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Nearly 4 year old upset as just learned meat comes from animals

(43 Posts)
epuclake Sat 03-Mar-18 11:45:26

Argh! The older he gets the more I feel ill equipped to answer his questions and concerns, and find it hard to judge the right level of response. Fine when it was just, 'where does the poo go when we flush the toilet?'

He saw duck getting cooked on TV this morning. Asks about it. I explain that, yes, duck is actually duck. He got upset and said he didn't want animals getting cut. I tried to explain that this is where meat comes from and we look after the animals and they don't get hurt. He doesn't want to eat meat he says, if it comes from cut animals. There was no satisfactory resolution to the conversation and it feels a bit brushed under the carpet. He loves meat! Do we just pretend it never came up unless he raises it again? He's going to demand a ham sandwich for lunch and I had chicken risotto planned for tea!

MyNewBearTotoro Sat 03-Mar-18 11:48:40

I just wouldn’t make a big deal of it and would continue to answer his questions honestly. If he asks for a ham sandwich or another meal with meat i’d give it to him but if he does decide he doesn’t want to eat meat I think you should accept that decision and not force him to eat anything.

upsideup Sat 03-Mar-18 11:55:58

If he demands a ham sandwich for lunch then you can give him one but you need to respect and cater for him if he doesnt wan to eat meat. Your DS loved it when he didnt know what it was, now he does he might not love it anymore.
My 4 year old DS is vegetarian has been for nearly six months and has not asked for meat once, if he does though we will allow him to have it.

Vinorosso74 Sat 03-Mar-18 11:56:30

My DD whilst tucking into some lamb once announced "I wish everyone could be vegetarian".
I'm veggie (DP isn't) and we were upfront from a youngish age as I think kids need to understand where food comes from. She understands my reasons for not eating meat or fish. I would ask him what sandwich he wants for lunch maybe offer cheese as an option. Let him know what you were planning for dinner too. I would see his reaction and take it from there. If he doesn't want meat let him have the option not to. He may change his mind as kids do!

NewSense Sat 03-Mar-18 11:59:29

Mine is younger, but we talk about "eating animals". As in, there are ducks that we feed at the park, and there are other "eating ducks", so we don't actually eat the ducks that she loves feeding. She seems happy enough that some animals are for eating, but we're not going to eat granny's chickens in her garden, because they're not "eating animals". Same goes for when we drive through farm country - "those cows are milk cows, those are eating sheep" etc.

No idea if that's a helpful distinction, but it was all I could think of the first time I was asked!

I'd not raise it again unless he does, and let him eat ham without mentioning it!

SuperLoudPoppingAction Sat 03-Mar-18 12:00:21

Each one of my children went through this at a similar age.
With the third one, it must have chimed with something I was working through myself.
We became vegetarian.

Kid3 does eat meat at times out of the house but I don't buy it now.

I think it's good that he's empathetic.

epuclake Sat 03-Mar-18 12:07:23

Thanks for your reply, I suppose that's the way I was going to approach it anyway, but just feel bad to spend the rest of the day feeding him meat after he got so upset. He now knows that duck comes from duck, but I'm not sure it sunk in that ALL meat comes from animals.

I would absolutely not continue to feed him meat if he didn't want to eat it. If I had greater moral strength I wouldn't eat it myself.

Liz38 Sat 03-Mar-18 12:11:13

Apparently I did the same aged about 4. I went veggie at 19 and in my mid 40s can't see me being any other way. My DD is more or less pescatarian at 8 and I can see her sticking with that. It's easier with an older child because we explained that if you cut out a major protein source you have to eat more widely from other source groups. I'm not sure how you'd manage that with a 4yo!

NoStraightEdges Sat 03-Mar-18 12:14:56

I went through something similar at 6. I've been veggie ever since.

epuclake Sat 03-Mar-18 12:17:14

Sorry, took so long to reply to Mynewbear I didn't see other replies. Thanks all. I guess I feel I didn't get through to him well enough that meat comes from animals, full stop, and feel a bit dishonest giving him meat when he's said he doesn't want to eat animals. I don't know he even thinks of ham as meat, it's just ham. I fully expect he will forget all about the duck fir now and happily carry on eating meat, but I'll be prepared to go over the conversation again next time it comes up.

RainbowdropsandUnicorns Sat 03-Mar-18 15:24:54

Thanks for starting this thread, op. I distracted my 4 year old the other day, I think they were just about to ask were meat comes from....I can't avoid the question forever!

TeenTimesTwo Sat 03-Mar-18 16:51:47

Start calling and live chickens hens.

You eat ham and bacon, not pig.
You eat chicken, not hens.
You eat beef, not cows.

