Willful Ignorance And Veganism

Willful Ignorance And Veganism

My seven-year-old nephew, loves to eat meat. His favourite meals are chicken schnitzel, barbecued sausages and toasted cheese sandwiches.

My nephew’s parents have explained why his Aunty and Uncle don’t eat meat, and he’s accepting of our values, sometimes even protective! However, he’s open as long as we don’t come between him and his meat.

So when he comes over for sleepovers, it’s a battle to get him to eat our food. We’ve tried pasta with a simple tomato sauce, tofu scramble, spinach stew, baked vegetablespotato curry. You name it.

One thing he’ll always happily eat is Maša’s pancakes, because, vegan or not, which kid doesn’t love pancakes?

Knowing our food struggles with the little guy, we thought we’d take him out for dinner one time. We went to our favourite vegan Asian restaurant, which has a large selection of mock meat dishes.

Maša ordered the Eggplant Hotpot, and I went with the tofu satay sauce with rice. My nephew was to decide what meat dish he wanted to order. At least so he thought. In the end, he went with the “beef” Massaman Curry, which I thought was an excellent choice.

We watched on as he scoffed down half of his curry and saved the rest for later. He was pleased with his meal, and it looked like we found a go-to restaurant for when he came over.

Fast-forward to the next day when we dropped him off at my sister’s house, we were reflecting on how much fun we all had together. My nephew was praising the food he ate the night before, telling his mother that we let him eat meat.

To my sister’s surprise, she enquired about the meal. I told her that it was fake meat, but he loved it. We all laughed and thought it would be amusing to reveal the truth to him. We thought the experience would teach him that vegan food can be tasty.

Little did we know…

My sister dropped the bomb on him, and his response was a deathly silence. No acknowledgement, no surprises, no dialogue. Just silence. My newphew was so disgusted with what happened that he wanted to erase this experience from his memory.

Last time I’ll be truthful to a child. Lol!

But in all seriousness, we blurred the lines in this kids head, and now he was never to trust our food choices. He didn’t know what was right and what was wrong.

Anyway, I share this story because I too used to feel like my nephew. I loved my meat. And even though I generally understood how it got on my plate, I intentionally stayed ignorant.

The power of willful ignorance

Willful ignorance is the practice or act of intentional and blatant avoidance, disregard or disagreement with facts, empirical evidence and well-founded arguments because they oppose or contradict your own existing personal beliefs.

Kids and adults alike from a young age are taught that animals are slaughtered for our consumption. However, we’re also fed animal products from a young age, and we become addicted to the taste and smell of animals on our plates.

Our choices to eat animals are validated at school outings. Where every kid is eating meat pies, or your family goes to McDonald’s after your soccer game. Never mind the volume of advertising coming into our subconscious daily.

Furthermore, the packaging of animal products makes us disconnected from how they land on our plates. We use terms like leather instead of animal skin or meat instead of flesh. This terminology is designed to make us feel justified for our consumption and exploitation of animals. Ironically, the visuals in advertising consist of animals living happy and free lives—when it couldn’t be further from the truth.

It’s the concoction of these experiences that make it okay to eat animals. Instead of looking for a reason not to eat animals, we instead remain willfully ignorant because we don’t want the truth to mess with our pleasure.

Breaking through willful ignorance for the animals

I’d like to believe most humans are compassionate toward animals. I know this to be true because of the love and generosity I see humans display with their pets. I know this because of how I used to see humans interacting with animals at the zoo or how we celebrate animal characters in cartoons.

When we look into the eyes of an animal, we feel a connection with them. We sense their fear, their joy, their love, their sadness, after all, they are living beings, with their own emotions.

It’s this connection we feel with the animals that will help us meet the truth head-on.

We need to feel the love and empathy for animals, and then we need to feel the fear and anxiety they experience before being slaughtered or abused.

Unfortunately, it means seeking the truth head-on. It means watching films like EARTHLINGS and Dominion to embed images of death into your mind. It’s these vivid images of slaughter and abuse that made me vegan. There are things I saw that I could not unsee. And from that moment on, each time I saw an animal product, I remembered those images.

I could no longer turn a blind eye to the truth. And giving up animal products became easy, as a result.

What can you do about helping people overcome willful ignorance?

As you can see with my seven-year-old nephew, it’s hard to get people to take on the truth of their actions. You can’t force people to change, even though it’s frustrating at times because you know what’s at stake.

Sometimes our consumption habits are not enough, and we need to be a little more proactive in our approach. You can plant the seed in people’s mind with approachable activism.

