This book seems very loveable. Look at the cover - the animals all look as though they are well-taken care of. So why the controversy surrounding it?
It's about veganism, not about love for the animals. Those that have read it regard it as misleading young children into a lifestyle that they shouldn't consider. But, the problem here isn't caring for animals, nor is it about factory farming. No; this time, the concern is health, and whether or not the children will actually be able to eat properly if they opt for a vegan diet.
A myth has existed for quite some time, the one stating that children don't eat what their parents eat. Is this true? Do children really detest food that much? Should we put as much emphasis on changing the meal plans for the family or, worse, start cooking something different just because kids can get finicky at times?
Well, this is something that corporations in the food industry want you to think. Yes, most children have their little periods where they start to tell their parents what they want - more commonly known as the 'terrible twos' - and parents turn to so-called 'experts' - ads on TV - to try to solve this problem and end up with quick-fix solutions that make matters worse, not better, in the long-run.
This difficult stage is nothing more than an identity crisis that children need in order to start building their own personality. When children pass from being infants to toddlers, language development is rapid and they learn to finally express their feelings. Oh, and what feelings they have! Virtually anyone with a child can confirm: this less-known stage is just as hard as the infamous teenage rebellion.
Although the language burst is surely the part that is the hardest to deal with, there are two other reasons why children at that age are difficult to control. One, their physical development is at the stage where they can walk, run and thus become free to explore. This makes them hard to control because, of course, when you finally break free from something that ties you down, you take advantage of it. In this case, safety is the main concern, but this may just have an impact on their diets, too. More to come (although mothers are probably thinking "I know where Anita is going with this").
The third and final major change in a child at this point is their self-awareness. How many of you have seen the shock on a young one's face when they saw themselves in a Halloween costume a little before or after they turned two? This is because at around 18 months old, children finally understand who they are physically, meaning that they finally discovered that they are not just a continuum of their parents, but an entirely separate being. This is the age when children can actually also start seeing themselves as having a future - they can think that they could be police officers or teachers, or whatever profession they can start dreaming of. Of course, being so young and unaware of quite a lot of the things that go on in the world, they will surely talk about taking on careers that are visible and obvious, so you rarely hear a young one say that they want to be an administrative assistant. But, they get a sense that they too can become someone important.
This lead me to my point about food and veganism. When this burst of change and development occurs, the child is much less likely to listen to their parents. They want to play, explore their neighborhoods, meet new friends, and start separating from their parents. This can interfere with mealtimes as parents discover how hard it is to sit them down long enough to actually absorb some nutrition. Children don't want to because it is boring. They can easily forget about their hunger because they become focused on another project, be it the anthill in the backyard or why the dog likes to be scratched behind the ears.
Marketing companies caught on to this and decided that kids need 'fun food' to make them stop thinking about their afternoon activities long enough to finish their dinner. It seems as though making food that kids want to eat because they are funny - like smiley-shaped french fries - is a good idea, as long as it healthy for them. Unfortunately, most of the time, they aren't. The day I will see McCain's or Chef Boyardee make food for chldren that contain more than just potatoes and tomatoes as vegetables is a day that will need to be largely celebrated, because it will be quite a victory indeed.
This, I believe, is where this controversy is from. First - and I don't mean to put anyone down with this, but it is a fact - several parents don't know how to deal with this period of time, or don't have the energy. Most of the couples with children this age are still young and at the onset of their careers where they are easily stressed, and the financial burden of being at this stage in their careers isn't always easy to deal with. Easy solutions are often seeked over long-term ones, and they opt for the fish-shaped chicken (or even mock chicken) nuggets that are also high in saturated fats. They listen to the marketing campaigns and gobble up their promises of easier-to-raise children.
However, when one understands what is going on in the young child's mind, and knows exactly what kind of food to feed him or her, they will easily be able to give them all the nutrition they need without having to work too hard to make sure the food is consumed. Eating vegan doesn't mean eating things children refuse to consume, especially when the parents start feeding them vegetables and other plant-based foods early on. Children adapt to what they are given, and if we feed them what people are supposed to eat to begin with - we are, after all, herbivores - they will easily stick to this type of diet and mealtimes should not be so difficult. Vegan food can be nutritious and fun!