help: My Kid Doesn’t Want to Be Vegan Anymore!

A concerned mother has made a post in the r/vegan subreddit titled “I’m devastated - my kid doesn’t want to be vegan anymore”.

In it, she describes how she raised her 11.5-year-old son to be vegan, “literally from the womb”. In the beginning, she was “blessed with not having to deal with him wanting anything other than vegan food, clothing, etc.” However, having started middle school, “he wants to fit in” and be a “carnist”. She reports that violence does not bother him (though I suspect he doesn’t mean violence in general, only the slaughter of certain animals for food, as is widely accepted culturally).

His new attitude came as such a shock to her that, “through tears, [she] told him [she] needed time to process this”. She will discuss it with him only after they watch a documentary. Her partner (allegedly) won’t discuss this matter because he’s a – there’s that word again – “carnist” (whom she lets eat what he wants only outside the house).

The poor woman asks for advice because she “ha[s] no support”, hoping she’ll feel seen as a struggling mother who just wants what’s best for her son. “I’m afraid if I keep pushing, he will never want to be vegan ever again. If I let him choose, I still run the risk of him never being vegan.”

This stance we might call the tyrant’s dilemma: ‘If I make him do x, my subject will rebel and not do x; but if I don’t, he also might not do x.’ The tyrant asks: how can I ensure that my subject does what I want? How can I use authority to achieve specific, guaranteed results? This attitude is disgusting.

It’s ironic that she complains about his alleged conformism among his middle-school friends. After all, she wants him to conform to her preference, just not theirs – so she still wants conformism, only for what she considers the ‘right’ choice. She was very happy with her son as long as he conformed with her ideals. I suspect the vast majority of parents who worry about (the wrong kind of, in their eyes) conformism are hypocrites in the same way.

It’s also ironic that she complains about her partner (allegedly) not being willing to discuss the matter while at the same time not letting her son discuss with her unless he meets some condition first (watching a documentary). Her willingness to discuss issues with her son – if he wants to discuss them – shouldn’t be conditional upon him doing what she wants. That’s what should be up for discussion regardless.

She’s not the first mother to complain about her son’s disobedience online and garner sympathy from other mothers for her terrible struggles. Like those other mothers, she’s absolutely certain that she’s right and her son wrong. She will never consider that it’s the opposite, and so they’re stuck.

What would be the solution to her dilemma? Karl Popper’s credo:

‘I may be wrong and you may be right, and by an effort, we may get nearer to the truth.’

She could say this to her son. But admitting to even a possibility that she could be wrong about her veganism is to allow her thoughts to enter forbidden territory – self-imposed avoidance of which is one of the irrationalities endemic in the animal-welfare community. A tyrant like her thinks she knows she’s right – which one cannot possibly know – and then wonders why the people around her disagree. But couldn’t it be that her son is having new ideas not out of conformism, but because he thinks they’re true and good and useful? Disagreement by itself is not evidence that the other party is wrong, nor is it defiance, nor is it conformism with the opposing view.

As a former vegan, I sympathize somewhat with her views on animal suffering – I say “somewhat” because I don’t believe anymore that animals can suffer. But make no mistake: women like her are not just concerned mothers. Any appropriate moral judgment of them reflects the fact that they’re control freaks who use their children’s disobedience to, as I’ve said, garner sympathy.

In any case, she asked for advice, so I gave her mine:

Your job as a parent is not to ensure that your child does what you think is right. It’s to [help him by his own lights, as per Lulie Tanett from Taking Children Seriously], even if you disagree […]. Otherwise he will learn that you are trying to control him, and the relationship and the trust you two have will suffer. Ironically, it would be a similar kind of authoritarianism (not in detail but in principle) you think humans exert on animals.

Please consider that you may be wrong, and that your child may be right, and explore these changes in your lives together.

On another note, what you call a “compromise” between you and your partner – where “he can have what he wants” as long as it’s “out of the home” – doesn’t sound like a compromise at all. It sounds like your preferences overruling his (probably at great inconvenience to him) instead of finding a solution you’re both happy with. Now it seems you’re trying to do the same with your child. Sad.

(Note that the last paragraph should not be read as an endorsement of compromises. I’m saying that what she imposes on her partner is not even a compromise.)


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