Holidays are a mixed bag for vegans. While we cherish spending time with loved ones at year end, we also struggle because, as an acquaintance joked years ago, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve are “meat holidays.” I learned where meat comes from when I was seven. My childhood Christmases in Hawaii distill to three images: surfing cartoon Santas in red board shorts throwing shaka signs; winter swells and their enormous waves pounding the shore; and me, seated in front of my family’s record player with Christmas carols blaring in headphones.
I usually was first to wake on weekends. One morning, awakened by unrelenting screeching, I snuck out of the house, ran toward the harrowing noise and peered through a neighbor’s fence. The bloodied pig I had heard now was motionless. A frantic goat was next. I sprinted home, switched on the record player, and turned up the volume in our headphones to mask the chaos outside. Of greatest solace was “Silent Night” and its line, “All is calm, all is bright.” Throughout each year I blasted other songs in headphones to drown out slaughters preceding neighbors’ celebrations. But because every Christmas was marred by killings in advance of grandiose parties, the image of me wearing headphones at our turntable endures.
Year-end holidays reboot our moral code. This entails “Christmas spirit,” but it surpasses the good feeling we get from joining in holiday traditions, like making cookies with a parent or decorating a tree with siblings. Perhaps because we anticipate that others will do the same, during the holidays we become–or we become more–compassionate, generous, forgiving and joyful. At our core is the need for peace, and, when compelled to the dysfunction of violence, eventually we rebel. This dynamic prompted the Christmas Truce of World War I, where approximately 100,000 soldiers staged countless unofficial ceasefires all along the Western Front.
The most famous armistice began on Christmas Eve 1914. British troops heard enemy soldiers singing “Silent Night” in German and cheered when the song ended. The sides next alternated carols, then joined in singing a final song together. A German captain suggested a truce, a British soldier agreed, then each side sent an unarmed soldier from his trench to the killing field between ditches to cautiously shake hands. That was all it took. Troops from both sides emerged. They shook hands, wished each other a Merry Christmas and soon were laughing and sharing stories like longtime friends. Some ceasefire groups helped each other bury their dead. A few groups played pick-up soccer. But when officials learned of the ceasefires, they issued orders outlawing them, and all camaraderie ended.
A wartime killing field is a slaughterhouse killing floor is a backyard killing site. All involve unnecessary, violent deaths carried out at another’s behest. The latter two contexts are systematically and inexorably influenced by corporate food producers. Wowed by Super Bowl commercials and duped by other marketing ploys, most of us do not realize the manner and extent to which our beliefs and palates are manipulated. Ponder the fact that the top 20 meat and dairy producers emit more greenhouse gases (GHG) annually than Germany. Experts differ concerning the percentage of GHG emissions attributable to animal agriculture, from 14.5%, to 51%, to, most recently, 87%. Perhaps it is most reasonable to accept 51%, the mean. Whatever the number, know that experts are under tremendous pressure from governmental and corporate interests to associate all environmental crises predominantly with carbon dioxide (CO2) from fossil fuels, rather than the more cogent GHGs methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) from animal agriculture. No one wants to give up meat. Corporate producers do not want that. But, ahem, environmental crises abound.
We teach kids a myriad of life lessons, including that of behaving responsibly, doing no harm and leading by example. We must live by those same standards. Because our planet is beleaguered with environmental crises created during our watch, the most meaningful gift we can give kids is to switch from eating animal-based to plant-based. Kids and teens worry about climate change. They care about the atrocities of animal agriculture. They are open to eating less meat, dairy and eggs. Most adults are not, but, as Publilius Syrus observed two millennia ago, “It is a bad plan that admits of no modification.”
Ready or not, public opinion concerning diet is changing. Eating animals soon will become as shunned as smoking cigarettes. As with everything, though, timing matters, so please, for kids’ sake, act now.
Born and raised in Hawaii, Shauny Jaine has lived in Seattle for 30 years and is a VLCE, JD, and BA cum laude in writing. She holds multiple certifications relevant to veganism and is a graduate of the T. Colin Campbell Nutrition Foundation program in plant-based nutrition through eCornell. Shauny and her spouse, Tana, enjoy raising their longtime vegan family of year-round soccer and karate kids: McKenna (15), Tyler (15), and Leo (11); pups Kasbah (think “Rock the Casbah”) and Nikita; and green-eyed cat, Annie. She serves on the Board for Heartwood Haven, a vegan animal sanctuary in Gig Harbor, Washington, and is on several social media platforms but enjoys Instagram most. Find her @_ten10.