Even though most young readers don’t really have the opportunity to meet and see cows up close due to living in urban areas, they can at least see them up close in picture books and read about them in funny and educational stories. Cows are popular characters in children’s literature, especially in picture books, novels, and even folk tales. These benevolent creatures spark readers’ imaginations and teach them important life lessons and cultural values. From cows in books, we can sometimes learn how to behave and sometimes how not to behave but in any case, they are gentle teachers.
Talking about veganism with school-aged children help them to make informed choices about the food they eat and the products they use. It can empower them to think critically about the impact of their choices on the world around them and to stand up for their beliefs. It’s important to start this conversation early in order to provide children with the knowledge and tools they need to make conscious and ethical choices throughout their lives. With the right approach, children can learn about veganism in a way that is engaging and fun, while also gaining a deeper understanding of the impact of their choices on the world.
Although we want to raise children who will have respect for adults, we do not want to raise children who will be obedient to all authorities and who will easily get carried away with collective ideas. Humour is often about criticising authority and can encourage children to question assumptions and challenge authority. In this way, they will not be subject to various forms of manipulation by society that seeks to create a world of like-minded people.
In the book “Reading Circle” (1910), Leo Tolstoy collected the most important thoughts of famous artists, scientists, and philosophers and arranged them in a calendar of daily and monthly readings. In this book, you can read inspiring thoughts about God, art, death, upbringing, love, peace, compassion, the meaning of life and more. I highlighted the thoughts that Tolstoy wrote regarding compassion for animals and the human habit of eating meat.
Carnism is an invisible belief system according to which it is natural, necessary, and normal to eat the meat of certain animals. Carnism is such a deeply rooted part of our life and culture that people do not question the morality and harmfulness of eating meat at all. The first step in changing an ideology is to precisely recognise and name it. The question therein is: what psychological and sociological mechanisms are built into that oppressive system to make it so effective?
Rudolph Steiner even knew at that time that plant foods contain all the proteins and fats that humans need. In his lecture “The Evolution of the Earth and Man” (1924) he said: “Healthy vegetable proteins are what our body has a lot of. When we put chicken protein into our body, our body can be quite a lazy, sluggish body; he will be able to destroy it easily because it is easily destroyed.”
The very idea of allowing unnecessary suffering, even more of taking life, was repulsive to Leonardo da Vinci. When he passed by a place where Florence birds were sold, he would often take them out of the cage with his own hand, and after paying the sellers the asking price, he would release them into the air and thus restore their freedom.
Pythagoras believed that everything that people do to animals comes back to them. He and his followers not only hated the religious sacrifice of animals but believed that man should not eat animals because eating meat makes him a war machine, aggressive, and murderous. He believed that as long as people kill animals, they will also kill each other. The Pythagoreans were of the opinion that man could live without inflicting pain or taking life.
One of the greatest minds in the world, Nikola Tesla, was a vegetarian who warned against the slaughter of animals and claimed that he would not harm or kill a single living being. Nikola Tesla fought for the liberation of animals, publicly standing up for their protection on many occasions. It’s no secret because he expressed his views in interviews for newspapers, but also in front of scientists and other prominent people of his time. That’s why we can rightfully consider him one of the biggest advocates of animal rights, who also left valuable advice to people for a peaceful and more healthy life.
The killing and eating of animals occur mainly because people were convinced that animals were destined by God for human use and that there was nothing wrong with killing animals. But this is not true. In whatever books it is written that it is not a sin to kill animals, in the hearts of all of us, it is clearer than in these books that animals should be pitied just like humans, and we all know this if we do not silence our conscience.
In the episode “Men Against Fire” in season three of the popular series “Black Mirror”, it was gruesomely shown how humans can be programmed to do cruel things. Soldiers willingly agreed to have implants integrated into their bodies that made them see ordinary people (including kids) as zombies and kill them mercilessly. The implant was created as a tool of control and a way to keep soldiers from hesitating to act when faced with the “enemy”. A soldier begins to feel guilt and empathy after his implant is hacked because he saw that he was killing innocent people and that it was wrong.
Children’s book writers often feel that their mission is to teach their readers, whether through facts, religion, morals, social codes, ways of thinking, or some other set of beliefs or ideas. But they are not alone. Parents, babysitters, older brothers and sisters, grandparents, teachers, friends, and priests want the same. Every single day, someone tells children what to do and how to behave. In kindergarten, at school, and at home, they learn about good manners and desirable behavior.
Many parents think it is wrong for children to learn the truth at such a young age or they don’t know how to reveal the truth in an appropriate way. Children naturally love animals and surely such knowledge would influence their food choices. Most children who eat meat are just naive consumers who are not aware of the origin of food, while adults have had the time and conditioning to come up with a number of reasons to justify eating animals.
Animals are sentient beings who can suffer, like humans, for a variety of reasons: illness, migration, abuse, loss of a human or animal friend, feelings of neglect, and more. However, people do not understand their language and therefore disregard their feelings. Animals, like infants, utilize vast communication without words, through gesture, expression, smell, sound, and touch. Language has disabled this other type of communication and complicated the relationship between man and the unarticulated animal world.
Donkeys appear in various ways in literature; mostly in a negative context as a symbol of human flaws, weaknesses and failures. Rarely are they portrayed as a being worthy of respect and admiration. Here I will give a few examples of the donkey in well-known literary works.
The donkey is one of the most exploited and abused animals in history. Donkeys were used for towing cargo and for chariots in Sumer (modern day Iraq/Kuwait) as early as around 2600 BC. The attitude towards donkeys has not changed much even today. The donkey is still a labor force that is brutally used and a tourist attraction in some countries, even ridden by people who weigh over 100 kilos.
I’ve heard some parents say “My 5-year-old child loves animals so much and there is no other way to meet his favorite heroes from ‘The Lion King’ but to take him to the zoo.” The zoo is indeed home to celebrity doubles from children’s favorite movies and books, such as lions, giraffes, tigers, elephants, hyenas, monkeys, pythons, parrots, and other exotic species.
What if parents say, “My five-year-old is so interested in the secrets of the Universe.” What is the best way to learn about planets? Maybe buy him a rocket ticket to Mars?! It’s a little expensive, but you could let your little boy write a Christmas letter to Elon Musk to ask.
Many people are surprised to hear that animals can communicate just as much as they do. Most believe that only parrots have the gift of speech. However, all animal species have their own language, and the fact that we do not understand them is actually our problem. Many people do not understand French or Chinese either, but they don’t think that the French and the Chinese fail to communicate with each other.
Humor is a powerful tool to talk about important and painful topics in a way that will attract attention. Stand-up comedian and activist Lee Camp manages to speak in a humorous way about animal rights and the manipulation of the meat industry and the media. Like the ingenious Bill Hicks and George Carlin, Lee Camp acts as a critical thinker and a prejudice breaker coming out of a given pattern of human behavior. The comedian presents his own point of view on a world-current topic, which is climate change and the impact of the meat industry on the ecological crisis.
It is terribly wrong to talk about the equality of animals and humans. Animals are not like humans because they lack many traits that only humans can have: arrogance, hypocrisy, conceit, ambition, and greed. It’s an unrealistic comparison when people who misbehave are told: “You behave like an animal”. What’s wrong with an animal’s behavior? We know that people do things that animals would never think of.
The meat industry, butchers, and hunters find any excuse to kill animals by claiming that animals have no feelings and that they are not capable of love. On the contrary, there are many examples to show that animals are capable of loving their young, their partners, and their friends. They feed their babies, clean them, wash them, play with them, pet them, protect them from danger, teach them life skills, and warn them when they are rude, just as human parents do with their kids.