Is An Animal’s Job To Be Eaten?

I work with young children in a school which honors the image of the child as competent, capable and actively engaged in exploring materials, ideas and relationships and in constructing meaning within a social setting.  Young children have an inherent need to make sense of their world.  My role as a teacher is  to provide the space –the physical, emotional and cognitive environment– and time for their explorations, investigations and forming of theories.  After engaging in small group/project work my group of  seven five year-olds come together for a reflection meeting.  Sometimes some pretty revealing discussions ensue.

At the end of November, one of the girls, Jamie [names have been changed] and I explored different shades of blue that could be used for an ocean background for a sign for our class, “The Dolphins.”  At the reflection meeting I asked, “Why does the ocean get darker the deeper it goes?”  Jamie said, “The sun is too high and the bottom of the ocean’s too low.”

Another girl, Lisa, replied, “The sun doesn’t want to go down in the water. It’s job is to be in the sky all day.”

The next day I reminded the group of Lisa’s comment and then I asked, “What job does the ocean have?”

Jamie:  To be with the fish so they can survive.

Elaine:  To sail the boats and keep the fish alive.

Me:  What is the job of a fish?

Jamie: To be eaten.

Mark:  Because when fish come out of the water on a fishing pole, seagulls can eat them.

That’s the only job of a fish?  To be eaten?  You know what?  It’s very sad but some people eat dolphins.  Is the job of a dolphin to be eaten?

Mark:  Yeah!

Lisa:  No!

Elaine: Not all animals get eaten a lot.

Mark:  Well, shrimp get eaten.

Jamie:  Not all animals get eaten.

Elaine:  I know all about sea animals — because I eat a lot of sea food.

Jamie:  Not all animals get eaten, ’cause pets don’t get eaten.

Pets don’t get eaten.  Why don’t pets get eaten?

Jamie:  ‘Cause pets are people’s pets.

If someone had a chicken as a pet, would you eat that chicken?

[several children respond that they would]

I once had a chicken as a pet. Or what about a pig that is a pet?

Mark:  You could eat that.

I would never eat my pet.  I don’t call them pets, anyway, I call them companions.  I have a cat who is my companion and I’m my cat’s guardian.  Would you eat your cat?

Mark: [laughs] Yes.

I’m sorry to hear that.  So, is an animal’s job to be eaten?  Jamie was saying that some animals, that’s not their job to be eaten.  But some it is?  What if you had a chicken as a pet?

Mark:  You don’t eat the real chicken, but after it lays all it’s eggs and dies, then you could eat it.

So, you have to wait for it to die on it’s own?

Mark:  But when a cat dies, you can’t eat it because a cat doesn’t have real protein in it like a pig.

Some people eat cats.  Some people eat dogs.

Max:  That’s . . . not . . . good!  One time I catched a fish and one pelican swooped down and ate it from the fish pole.

What if you had a fish that was a pet?

Mark:  You can eat it when it’s dead!

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Monologues vs Socrates?

In their wise and practical guide to  effective animal advocacy, The Animal Activist’s Handbook, Matt Ball (Vegan Outreach) and Bruce Friedrich (PETA) advise,

“Rather than launching into a monologue about cruelty . . . we must lead people to recognize that what they already believe (cruelty is wrong) necessitates a change in diet.”

They recommend using  “the Socratic method” which involves leading the conversation to where others are answering their own questions, leading people  “to think about what it means to choose to eat animals.”  It is a dynamic way for eliciting change in others rather than trying to impose it on them.

So is something called The Veg Monologues an effective tool for bringing about a change to veganism? I have struggled with this question. I know very well Why Vegan? But why The Veg Monologues?

I have attempted to describe  the intentions of this project on the About  page. I believe in effective vegan advocacy but I also believe that we vegans have a need to tell our stories and I believe that in telling those stories, in all their diversity, in sharing who we are as unique individuals, the general public will come to connect with us on a personal level and in that connection seeds may be planted, doors may be opened, a light might be shined.

So, yes, as advocates for veganism,  let’s reach out to others, let’s draw them into a conversation, let’s lead them to coming to their own conclusions based upon compassion, or perhaps health or environmental concerns.  But as individuals who are vegan, who care deeply for animals and our fellow human beings, let’s not be afraid to tell our stories, to be authentic to who we are.

Sharing our own stories may prove to be prologue to the many unique and wonderful stories of all those future vegans out there.