This mother-daughter interview first appeared on the Main Street Vegan blog, 2 years ago. I’d love to share it with my readers!
Isabelle is almost a teenager. A time when friends become new major influencers. Yet this vegan tween is already facing and dealing with peer pressure on her own terms. This beautiful young girl is also my daughter and today she gently tells us about what it’s like to stand up for ones ethics at the age of 12.
How did you feel when you first heard about veganism? “I was totally keen to go on board, even vegetarian wasn’t enough of a leap for me. I wanted to get all cruelty off my plate. I’ve always felt a deep compassion and connection with nature and its animals. It just didn’t feel right or fair to eat or use them.”
What is the most interesting thing you have felt or learnt in these past 18 months? “I’ve felt more physically lively and I’m so learning how to stand up for what I believe in!”
Aside from your sister, what’s it like to be the only other vegan in your school? It’s challenging. Sometimes I wish there was another vegan in my grade to stand beside me. There’s plenty of teasing about me eating only plants. This happens in class, whenever the subject of meat or food in general comes up.
What type of teasing? Things like they say they are top of the food chain and I am then below that. I also get teased, mainly by the guys, for being slim, which they call thin. I laugh this off, and give it right back, by jokingly telling them that it’s just because they’re fat! I know that what I eat is solid good food, filled with protein, calcium, antioxidants, fibre and all that good stuff which makes my body strong and healthy.
How do you deal with these types of social attitudes? I don’t take very personally because they don’t mean to hurt me. They’re just either curious or crazy defensive.
And lunch box time, how does that go? Well often, out of pure curiosity, someone might ask me what I’m eating during school break and another will quickly comment “gross stuff”. But at least I have plenty of girl friends who will stand up for me, not because they believe in veganism, but because they see these comments as rude and tactless.
What does your lunch box vs their lunch box tell you? (Laughs) That I eat a lot healthier. There’s biltong (cured meat), chicken strips and chips, ham and melted cheese sandwiches in theirs. I like my ‘mac & cheese’, coconut chunks, snow peas, sometimes freshly baked bread with hummus or peanut butter, always strawberries in summer.
Camps are always challenging. I don’t like a fuss made around me eating different meals to them, but at the same time I don’t want my veggie burger patti grilled on the same camp fire as used for animal flesh patties.
What would make your school experience with regards to veganism better? I wish for vegan awareness, firstly among the teacher which would then filter through to the students. That would be great but teachers are just parents too, feeding their kids what they were fed, or what they assume is good and so it goes on.
What motivates you to blog about your life as a vegan tween? I want to shine my own light brightly and if that shows others that being a young vegan is great then, cool. I can’t change the whole world but if I influence one person than that person also saves hundreds of our animals lives. There are so many animals going into our slaughter houses every hour. Each one needs our help, each day. It’s so unnecessary to eat them.
Tell me what you’re most tired of hearing? Pitying remarks like “Shame you can’t have this.” I wish they would understand or accept that this is my willing choice that I make! Not my family’s, but me as someone who is so happy to be a full-on vegan.
How do you see veganism, active or inactive? Oh, definitely active. We’re active because we’re standing up for them and pushing against the flow of eating animals. Every time I eat I’m choosing life over death.
Some say that girls being so aware of foods and reading their contents, might encourage them to become anorexic, your thoughts? Wow, I think it’s the opposite. Eating healthy vegan foods is teaching us that we must give our body great food, and lots of it!
Isabelle’s quote, “Let them be themselves, and in themselves they’ll be their own.”
Isabelle lives in the Western Cape of South Africa with her family and beloved companions. She writes a blog under the title of ‘vegan whisperer’ and enjoys writing, reading, walking and above all playing!