People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals have a billboard display in Wales that screeches: “Feeding Kids Meat is Child Abuse.” The group wants to put up the same billboard in a town in Canada, and closer to home, in Greenville, S.C.
The group’s rationale is that eating a vegetarian diet will reverse the first world’s childhood obesity epidemic.
Come on, PETA. Your attention-grabbing antics aren’t going to change people’s minds about what they eat. You’re just pissing off a lot of parents, especially those of us who are thoughtful about what we feed our kids and where that food comes from.
And PETA, how do you think reading that billboard makes children who truly are victims of child abuse feel? How do you think it makes kids who are regularly hungry feel? Have you considered those kids?
While I won’t deny that obesity is a serious problem and needs to be addressed — eating meat is not the primary cause of becoming overweight. Childhood (and adult) obesity may partially be due to a surfeit of high calorie, fatty foods, but you can get just as chubby eating French fries as you can scarfing burgers.
Calories in equals calories out. This holds true no matter what you eat. If you consume more calories than you burn, you’ll gain weight. Period.
Sure, it’s harder to eat 2,000 calories worth of raw veggies than it is to consume the same amount of calories in chicken nuggets. But kids (and adults) need nutritional balance. We all need the veggies and we all need lean protein. The latter is particularly important for growing children so they can develop healthy muscles, bones and connective tissues.
As someone who has one child who is, by choice, primarily a vegetarian, I know it’s difficult to make sure she gets enough complete protein in her diet. Because of this, I try to get her to eat a little meat once or twice a week. It’s always organic, hormone-free, typically locally raised, lean meat. I respect her desire to be a vegetarian — but when she refuses to eat enough soy, vegetable and dairy proteins, I’m going to push a little bit of meat at her. So I guess that makes me a child abuser, PETA.
Sure, regularly feeding kids foods high in cholesterol and saturated fats can be a recipe for disaster in terms of their weight and health. But the occasional tubular meat product isn’t going to lead to either obesity or heart problems. That is, provided the kid is active and eats well the rest of the time. In my opinion, denying children the occasional treat, such as a small scoop of ice cream or a burger at a picnic, can lead to more “psychological trauma” than not. I’ve heard tell of preschoolers who’ve rarely had a morsel of sugar and then trade their winter coat for a candy bar at school. I don’t condone preschoolers eating candy bars, or taking them to preschool for that matter, but I also don’t want my kids to feel that the occasional sweet or fried meat patty is such a desired delicacy that it’s worth trading the clothes off their backs for a taste.
I use the words “psychological trauma” in quotation marks because that phrase comes straight from PETA’s press release about the billboard. Wow. I’m sure there’s a lot I’ve said or done over the years that could constitute “psychological trauma” to someone. But I don’t think occasionally letting my kids eat a piece of grain-fed pork now and again fits that bill.
Because feeding kids meat is not child abuse.