Peppa the Pig is popular amongst toddlers. In fact, Peppa’s whole family – George Pig, Daddy Pig and Mummy Pig – are basically celebrities in homes across the world. Why? I couldn’t have less of a clue. But for whatever reason, these British pigs have captivated the hearts and minds of today’s three and four year-olds.
You know what else kids love? Kids love eating pigs – bacon, sausage, ham, you name it. In fact, it is probably commonplace that many kids enjoy a hearty meal of eggs and bacon while watching Peppa the Pig and her friends do whatever it is that they do.
I should say at this point loud and clear that I am not a vegetarian. I eat meat. I eat chickens, I eat cows, and occasionally I’ll even eat lambs … yes, cute baby lambs. So as you read this potentially preachy-sounding blog, please know that my intent is by no means to convince you of moral superiority on my part. Far from it. I am not trying to convince you to become vegetarian, vegan, pescatarian, or even gluten free, for that matter. I am with you – I eat animals as well.
But shouldn’t we at least acknowledge the cognitive dissonance that we impart to our children at such a young age, as we feed them meat while they spend their days playing with stuffed animals and watching animal-based cartoons? I mean, animals are basically their best friends in these early years. Lucky for me, my stuffed animal of choice as a toddler was a gorilla, so I never had to grapple with the realization that I was eating my best friend’s family and friends.
This cognitive dissonance that begins in childhood often extends into adulthood. You might notice the cute chicken mascot as you walk into your favorite chicken wings joint, or the friendly lobster that greets you into the seafood restaurant. There is nothing wrong with these logos and mascots; but isn’t it just a little bit strange that we bring character life to these animals while simultaneously putting them on our plates for dinner?
Now it hits everyone differently when they finally realize that what they have called “meat” their whole lives is really a synonym for “dead animals”. For some people, it doesn’t phase them … they could eat a medium rare steak in complete peace while looking out on a farm full of roaming cows. And all the power to them. But for others, the realization can be more harsh.
Let’s get back to Peppa. Wouldn’t it be scarring for a kid to realize that they have been eating the friends and family of their favorite best friend pig? Wouldn’t there even be resentment and anger at their parents who encouraged them to do so? But perhaps the biggest issue is this … once a kid learns the truth, isn’t it too late at that point? Yes, little kids might love Peppa. But you know what they might love just as much, and dare I say, possibly more? The taste of bacon! Where is a young kid supposed to go from there? What if a child is repulsed by the idea of eating animals? After eating bacon for so many breakfasts, it would take a pretty darn determined four-year-old to disavow bacon in the name of Peppa.
I’ve contemplated becoming vegetarian many times over my life. In fact, I just failed at an attempt recently, where my vegetarianism journey lasted a whopping four days (and I’m super proud of myself for that). As I said beforehand … I like meat. And even though I have many ethical issues with eating animals, I guess I just don’t have the willpower to follow through on this particular goal.
So what is my point? I’m not saying that we should stop showing kids friendly animals on television. Peppa Pig, Donald Duck, Nemo and Dory … they’re all lovable characters whose stories have positive impacts on kids, and even adults, around the world. But is there perhaps an argument for not feeding kids meat until they actually know what it is? Would it not be kinder, in a sense, to let children decide for themselves if they want to eat animals?
We operate in a society where eating meat is the norm, and it usually starts when we are young kids. The actual choice only emerges later in life when some people question whether they should change their eating habits. But by that point, the choice is so much harder, because in most cases, our taste buds win out and tell us to keep enjoying the flavorsome meat.
You might be saying at this point, “but eating meat isn’t a big deal to me”. Fair. And it might not be a big deal to your child either. But what if it is? What if they are in that small but growing percentage of people who do care about this issue? And there is an increasingly high chance that someone in the next generation might be inclined to care, as with the search for meat alternatives gaining traction and the growing awareness of the environmental impact of the meat industry.
Part of me wishes I had never eaten meat when I was growing up. It is a lot easier for someone to decide to not try a certain food than to cut that food out of their diet. I have ethical reservations about eating meat, the details of which are beyond the scope of this article. But despite these ethical reservations, I haven’t been strong enough to quell the urges to eat meat that were nurtured in me since I was a young toddler. So yes – you could call me weak. And you’d be right on many counts, also not in the scope of this piece. But maybe I didn’t need to be put into such a position in the first place. Maybe I could have grown up as a vegetarian and once I was old enough to truly understand what meat was, I could have decided if the idea of eating meat appealed to me or not.
So as your kids watch Peppa the Pig do whatever it is that she does, perhaps it’s worth considering – should I hold off on feeding my kid bacon for a bit? Should I let my kid decide on their own if they want to eat meat one day? Not an easy answer … but perhaps something to ponder.