When I was pregnant with you, your daddy and I agreed to raise you as a vegetarian until you're old enough to make an informed decision about whether or not you want to include meat and byproducts of animal slaughter in your diet. My on again/off again relationship with vegetarianism started when I was seventeen, and didn't know enough about nutrition to manage a meat-free diet in a healthy way. Over the years, I became more informed about my nutritional needs, and started gradually cutting meat out of my diet. First I cut out red meat and pork, then poultry, then finally fish. I got over my fear of commitment, and the last morsel of meat that has passed my lips was in September of 2005. It was salmon.
When I met your father, he was a vegetarian, but by the time we started dating, he wasn't. He doesn't eat meat often, and tries to be conscientious about its origins when he does. When he moved in with me, he happily agreed to maintain a vegetarian household. It followed that when we discussed how we'd handle your diet, he happily agreed that whether or not to eat meat should be your choice to make when you were mature enough to understand it.
I won't go on and on about why we made that decision or how we manage sticking to it in a not-very-vegetarian-friendly town, because I was fortunate to have the opportunity to write about that on Nature Moms in a piece entitled "Raising a Vegetarian: A Matter of Choice". As with the other parenting choices we've made that are considered un-conventional amongst our immediate family and circle of friends, we've been blessed with support and respect for our values.
I am a vegetarian for a number of reasons. Some of them have to do with my own personal ethics. Additionally, there are a number of environmental and health issues that I consider. While I will explain to you my reasons in detail, when you are ready to understand them, I don't expect you to adopt my values just because I say so.
In the words of Paul McCartney:
"If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be a vegetarian."
It is my hope as a mother that you will grow to place "glass walls" around the values you come to embrace. I hope that you will make informed decisions, and that you will be open-minded enough to re-evaluate them if necessary as you continue to grow and learn. Above all, I hope that you will understand and value the importance of compassion toward all living, breathing things, and that you will tread lightly on this Earth and treat her with respect.
--Thank you to Tiffany at Nature Moms for the opportunity to write about giving Delilah a vegetarian start in life. Make sure to check out her blog! Nature Moms is also on facebook and twitter.
If you are considering transitioning to a vegetarian lifestyle, I recommend reading Becoming Vegetarian, which is packed with objective and practical information and tips for making a healthy transition to a vegetarian diet. Additionally, it includes a chapter called 'Vegetarian for Life', which covers pregnancy and lactation, infancy and children, and adolescents and teens.