Thursday, February 25, 2016

On Misguidance

(This was taken from a January 18 post on the My Face Is on Fire Facebook page. I'm posting it here because I encountered something similar again late yesterday evening, which left me sad again at how ineffective -- even counterproductive -- some of us are in keeping the focus on what's important as we welcome new vegans into our community and offer them our support.)


In a small vegan Facebook group this morning, I saw a thread in which a young mother of a 5- and 7-year-old who'd just gone vegan reach out to ask about alternatives to some of the foods her kids have enjoyed as treats or as convenience foods. She pointed out that as a parent with a cooperative partner (who is open to following her lead) that it may very well be up to her to decide what to feed her little ones, but that one's a fickle eater and that she's hoping to transition them to plant-based foods with the least amount of hassle. She was asking about things like Daiya and veggie dogs, asking if tater tots were vegan-friendly, which ice creams were better, etc.

Instead of answers to her specific questions, she received a big mess of a lecture about feeding her kids junk food. When she pointed out that they also eat fruits and vegetables and that she had those covered -- that she needed help with her other questions -- 3-4 people basically made it clear to her that they thought she was a bad mom 1) for having fed her kids junk in the first place, and a bad vegan 2) for not completely switching them over to an organic whole foods diet instead of seeking vegan-friendly alternatives to the junk foods they enjoyed. She insisted again that she does feed her kids as much healthy stuff as she can and that she wasn't looking for information on how she should be feeding them from A to Z, but would be grateful for advice in response to her other questions.

A few people became indignant at this and one went so far as to tell her that she was the sort of person who gives vegans "a bad name" since her kids will "no doubt end up malnourished and the subject of (medical/legal) intervention". Not surprisingly, she told them to go stuff themselves with beans and left the group.

For the everlovin' sake of pete, don't ever let this be the sort of "support" you give other new vegans who seek community and guidance. Is proper nutrition as important for vegans as it is for everyone else? Of course. But going vegan doesn't mean having to embrace a whole foods, fat/salt/sugar-free, nothing-out-of-a-box diet. Most of us eat convenience foods from time to time and are doing perfectly fine. Most importantly, though, for someone who is new to veganism and who is earnestly trying to transition family members along with her, convenience foods can be useful. To shame someone for using them accomplishes nothing, especially when that someone is already very likely being shamed by non-vegan friends and family members around her for wanting to transition her kids in the first place. Vegan parents face enough invalidation from non-vegans around them; they should expect better from other vegans, shouldn't they?