“Dear 7-year-old vegetarian, you’re in for a rough ride.”

To the little boy struggling with his decision, I’ve been there.

There will come a time where your child looks at their plate of food that you’ve slaved over and asks, “Where does chops/steak/wings come from?”.

And your answer and how they take it will possibly leave you in the same dilemma this little boy’s family is in.

On the podcast The American Life, mum Rachel has a 7-year-old son Elias who discovered that the steak on your plate doesn’t, in fact, come from dead animals on the side of the road, but are killed. Ever since his discovery of the harsh world, he has gone vegetarian.

But, his 5-year-old brother Theo is a meat-lover through and through.

Elias CAN NOT STAND IT when Theo eats meat or when anyone else eats meat. He gets sickened. He gets teary at the thought. And well, now no one in the home can have any kind of meat on their plate.

I’ve been vegetarian for 20 years (since I was 12) and vegan for the last 4 years. As someone who has been through it all, I have some advice for Elias on, what I know from personal experience, will be a hard journey.

"It's a hard journey little guy." Image via iStock.

And to all those parents with those "annoying kids" who would rather eat their veggies than their meat...I hope my advice below will help you too.

Dear Elias,

I hear you are a lover of animals. I hear you decided to stop eating animals when you found out how people treat them before and during their death.

Me too. I never knew people could be so cruel to harmless animals when they were alive and then how little respect they gave them as they slaughtered them.

But hear this, you're going against the norm. People have been eating meat for many thousands of years. We've been brought up to believe that we are omnivores, the type of mammal that can only survive by eating meat and vegetables.

So you are going to get a lot of people telling you that what you are doing is wrong. They are going to throw argument after argument at you telling you how stupid you are for sticking with a decision that you believe in with all your heart. You will get mad, you will get emotional but no matter what you say, they won't listen when you argue back. I know it's not fair, and it's incredibly hard to deal with, but that's how it is going to play out.

With those arguments people will tell you so much BS (bad stuff). You'll wither and die without meat (you won't), you can't get iron or protein from any other source (you can), you'll need to get blood tests every 3 months (not really, maybe every 12 months and only if you care about your health like everyone should), that all you need to do is eat meat to like it (you never will).

But most of all, people, including your mum who's already said it, will say you'll grow out of it. You'll become more intelligent and realise the error of your ways. Many do change their mind, not because they got smarter, but because they found living in a meat-eating world all too hard to go against. This is okay. That's their choice.

"Lentils and beans. Your new besties." Image via iStock.

I also hear that you are forcing your family, especially your brother, to not eat meat.

Little vego buddy, you can't do this. I know it's horrible. I know you want them to understand the horrors. But by making them do something they don't believe in, is just the same as all the idiots who will tell you what you are doing is wrong.

Even your mum agrees, "You don't have a right to tell other people what to do or eat." All you can control is what you believe and what you do (or eat).

Your dream to make the whole world vegetarian isn't going to happen in your lifetime. I'm sorry. People need to make their own choices about what they do with their lives.

Instead, like you will, I've come to the realisation that instead of getting people to stop eating animal products, I put my energy into improving farming practices so that those animals many rely on to survive are treated with the respect they deserve.

It's going to be tough, and if you one day decide to go vegan, or have children, it will be even tougher. But hey, if you believe in what you're doing, then it's the right thing. And at the end of the day, you are making a difference to those animals you love so dearly.

How have you reacted when your child has said they will no longer eat meat?

Another awesome podcast is This Glorious Mess. It's our weekly look at parenting as it truly is - confusing, exhausting, inspiring, completely full of surprises and very messy. You can download it on iTunesDownload the audio fileGet the RSS feedOpen it in a new window. Com'on you know you want to.



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