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today's vegan advice column

My sister Jo-Anne was surfing around looking for ideas for her son's birthday party, when she came across the following letter on a message board and immediately sent it to me. She knew I would have an answer for the poor misguided woman who wrote:

Please help me! My family (me, hubby, 3 kids) are vegan. We're
committed to this lifestyle and have been for 3 years now. But
somethings getting to me. It's this "thing" that other parents have
got with having their children's birthday parties at McD's or Hungry
Jack's (Burger King). What is up with this? I just don't get it. A
few years ago (not too many) kids had their parties at home in the
backyard with a few baloons, etc and it was a lovely family afternoon.
But now... well, my little boy was invited to ANOTHER party today. I
would love him to be able to go , but it's at one of THOSE places.
Yuk. I'm trying to keep my principles because I REALLY believe in
them . I know I'm doing the right thing, but how do you explain this
to a 6 year old. The invitation was handed to him at school this
morning and the card says "Ahoy, it's a Pirate Party!!!" Naturally
this is REALLY appealling to a little boy, whose classmates are all
excited about it. My son is the only one who can't go. He looked at
me with those big eyes when I said "I'm sorry honey". I've said no to
half a dozen or more of these Happy Meal Parties so far, and it's
getting me down. What can I do? Please help.......... Thanx

My answer is below.

Dear Ms. Vegan,

Perhaps you should re-examine your priorities. While holding steady to your principles is an honorable thing, turning your child into an outcast is not.

When he looks at you with those big, sad eyes, what do you feel? Do you feel pity and sadness, perhaps an empathy with him, much like you feel for the cows and chickens that end up on a platter at McDonald’s? You should. Your son is missing out on important social interaction because you won’t let him step foot in a place that you abhor. I can almost see your point. Almost.

At six, he is too young to determine what his own principles are in this regard. Why not let him go to the parties, but bring his own lunch with him. McDonald’s also serves salads and I’m sure the parents of the birthday child could arrange for your son to have that instead of cow meat. You could even feed him before he goes to the party, and let him just play the games and spend time with his friends.

You are actually being a selfish prig, Ms. Vegan. How do you think your child feels every time he gets an invitation and he knows he can’t go? He’s in first grade, I assume. That’s the age when kids forge friendships that will last through most of their school years. Are you going to be surprised some day when your child is in his room crying that he has no friends? One day, that kid is going to end up in a black trenchcoat, holding a machine gun and then he’ll not only shoot his entire class, but he’ll head to the nearest farm and kill some cows, sheep and pretty baby lambs. Just to spite you.

Seriously, is going to kill you to let the poor kid go the party and jump in the ball pit and watch a lame puppet show? If he smells like dead meat when he gets home, give him a bath.

Get a grip, woman. You’re messing with your son’s childhood and some day you are going to pay for this in psychologist bills and psychotherapy when he determines he resents you. Of course, you’ll look for the variable root cause and determine that it’s all the fault of capitalist pigs who forced you to keep your son away from his carnivore friends because he might get sucked into the vortex of Ronald “Satan” McDonald and grow up to be a Republican or, worse, a butcher.

Wouldn’t that be funny?

Hope I helped.


Listed below are links to weblogs that reference today's vegan advice column:

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Self-righteousness is reinforced if it makes your kid cry.

We were just at a b-day party at Mc D's and one of our friends is vegetarian, she came, brought her kids and had them put Grilled cheese in the happy meal instead of cheeseburger...why is this tough?? She just did what needed to be done so her kids could enjoy the party but stick to her principles.

Honest question: Michele, how would you feel if this letter had been written not by a vegan, but by a woman who kept kosher?

I have several friends who keep kosher. They send their kids to parties and order special kosher meals if they are available. If not, they have the kids eat before they go.

The woman's letter leads me to believe that she doesn't even want her son to step foot in McDonald's because of her principles.

That's a far cry from a religious belief keeping you from eating a cheeseburger.

If the kid keeps kosher, send a kosher meal. My kids aren't jewish but they went to a jewish daycare for last summer and it was NO problem to make the kosher meals that the day camp asked us too. A little cooperation and understanding so that the kids fit in and make friends is sometimes way more important than your stinking principals. Instead of always standing up for the chickens and the cows and the pigs, why don't these parents stand up for their kids? Show them that they are important and you care about how they progress through life with all the social skills intact instead of constantly making them the outcasts.

Abby who? I think the Dear Michele column should start appearing in newspapers all over..

Vege here. McDonalds is no problem. Just order a meatless Big Mac, Kids Meal or whatever. They give you a funny look sometimes, but it works. Burger King even offers a meat substitute patty on their Whopper in my area. But it's nasty.