RockafellerSkank Sat 03-Mar-18 16:56:21

Er, Teen, that is terrible advice! It's basically lying to your children. And yourself - it IS PIG, (or was), it IS hens, it IS a cow.
Children should know that they don't need to eat animals. We should be supporting them in being compassionate to all animals, not teach them that some are for eating and some are for petting. That's just weird and morally inconsistent.
OP, it's really easy to not eat meat these days - loads of veggie versions of sausages, 'chicken', various non-meat slices you can buy.

HellonHeels Sat 03-Mar-18 16:56:56

You are not correct in saying the animals don't get hurt! Even animals kept in high-welfare environments do get hurt when they are slaughtered. They have fear and suffering when sent to be killed.

windchimesabotage Sat 03-Mar-18 17:00:25

I think you have the right attitude. Let him lead the discussion. He might bring it up again and he might not. If he asks for meat then give it to him but if he doesnt want to eat meat any more then I think it needs to come from him and he needs to be the one to make the connection.
As long as you dont lie when he asks questions I dont think you need to actually bring it up with him again. He will bring it up if hes still thinking about it.

Garmadonsmum Sat 03-Mar-18 17:04:43

we look after the animals and they don’t get hurt
You’ve got to be kidding, right?

TERFragetteCity Sat 03-Mar-18 17:05:51

I tried to explain that this is where meat comes from and we look after the animals and they don't get hurt.

Don't they? You sure about that?

RockafellerSkank Sat 03-Mar-18 17:17:59

Hell/Garm/TERF, I think they literally skip into that slaughterhouse, it's such a happy place! No harm done there, no, none at all.

TERFragetteCity Sat 03-Mar-18 17:30:29

I think they literally skip into that slaughterhouse, it's such a happy place!

Good to hear. I've been veggie for 33 years and am not up to date with the latest in animal welfare.

daydreamnation Sat 03-Mar-18 17:39:27

My own mum now bitterly regrets ever giving me meat, as she now can see I was born a vegetarian! I was just like your ds as a child but back in the 70s it was totally ignored and I ate meat, hating it but not even having any real concept of what animal it was. Aged 10 I worked it out and haven't eaten meat since.
My own dc have a choice as my dh isn't veggie but I have never hidden from them where meat comes from and they both choose not to eat it.
I actually think a child's reaction to the concept of what meat is and where it comes from etc is very telling and most children would naturally find the idea abhorrent!

RockafellerSkank Sat 03-Mar-18 18:10:49

This is a really beautifully-illustrated book:

epuclake Sat 03-Mar-18 18:43:36

Thank you all for your replies. And I will take a look at that book, thank you Rockafellar.

To those who are questioning my saying the animals don't get hurt, I hear you, but I was put on the spot and he was very upset and desperately looking for my reassurance. I don't think he's quite old enough to learn about the gory details just yet!

I am perfectly happy and comfortable to cook him vegetarian meals. I cook with a lot of pulses and vegetables anyway, and we don't have meat all the time. It's just how to talk about the subject sensitively without lying that I was struggling with. And whether I should make a point of telling him that all the other meats he enjoys come from animals too, or wait for the subject to come up again.

I grew up in a rural farming area, and have always understood where meat came from. I have had (short) stints of vegetarianism, but I grew up eating meat and it's hard to stop altogether, though my conscience gets to me at times. I eat a lot less meat than I used to. I would be perfectly happy if he truly doesn't want to eat meat anymore.

RockafellerSkank Sat 03-Mar-18 18:59:15

That's wonderful. Listen to your conscience.

Ok, I understand you were put on the spot. I do think that kids are not stupid, and that at this age, they know. And they absolutely don't need to know the gory details, but I think it's important in all aspects of life for them to know we won't lie to them, and that they can trust us to tell them the truth in age-appropriate ways.

I would now say to him something like:
"Johnny, you know earlier you said you didn't want to eat duck, and you don't want animals to get cut or hurt. I don't either. Meat comes from animals, and your question made me think about it some more. Let's not do that any more. I can find you veggie sausages and veggie burger. What do you think?"

Btw, you can get veggie everything now! Veggie chicken nuggets, veggie scampi bites, veggie ham slices. I don't recommend eating lots of processed stuff like this, but it may help the transition, it's an easy fall-back and it's still better than eating animal flesh.

Good luck!

RockafellerSkank Sat 03-Mar-18 19:01:54 -lots of options. Most supermarkets do their own pretty-extensive range too.

RockafellerSkank Sat 03-Mar-18 19:02:30

P.S. I do not work for Linda McCartney! grin

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