This also means getting outside of your bubble and immersing yourself in reality, so you can better empathise and relate with people.

Other articles you’ll love:

  1. Extending The Definition of Veganism
  2. Is Honey Vegan?
  3. How To Go Vegan: A Guide On How To Transition To a Vegan Lifestyle
  4. I Love Animals But I Could Never Give Up {Insert Blank}
  5. The Film That Turned Us Vegan Overnight

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12 thoughts on “Willful Ignorance And Veganism”

  1. This article is very interesting ,and the following comments. I actually had some pretend duck in a very good buffet near where my daughter lives and it was very good.Also I do not mind sausages and Quorn etc I

  2. As a Vegan for 40 years and having raised a baby who was Vegan that stopped being Vegan when he left home at 18, I think that each parent has a right to raise their children in their own way. The little boy made it clear to you, meat was his thing. I understand your efforts, but if you cannot accept other people’s children as they are, it may be best to leave them with their parents. On a different note, I have mixed feelings about mock meats. I prefer to stay away from them 99% of the time because it disturbs me that the slaughter of animals is imitated with mock meat (mock slaughter). I do understand how such dishes help modern folks transition to Veganism. Perhaps my dislike or disapproval of mock meats is because when I became Vegetarian at 17 and then Vegan at 18 or 19, it was fruits, veggies, nuts, and grains. No mock meats so I have never “needed” them. Yeah, I did allow my son to take tofu dogs to summer camp days back in 1990 so that he would not feel left out on hotdog day, but I was always worried about how they looked like real hotdogs and the potential mix up. I was also concerned about the message it sent our son.

    1. Hi there, I absolutely agree with you. Of course, each parent has a right to raise their children in their own way. We shared this story to illustrate the power of willful ignorance, child, teenager or adult. Regarding mock meats, this is not something we don’t consume often in our household, but we do indulge from time to time. It can be confusing, but it can also be empowering to show that animals do not need to be harmed to consume foods you love. Nevertheless, thank you for sharing your experience. There’s lots to learn from you, especially after living this lifestyle for over 40 years.

  3. I took my young children to a farm animal sanctuary a few times and they became vegetarian almost immediately (their Gran would often feed them meat which they loved but after seeing where this meat came from they decided they could no longer eat it). I have had several experiences of young children realising what was happening and deciding that they no longer wanted to eat meat but in all but one case the parents refused to support them and kept feeding them meat. So sad and discouraging to see these young children really wanting to not eat animals and seeing that compassion stomped out by their parents.

    1. What a great exercise to do with children, Jenni! Once we become disconnected, it’s hard to face the truth, hence wilfully ignorant. Again though, this conversation extends beyond children. I know in my own journey, I knew where and how my meat got to me, but I intentionally chose to turn a blind eye to it. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  4. I think in general, whether it’s vegan or not, it’s hard to get kids to be open to trying new foods. My approach when my nephews and nieces come over is to just tell them positive things like how the fruits and veggies will help make them smarter and grow up strong. Perhaps it doesn’t work with everyone, but I’ve managed to get them to try all kinds of vegan meals, and they love fruits and veggies. They especially love green smoothies lol.
    I think just getting kids to choose healthier foods and just being there as a good example, can make them think about making different choices later on when they have more autonomy over their lifestyle/diet.

    1. For sure, some creativity is needed when talking about different foods. I suppose this post wasn’t intended to be a strong focus on children, as adults also struggle to be open to different foods—and are often not willing to challenge their own habits.
      But it’s really encouraging to see some of the results you’ve been getting!!

  5. Hello Michael. I usually enjoy your posts immensely and look forward to your updates each Sunday. However, I am disappointed to read your post this week. I believe in being truthful with children. I have 2 grandchildren who are both meat eaters. They eat my non-meat meals and enjoy them. Both the children and their parents comment on how good they taste. I would never dream of passing them off as meat dishes to get them to eat them. If you are not truthful with children, they become suspicious of anything you tell them. Maybe talk to your nephew about making comment or disliking things you have not tried. This holds true for so many things in life.

    1. Hi Debbi, thank you for your honesty. I agree that this wasn’t the best approach, although I believe our intent was positive at the time. My nephew is now open to eating these kinds of foods while understanding that it’s not meat. So in the end, we found a good balance. Thank you for your advice.

    1. Hi Roseann, I definitely understand and acknowledge your point. In fact, my nephew was over just last weekend and happily devoured a Mexican pizza knowing that faux sausages were used. However, the core of this article was about how we intentionally choose to look the other way, despite knowing the truth about where our food comes from, whether you’re a child, teenager or adult.

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