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.
Six Weeks and Counting: Hopes for My Vegan Son
by 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.
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.
For a different perspective, read “When Vegans Have Children” by Piper Hoffman.