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Six Weeks and Counting: Hopes for My Vegan Son (by Marisa Miller Wolfson)

By Visiting Animal — December 17, 2012

Marisa Miller Wolfson is not only the brilliant and beautiful filmmaker behind Vegucated, but she’s also a BFF to us hens. This past October, Marisa — along with her husband, animal law genius David Wolfson — gave birth to the incredibly adorable Gabriel Matthias Wolfson, one of the newest (and cutest) vegans among us. While Gabriel was still in utero, Marisa shared with us some of her hopes for her impending motherhood, and her (then) soon-to-bloom son. 

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Six Weeks and Counting: Hopes for My Vegan Son

by Marisa Miller Wolfson

Marisa Miller Wolfson

Vegans are a rare breed to begin with. In about six weeks, according to my OB/GYN and the nice ultrasound technicians, I’ll become an even rarer breed: a vegan mom. Vegans who bear children have generally been anathema within the animal rights community. If you are an ethical vegan, the rule goes, you don’t have kids and instead tout adoption, because there are enough humans wreaking havoc on the planet – why add more? But over the past few years, as plant-powered, compassionate living has become more mainstream, the attitude within the vegan community toward “breeders” seems to be shifting. My husband and I have had only one hostile comment hurled at us (way less than we expected), and five of my animal advocate friends either have or will be birthing vegan babies within one year. For this community, that’s a veritable baby boom.

As an environmentalist, this is not a decision I made lightly, but I realize that my issues go beyond my latent enviro-guilt. It’s the dread of being glommed into the “mom” category. I wonder if some of those who preach the gospel of how great it is to adopt children but end up being child-free might have also been influenced by that fear. For years, I’ve carried around the stereotypes that I’ve associated with women so “in love” with being a mom that they get caught up in domestic minutiae and forget about their advocacy, their work, and the bigger picture. I fell victim to my own stereotype recently when I lost two whole days to researching cloth diapers and laundering a closet’s worth of hand-me-down baby clothes. When I got to the baby socks, my heart went “ping,” and I’ve since had to thrust a baby sock into the face of anyone who has entered the apartment.

But then I look at the onesies I’ve gotten from friends that say things like “Not a Meat Eater” and “Future Activist,” and I remember that I’m bringing a person into the world, not just a doll who needs to be diapered and clothed. This is my chance to raise a “solutionary” – a term that fantastic humane educator Zoe Weil coined in a popular TedX talk to describe a generation of conscious kids who are taught to think critically about the world’s problems and come up with creative solutions. I do realize that my son will be his own person and may have ideas that are different from mine, but it will be a privilege to play a role in creating a compassionate person and world changer. He will, after all, change the world just by being in it. Why not help him change it for the better?

He is going to be part of a pivotal generation – they will have to deal with a planet irreparably damaged by climate change, but they will also see gay families and black presidents as normal. My son will watch as the animal protection movement comes into its own, not unlike the environmental movement in my youth. I feel confident that he will see vegan living become even more mainstream. When I entered the movement ten years ago, polling indicated that vegans made up about 1 percent of the population and vegetarians about 3 percent. Today, it’s twice as many – closer to 2 to 3 percent and 5 to 6 percent, respectively, with many more “flexitarians” choosing meatless meals.

While that growth may seem small, those single percentages translate into millions of people. Research has shown that the tipping point for social change isn’t 51 percent, it’s more like 10 percent, according to a 2011 study led by scientists from the Social Cognitive Networks Academic Research Center (SCNARC) at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. They used computational and analytical methods to discover the tipping point where a minority belief becomes the majority opinion. They found that when just 10 percent of the population holds an unshakable belief, that belief will always be adopted by the majority of the society. That’s within reach in the next decade for vegetarians, and two decades for vegans, given the current growth rate. Those few percentage points of growth also mean that millions of animals will be spared a gruesome life and death. According to a livestock report from February 2011, animal consumption has dropped nationwide from 8.9 billion in 2005 to 8.2 billion in 2011. That means nearly 725 million fewer animals killed. The industry expects beef consumption to drop below 1973 levels by 2013.

It’s fun to think my boy will play a part in that further decline just by being him, by being vegan, by setting an example and by sharing his food and knowledge. And I get to join in as the mom who introduces kids (and parents and teachers) to healthier vegan cupcakes and pizza at birthday parties. With my status as one of those dreaded “mom” types, I’ll bring new people into the conversation, which I couldn’t have done without the mom card. Already, I’ve connected with more strangers in the past six months than I have in the past six years, just because of this baby bump. Bellies, babies, and kids make fantastic conversation pieces, and I’ve been able to slip in a word about veganism so often – including this morning as I was buying a smoothie from a mom who said I looked fit for someone who is so far along. You know what I attributed it to!

The truth is, the busy-parent set doesn’t have the time to go to the film screenings and vegan workshops I’ve been organizing for years, but they will be at parties and PTA meetings, and they will have to listen to me raise a ruckus at those meetings about the need for plant-based milks and entrees in the lunchroom. Great organizations like the New York Coalition for Healthy School Foods are already in my corner, making meaningful change happen. Don’t be surprised if you catch me slipping copies of Vegucated under teachers’ and cafeteria directors’ doors.

Of course, I fully expect toddler meltdowns when my child can’t have the goldfish crackers his buddy’s eating and I don’t have the vegan version handy. But friends with older vegan kids assure me that, after a little while, the meltdowns decrease, and the kids “get it” and become compassionate, confident spokespeople.

