Did you happen to read the June 2010 issue of Parenting magazine? While sitting in the pediatrician's office today for my son's school physical, I picked it up and started thumbing through it. I landed on a short piece aimed at parents of 5 to 6 year olds, titled "Look Who's for Dinner."
The article (read it here) takes a look at how children around this age go through what they referred to as a "common developmental phase" where they start questioning where their food comes from, particularly regarding "meat."
The piece is not completely all bad in the advice that they give. They suggest you answer the questions honestly, allow them to opt out of meat-eating if they want to, and that it's okay if they were to stick with being a vegetarian.
However, there were two things in this article that bothered me:
1) In their example response of what pork is, they said that pork "comes from" a pig. Comes from? That's a bit misleading. Eggs come from a chicken. Milk comes from a cow. Pork does not come from a pig, it is a pig. Telling a child that pork comes from a pig creates a completely different image than saying that pork is a pig, or is pig flesh.
2) The registered dietician quoted, Ellyn Satter, provides an example of how parents can be "truthful" in their response about the animals. Yet her example is not all that truthful. She says "The animal dies - it happens quickly, so the animal isn't afraid. Then the butcher turns it into food." Since they are advising that parents be "truthful" in their response, we should debunk the idea that 1) the animal dies quickly, and 2) it isn't afraid.
Let's face it, any factory farmed animal dies a slow and miserable death that starts with the day they were conceived. And if we are only talking about what happens at the slaughterhouse, even then it's not always quick. I've seen the videos of animals suffering horrendously leading up to their final breath. And... even if it were that they all died quickly it still wouldn't make everything okay (for a host of ethical reasons).
Secondly, anyone that feels that the animals are not afraid at the time of slaughter has kept themselves sheltered from the realities of a slaughterhouse. There are plenty of video, as well as written, accounts as to what takes place. Clearly the animals sense death and they are frightened. Are we really to believe that an animal stands there in an unfamiliar place, smelling death, hearing the horrific sounds, seeing fellow creatures being slaughtered, seeing a gun come toward it's head, or a knife toward its throat, and it is not afraid?
I would suggest that the article author, Kristin Courtemanche, as well as her quoted source, Ellyn Satter, take the time to learn more about the meat production process. They can do this by reading a number of good books, such as "Eating Animals," as well as watching videos (there are plenty online at YouTube, such as Meat Your Meat).
I wholeheartdly believe we should be honest with children about what "meat" is and how it gets to the store. My kids know that pork is pig and they know that it wanted life, rather than to be eaten by someone (not to mention in a country that has an abudance of plant-based foods to choose from), only to be crapped into the toilet the next day.
But since we are being so truthful... "Parenting" magazine likely wouldn't have published the piece without such info. Because being outright truthful would have made too many of their readers uncomfortable... because when it comes to the truth about "who's for dinner," even most adults can't face the music.