Or is she boycotting McDonald's because of what they do to animals and thereby making her kids do the same (her choice, since it is her kids, I suppose)? That is totally different.

Anyway, let me just add that I am not vege because of the usual reasons (PETA/health concerns, cancer) although the cancer links to seem noteworthy. My stomach just doesn't do well with red meat and I don't usually dig the taste or smell of fish. Besides, I figure I will get cancer from all the nukes the government has detonated in the atmosphere, anyway. 

And yes, I have taken some ribbing on this but nothing that would make me worry about my kids being "different" or scarred for life. Most people's kids are idiots anyway so who cares what they think. My kids will resent me just fine one day for all the usual reasons whether I feed them meat or not. These days we save not only for college but for rehab and counseling right? If you aren't saving that way, you better start.

And there is nothing worse then a Republican, by the way. Not even a butcher. Although a butcher that dates Alice from the Brady Bunch might have some issues--but that is a different topic all together.

For further grins and giggles go do a google search sometime on the "dangers of meat eating" and it might repulse you enough to wonder why you are actually, to the contrary, feeding this crap to your kids--didn't you once say "get off your lazy butt and make a real meal?". I don't know...it seems a lot of research has been done to warn people to take a look at their diet in order to promote better health--one or two of these correlations between meat and cancer, heart disease, leukemia, anxiety and whatever else might be worth looking into.

Besides, anything that gets it's taste from blood and urine of the animal does not exactly make my mouth water or spike my appetite. Isn't that what "kosherizing" meat gets rid of, the blood and the urine, leaving it with no taste whatsoever? I think this goes back to the children of Israel being told not to eat the blood of animals--but those are just God's wishes.

And don't go to those soy or vegan meat substitutes either. I swear I have hallucinations from all the chemicals they put in that crap. Not to mention, it usually tastes like crap unless you kill it with ketchup (not that I have sat down to a plate of fresh crap lately, if ever) and it too is very high in fat and cholesterol.

Anyway, it's not about the animals to me. I think we should learn to treat each other humanely before we go around worrying about how we treat the animals. 

Good topic.

I like mine rare thanks. mmm, blood and urine. yum yum slurp

Hey p, here's a suggestion:

You eat what you want and I'll eat what I want. And here's a shocker for you - I don't care what they do, where they come from, what studies show I will die of cancer, heart disease, etc. You ARE going to die, it's just a matter of time. You knew that, right ? I sure would be psyched to be living on bread and water to save myself from some horrible death due to cancer or whatever then get hit by a bus.

Oh and here's a tip for you, you don't have to call yourself anything. Like I said, eat whatever you want, I don't care. But why do you have to label yourself "vegan" and come tell ME why meat is so bad. Sorry, I freakin' love it and there ain't a DAMN thing you are going to tell me that will change my mind.

Aren't Vegans aliens from Vega?

Do they drive old discontinued Chevy Compacts (Vega)?
Do they go to Nevada when they die?


"kosherizing" meat has nothing to do with removing blood and urine. meat is made kosher by the manner in which the animal was killed.

Revisionist History -

What's up with this quote from the letter:

few years ago (not too many) kids had their parties at home in the
backyard with a few baloons, etc and it was a lovely family afternoon.
But now... well, my little boy was invited to ANOTHER party today. I
would love him to be able to go , but it's at one of THOSE places"

So, what, they didn't have McDonalds birthday parties until a few years ago ?

Got news for you, honey, you are WRONG about that one. I'm a tender 33 and I ALWAYS wanted a birthday part at McDonalds when I was a kid, in the WORST way. Never got it, sadly enough.

Needless to say, people have been doing that for AGES.

Michele - fair enough. I've known people who kept kosher who wouldn't set food in McDonald'ses because of their principles, either - I distinctly remember having more than one rabbi explain to me why even ordering water from McDonald's was wrong.

I say we hook up with Meryl Yourish and the rest of the gang in Virginia and go get a big, fat, juicy steak.
P.S. McDonald's birthday parties were the highlight of my childhood.


That's cool. I don't make a big deal of it usually, unless made fun of for it. I don't really care for the label.

You are absolutely right, we are all destined to die.

Like I said, why worry about getting cancer from meat or food in general when all the nuke testing is probalby going to give it to us (or the water, or an act of terrorism) anyway.

Better yet, let's just go to some Island out in the Atlantic Ocean somewhere and drink some Kool-Aid and get it over with, right?


Faith wrote: "kosherizing" meat has nothing to do with removing blood and urine. meat is made kosher by the manner in which the animal was killed.

