Recently on the dinner table, my son asked: “Mom where do the sausages grow?”
I am always quick to answer but this one made me pause. I had to decide how much truth I should tell my kids. So the conversation began, “Sausages are made with meat that animals give us.” I thought maybe this answer would suffice for now but bam! came another question. He asked, “Mom how do they give us meat?”.
Now I instantly pictured a bloody Peppa Pig and wondered how to break the news that “darling, the animals don’t give us anything, we take it”!. I used my mommy trick by declaring “No talking with food in the mouth”! I promised him that I would sit with him and explain this tomorrow. Dodged a bullet then but it sure left me thinking.
Kids ought to know where their food comes from. We live in big cities and lead a life of convenience where we buy produce from stores which often deprives our young ones of real-life experiences. The storybooks and cartoons paint a rosy picture of colourful animals living happily on the farm but the reality is far from it.
Like a modern Indian mother, I decided to do some research as to how to address this topic with my kids. So I found out that the best way to explain this is by being truthful.
First, start by explaining what the words ‘human beings’ mean. You can say ‘Human Beings’ are men, women and children. In simple words, we call them ‘people’. We can explain that poultry and farm animals are raised to provide ‘human Beings’ with dairy and animal products. Like cows are kept in the farms to supply us with milk and hens with eggs and meat etc. Some animals are raised for the meat which involves killing them. The person who does that is a butcher.
On our planet Earth, some animals eat only plants, some eat meat by hunting and human beings can eat both. Human beings are intelligent and have the ability to think so they decide what they want to eat. Some people eat only vegetarian food, some enjoy meat and there are some who decide not to eat any dairy.
Then talk to them about food choices your family follows. Most important thing in this topic is to answer all the questions the child asks and give examples of family members with different food choices. If you do not eat meat or avoid a particular food due to religious reasons you must take this opportunity to explain that also. This helps the child understand and learn more about his upbringing and culture.
Kids often see what their friends bring to school so when a child knows the reasons behind his food preference he is more confident. Do not degrade or criticize the food choice that your family does not follow. A vegetarian family should not say that people who eat meat are cruel or impure or a meat-eating family should not make fun of vegetarians. Children learn from us so we must raise them without any biases. It is a wonderful opportunity to teach them to respect others and not be judgemental.
If your child decides not to eat meat do not force feed. Let the child decide. We should respect, understand and be happy about the fact that your child is thinking independently. Give the child some time to process the information. Most kids will forget about it and carry on while some might take it seriously. This is also a great opportunity to teach a very important lesson about respecting food and not wasting it. We must highlight the effort taken by farmers and the sacrifice of animals that goes in producing our meals.
Real education begins at home and interesting conversations happen on the dinner table. Let’s teach our kids to be grateful every day for the food we eat. My son sheepishly asked if eating only desserts and chocolates was also a food preference. Moral of the story- Kids are not so innocent after all!