Walking With My Children: Vegetarian Virtues in Action
by Meaghan McKenna-Porcelly
Imagine you are taking an afternoon drive when you find yourself in the country, off the beaten path, winding through farmland and cornfields. You come across a small hamlet–it’s a tiny little town, existing of only a couple of dozen homes, surrounded on three sides by farm and one side by waterfalls spilling along a tributary of the nearby Hudson River. This village is relaxed, quiet and serene compared to many. This is where I live with my family – my husband, my three and a half year old son and my seven month old baby girl.
The winters here stretch over nearly six months. As the days start to get longer and Mother Nature begins her long awaited thaw, we start to walk. We walk a long loop of road through cornfields and farms. Along the way we meet our neighbors-pigs, cows, sheep, goat, geese, chicken and other farm animals. Living here has opened my eyes even wider to the importance of vegetarianism, and the benefit that this choice is giving my children.
My son has made friends with the animals that live in our neighborhood-especially the gentle sheep. When we visit, we love to bring them some of our food and touch their soft wool. We are their friends as well, that is for certain. They line up when they hear us coming, they wait for us near the fence. When it is time for us to leave they “baa” us goodbye.
As we walk I can see that my children are happy. Regularly taking this walk and visiting the animals has become an important part of our lives. I walk in silence and think about some of the virtues my children are learning from the very beginning of their lives through vegetarianism: compassion, caring and kindness are a few. There is no double standard of being taught to love other living beings while simultaneously harming them for food. They learn gentleness, affection, and respect. They understand concern, sensitivity, equality and tolerance. I also think, and hope, there is a healthy sense of pride.
Our walk can be difficult some days. We see the inadequate facility that the cows live in. It can be so hard to visit the pigs in their gloomy pen that we often just pass them by. In this way, my children are seeing the harsh realities of hardship, distress, misfortune and suffering-plain and simple. Still, we hope to bring some happiness to all of the animals that we visit along the way. By our actions of eating a cruelty-free diet, renouncing leather and the fast-food industry we have become quiet activists for the well-being of these neighborhood animals, as well as all others across the globe.
We tread lightly. We walk in spring with the flowers, summer with the butterflies, and fall with the fields overflowing with colorful pumpkins and squash. I am proud of them and happy with my choices. Without dragging around the burden of animal cruelty, I watch my children play as these words come to mind: lighthearted, carefree, gentle and fun. This is the way that childhood should be.