I look forward to blazing trails with my boy, with bake sales to benefit animal advocacy organizations, photos from animal sanctuary visits to share at show-and-tell, and our message onesies – er, tees … along with a whole generation of families who will be changing the world, one vegan birthday cupcake at a time.

Welcome to the world, Gabriel!

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Marisa Miller Wolfson is the creator of the award-winning documentary Vegucated, which follows three meat- and cheese-loving New Yorkers for six weeks as they adopt a vegan diet and a whole new way of thinking about food. The film world premiered at the Toronto Independent Film Festival last September and received the best documentary award. It has gone on to screen at eight film festivals around the world, garner more awards, and become a digital bestseller on iTunes and Amazon. Marisa and the Vegucated crew recently launched the Vegucated Challenge and the Vegucated Schoolhouse Online Community for people who have seen the film and want to take the next steps. She lives in Chelsea with one shy cat, one cartoon cat, and an animal lawyer she met that one time at that one conference whom she eventually settled down with.

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For a different perspective, read “When Vegans Have Children” by Piper Hoffman.


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(9) Readers Comments

  1. December 17, 2012 at 10:08 am

    Your son is not vegan at this age any more than a child born to Christian parents is Christian. He is plant based whilst under her control but could spend the majority of his life using and eating other animals and an anti-environmentalists. Why did you choose not to adopt?

    • December 17, 2012 at 3:33 pm

      Ruth, you must have missed the part about raising him to think critically for himself and that he will one day make his own decisions. I do find it very hard to believe that a child who can think for themselves and grows up exposed to the horrors of murdering animals for food will somehow decide that murder is okay, as long as it's for his food. I suppose we'll see that play out over the next decade or two, but my money is on veganism being what he chooses. This kid drew the long straw in the mom lottery, so I think he'll be just fine.

  2. Joselle
    December 17, 2012 at 12:14 pm

    Adoption is not as easy as some of you make it sound. Furthermore, if you own a car or computer-- as I do--or you fly, have running water and electricity, grocery shop, and, most importantly, tell strangers on the Internet what to do with their reproductive tracts, I consider you far more hazardous to the environment than people who parent humans. What's killing the environment isn't children or population growth, it's resource depletion and greed. The US actually has a declining birth rate yet we suck up more resources and abuse the planet way more than a family of ten in another part of the world. We are animals too and it's okay to be a part of the reproductive cycle other animals take part in. We just have stop being so reckless with everything else. Congratulations on the birth of your son, Marissa. I'm vegan and knocked up too! :)

    • December 17, 2012 at 3:48 pm

      Congratulations Marisa! As a vegan mom trying to encourage my two older children to go vegan, I know it is a process, not an on-off switch. Compassion starts in the home, and you can only do the best you can. Enjoy your beautiful boy! Here's a post I wrote about a vegan family we met at the Albany Vegetarian Expo. http://robin-lamont.com/blog/

  3. December 17, 2012 at 1:13 pm

    Woohoo! A vegan mom to a vibrantly healthy 8-month-old here, sharing many of these sentiments. Bringing a person into existence is um, heavy (to say the least) and vegans tend to be a thoughtful bunch. That said, the dialog around kids in the community often seems to talk about having a family in strictly utilitarian terms ("there are humans that need rescuing!") that ignore many realities of both adoption (which is not at all to give it a bad name) and family-building. After a lifetime of assuming I would adopt, I had a biological child for a number of reasons including seeing a good friend through two disrupted adoptions--and in turn becoming aware of many of the complicated issues surrounding birthmothers (and my growing feeling that the best solution is often to better support parents who want to parent in doing so) , the enormous cost and loss of privacy involved in even a straightforward domestic adoption, hedging our bets on our own fortunate biology, finding a great demand for children to adopt, and questioning whether I had the emotional resources to offer children who sadly, do not fall into the high-demand category (something I frankly have less fear about now that I'm on this parenting journey). Sometimes it scares me that I created a person, let alone one that will join ranks as an American consumer, no matter how conscientious, but it wasn't done naively. I don't yet know if I will (try to) have another or (try to) adopt, but that choice won't be taken lightly either.

  4. December 17, 2012 at 5:02 pm

    Not to harp too much on this, but I was revisiting some of the comments above and it really strikes me that at least a few people have a sentiment of "just adopt" (as if there is such a thing as "just adopting.") Adoption is beautiful but to present it as some kind of ethical out for those inflicted with the desire to become parents just seems absurd to me. The way it is presented often makes me picture a sea of brown babies just waiting to be saved. Nevermind that so many of them have living parents that would very much like to parent them if wealth dynamics were different. Nevermind that it will cost upwards of $30k and many plane rides to do so (is this really the least harm/most good solution?). Nevermind that they will have to bear a narrative that they did not ask for or the reality of biological, oxytocin-filled bonds that will be broken (even if these bonds should not be essentialized or privileged over adoptive ones). Not at all ranting against adoption, but it certainly isn't an easy, selfless choice.

  5. December 18, 2012 at 8:19 pm

    I'm not even going to get started on why adoption is not as easy as people like to make it sound. However you choose to add to your family is your business, and should be honored and blessed for the joyous occasion that it is. Little Gabriel is so lucky to have you & David, such conscious, positive parents striving to make the world a better place for all beings. I hope our two little vegan boys join their super-plant-fueled-hero forces and grow up to lead the revolution together!

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