One of the pieces of advice that I hear repeatedly in regard to raising vegetarian
or vegan children is to take them to an animal sanctuary in order to get them around animals. Let me be the first that I have come across to say it does not need to be a sanctuary. Actually, I'm shouting that from the rooftops!
First of all, not everyone lives near animal sanctuaries. So it's not always an easy task to do in finding one to take the kids to. Second, you want to get them around the animals and let them make a connection. That connection can happen right down the road.
True, the farm animals not at a sanctuary may be destined for the dinner table. But does that mean the kids shouldn't get a chance to mingle with them? Does it mean that you shouldn't use it as a teaching moment to explain to your child that the animals they are looking at are going to be eaten by someone? No! The animals on farms, as oppose to sancturies, are also worthy of getting attention and having your kids check them out.
We take every opportunity to get the kids around non-zoo animals. We stop to visit the cows that roam the pasture near our house. We visit with our "chicken friends" that run freely a few minutes down the road. Within a few miles of our house we have farms of horses, sheep, cows, chickens, etc. We take advantage of that with raising our veg kids!
There are so many opportunities where we live to get our kids viewing animals in their natural habit. Nearby we have manatees, dolphins, alligators, fish, jellyfish, seashells, many different kinds of birds, raccoons, ducks, etc. If you think about it, you can probably come up with a nice list yourself!
So don't think that you have to go to a sanctuary to see animals. Just look around. They are everywhere. And as long as you are not paying the farmer to see them you are not supporting the end-result meat industry. Stopping to chat with the cows near our house is in no way supporting the meat industry. And it provides them the same experience they would get by trekking to an animal sanctuary.
There are free opportunities to see animals all around. You just need to keep your eyes open and seize every opportunity!
(Pictured: A manatee at Blue Springs State Park in Orange City, Florida where we take the kids regularly to see the manatees. Some days in the winter there are 275 manatee to view!).