Wrong. Draining the blood out of the carcass is also required in order for the meat to be kosher.

See, I think you're all wrong, Michele. I think there's way too much socializing already among first-graders. I think they should all sit down individually in their rooms and play video games by themselves until they graduate from high school, cuz that's what'll, you know, keep America great. ;-)

Fun fact: While meat contains all sorts of nasty stuff, veggies do too. The foods that are supposedly good for you contain all sorts of natural toxins and carcinogens, because plants don't actually want to be eaten. Potatoes (just to name an example) contain a neurotoxin, a gastrointestinal irritant, two kinds of mutagen, aflatoxins (which are used as biological weapons), and arsenic. "And you feed this to your kids?" Aditionally, animal products are the only natural source of vitamin B12, which humans cannot synthesize on their own. You don't need a lot, but you do need some. It's also much more difficult to get a complete complement of essential amino acids on a veg-only diet. Vegetarianism isn't actually healthier than a health-conscious diet which includes meat, bottom line. If you don't like meat, that's cool. Have an ethical issue, that's also cool. But it's not healthier, except when compared to a meat-inclusive diet which is bad to begin with.

Most of the studies linking red meat consumption with cancer are questionable, because unlike... well... laboratory rats, human studies can't be controlled for other variables. People living on a cheeseburger-centric diet are also more likely to smoke, drink to excess, and fail to exercise, because they aren't very health-conscious to begin with.

I have it on good authority that Ronald "Satan" McDonald himself is a vegan.

Michele, I'm really surprised at your insensitivity here. Of course she objects to her child going to McD's---not because there are no veggies for him to eat, but on principle. How can he maintain his (and more importantly, her) sense of moral superiority if she allows her child to mingle with the unclean as they practice their ritual cruelty? After all, how can he proselytize to them later if they can say, "But you went to McDonald's with us for Robby's birthday."?

And, given that Hungry Jack's is an Australian chain (owned by Burger King), her refusal to mingle with the animal-slaughterers also allows her to stick her thumb in the eye of the Amerikkkan Imperialists who are polluting her country. And you want her to compromise? Never!

No, instead she should teach her child to watch his classmates closely, and when they are halfway through their hamburgers, have him say sadly, "I knew a cow once. Her name was Heidi and I loved her so but she was sold to a slaughterhouse and they killed her." Or perhaps, "You know that chicken had a Mommy who loved it and wonders where her little baby has gone." Stuff like that.

As he grows older, he can give up wistful earnestness and graduate to cold sarcasm (which as a teenager he'll be into anyway), and then later to perpetual indignation and finally to self-righteous smuggery, just like Mummy.

[Hey, the only way to know what's going on inside her head is to make it up.]

Seriously, though, Michele---I want to know where you were when my mother used the lame-o "We can't afford it, dammit!" line on me when I wanted a McDonald's birthday or a store-bought cake. Somebody shoulda told her I'd end up a smartass loner if I didn't get my pizza party.

Michele, you're right on target. Mom's a moonbat, and the solution of eating a salad, or packing your own if that's not "pure" enough for vegans, is so obvious that her carniphobic attitudes must be driven by other self-righteous political/societal issues.

Besides, it's no great loss for Junior to go to a party & eat a little meat. If Dad's even half a man, he's been sneaking the poor kid away for a few cheeseburgers & coneys whenever Mom's out of sight anyway. Heh, heh.

What stupid bullshit. I hate when vegans push this crap down their kids throats. Let them eat meat and let them decide like you did whether they want to continue or not. Goddamn brainwashing garbage.

BTW, most vegans I know will not eat anything that has been exposed to meat, period. That means that even eating a veggie burger off the same grill at McDonalds is wrong because it's contaminated with evil meat residue. It's really freakin' absurd, as if it matters whether that "tainted" chemical compound came from an animal or a vegatable. Ridiculous.

I keep kosher and was raised that way. I was never prevented from attending birthday parties or other social events as a child because of food issues. There is always a way around eating objectionable food along the lines that have already been suggested; arranging for a special meal in advance, bringing your own, or eating beforehand. Furthermore, I had a friend in my class whose family was organic-vegan and she, likewise, was always allowed to attend social events and simply brought her own food. This woman isn't a vegan, she's an isolationist. Her principles and priorities are severely confused. Imposing one's dietary principles on one's children is one thing (children have to be raised somehow, and how else but according to one's on principles?), but limiting a child's social interaction in the name of veganism is a non-sequitor.

