This week’s question came from a member of the Council: what do you do when you’re confronted by people who feel that the mere act of having children is wrong? That might sound a little weird, but there is a subset out there who believes there are more than enough people on the planet, and adding to that population only adds to the strain on Earth’s resources (one such group has their philosophy laid out on their Voluntary Human Extinction Movement web site.)
This kind of thing can come more often when you’re a vegan parent, as the vegan community sometimes overlaps other groups like this one – at least, that’s been the experience of at least one member of the Council.
So what’s to be done? Obviously, you’ve got a difference of opinion on the matter, but it can be super easy to feel uncomfortable in a group gathering. Here’s some of what our Council of Vegan Parents had to say on the matter.
First, make sure this is what you’re dealing with. As Elaine points out, some people are simply nervous and uncomfortable around children, and babies in particular. That really could be all that’s going on.
Next, who exactly are you dealing with? Are you being confronted by a vegan anti-populationist or an omnivore one? While it’s not exactly the same thing, Al’s been in discussions with people who try to justify their meat eating with their decision not to have children. His response might help you with omnivores, and it was along these lines:
“While I’m not a fan of using numbers to argue, if you were to calculate the amount of land used to feed my vegan family of four it would be LESS than what is used to feed your omnivorous family of two (assuming you eat roughly the same amount of animal ‘products’ as the average American family does). Same goes for carbon footprint. So if you two went vegan and had a couple kids, you’d be responsible for less environmental degradation than you are right now.”
(Of course, as Al notes, this assumes that his children will choose veganism once they’re old enough to do so, but we’ll go with that as a pretty decent assumption 🙂
If you’re talking with other vegans, try focusing on what we have in common. Celeste (and many others, including myself) can’t figure out “why people within our movement feel the need to judge and alienate other vegans.” As she puts it, this goes directly against veganism’s compassionate foundations.
Just like the decision to adopt a plant-based diet, the choice to have children (or not to) is a personal decision for most people, but it’s important for everyone to realize that your family choices don’t fall inside any “Official Definition” of veganism held by any major group I’m aware of. In that context, resenting other vegans for their population choices makes about as much sense as resenting vegans because they listen to Lionel Ritchie. As Celeste says, “Instead of attacking fellow vegans, I hope for unity in a common cause of promoting compassion.”
It’s also important that big life choices like children don’t get reduced to a simple equation. Steph hasn’t experienced this particular situation, but she feels that framing things in a way that frustrates our basic human needs (and the need to reproduce and raise children would definitely apply!) is an incomplete perspective. Celeste’s spouse also brought up some of the absurdities that can present themselves if the discussion gets drawn out: it can easily turn itself to talk of mass suicides, which doesn’t make sense for anyone involved.
Finally, live like you love the planet, regardless of how many people you feel it can handle. Al suggests that you buy locally (and fair trade) when possible, favour hand-me-down clothes and toys, recycle, compost, buy used things, etc.
Ultimately, the choice not to have children is a choice, much like the choice to have them. By respecting each side and trying to focus on things we have in common, we can be more effective as vegans, as activists, and overall as human beings. (Then we can unite against Lionel Ritchie. I kid, I kid. No idea why I picked that name, honest!)
What about you? Have you been in situations with people who judged you unfairly simply because of your family? How did you deal with it? Let us know in the comments!
A huge thank you to Council members Elaine, Al, Celeste, Doh and Steph for their input on this one!
(Photo by Arenamontanus)