Is she perhaps concerned that her child will be tempted by the food? I was never seriously tempted as a child to eat non-kosher food, even when subjected to taunting, nor to my knowledge was my friend Molly ever tempted to violate her family's dietary restrictions... because we weren't simply given a set of rules and told follow or else. We both understood, at least on a basic level, the principles behind our practices. Hell, we had to be able to explain to the other kids when they asked questions, didn't we? Our parents were well aware of this fact and took it into account when raising us the ways in which they did.

Wow... I'm all riled up now. Guess its a bit of a touchy subject for me.

"Wrong. Draining the blood out of the carcass is also required in order for the meat to be kosher."

But the blood is the best part!

And the fat... hmmmm.... fat.....

If this kid knew my son, I'd throw a birthday party at a slaughterhouse or a sausage factory just to piss this woman off. "Ok Kids, it's time to play 'Tap the air ram onto the cow's skull! ' Who want's to go first??? >moooooSWACK!.thud< Good shot Jimmy!! Who's next??"

Dude, Graumagus,

Let's go man! That's funny as s----!

Yeah, we were having a similar problem with the PETA folks until we came up with Naturally Dead ™ food products over at ModularParrot labs. We’d be happy to see what we can “cook up” to help you out of this little jam.

Boy, Peat, what admirable principals!

In a world filled with rapists, racists, child molestors and wifebeaters, (not to mention dictators who feed people to industrial plastic shredders feet first) there is nothing more evil than a republican?

I'm a simple libertarian, but how amazingly simple-, and narrow-, minded of you. Apparently there is some link between protien and clear thinking.

Or have you been eating soy and hallucinating again?

This is the most absurd advice column AND advice I have ever read. This mother was not discussing the slaughter of animals or whether or not her beliefs were "right" or not. She and her family have their beliefs just as the rest of us do. It doesn't make them wrong if you don't agree with them. It's individuals that judge and criticize others that have no right to voice their opinions.
This mother was discussing the saddness associated with telling ehr son he can not go to a party because it is held at an establishment that does not offer vegan meals. If this type of invitation was given rarely then I would agree to just tell your son no and he would "get over it", however, since this seems to be a problem I would suggest finding a compromise. Discuss it with the birthday child's mother and see if she is willing to ask McDonalds to do a meatless Happy Meal or offer to hand her a few dollars to order your son fries and a salad. You SHOULD NOT give in to your beliefs because that would only be counter-productive in raising your child...nor should he consistently be asked to not participate in these social settings.
I agree with you as to why do a lot of parents now-a-days resort to birthday parties out of the home? For one it is easier for the parent but I don't like them either and I am not a vegetarian. Those public play areas are just gross and ridden with germs. Everytime my daughter came home from one of those places she would come down with a cold.
Anyway, do what is best for everyone in your family and don't listen to these people who don't understand what morals and beliefs are.
Best of luck!

I have to tell you that I think this response to this woman's query, particularly since it sounds like she didn't even post it on your site, she posted it elsewhere and you just helped yourself to it (at least that's how it came across in your introductory sentences), is extraordinarily rude, as are one or two of the replies that I saw. I'm sorry to have to say that, I know you'll resent being called out, but I really think that there's a substantial population of people on the 'Net who find it all too easy to be completely inconsiderate of others just because they have anonymity, and it's a trend that really has to end.

I generally agree with your suggestions about how to make it possible for her child to still go to these parties. However, a) she is RIGHT. As we have become a society that works increasingly more and more hours, fewer people feel they have the time or energy to dedicate to birthday parties in their homes and having parties in these places IS decidly more common than it used to be, and b) I notice a conspicuous absence of criticizing the parents who make these decisions to choose places that not only serve absolute nutritional garbage, even for the meat-eating person, but choose them in utter disregard for children who might be vegan, or vegetarian, or whose parents might simply not want them to fall prey to marketing and develop horrendously unhealthy eating habits.

And as for some of the posters, your ignorance about veganism and consequential intolerance do not inherently make you right and others wrong. Don't tell a vegan parent to stop 'brainwashing' their kids and 'just let them eat meat like you did.' When I was a kid, some homes had lead paint in them, then it was found to be dangerous. Should we still use it? Once upon a time, we used to think smoking was a harmless, sophisticated matter of personal choice, then we found out that it has multiple poisons and can kill you, so do we keep doing it?

And before you say it, don't even try to tell me that the lead paint/cigarrettes analogy is not a good one, because meat won't kill you -- in the most sarcastic way you can manage to say it. There's an entire community of people, many of whom are intelligent, educated, and some of whom have medical and allied medical credentials, who disagree with that.

Vegetarian kids can't eat mcdonald's fries. They have beef in them.