Vegetarian parents, meat-eating child

Woty Free

From the archives: The original post was posted on 1st November, 2002

A poster wrote:

But I disagree that parents should themselves be required to support what they think is immoral. I think the reason Taking Children Seriously often seems dismissive of vegetarian moral concerns is because the vegetarians are wrong. But imagine child wanted to eat people, who we all agree have moral status, surely parents would not be required to support that. Am I right that the best answer Taking Children Seriously can muster to this is that children do not want to eat people?

If something shouldn’t be illegal because it’s wrong to force people to comply with the moral theory without agreeing with it, then it’s wrong to force one’s own children to comply with it. That goes for vegetarian parents who don’t want meat banned and think it would be immoral to force adults to comply with their theories about eating meat.

A parent who thinks eating meat is so immoral that it should be illegal should not buy meat for their child while they still think that. But not buying meat for their child will not make their actions moral. They are wrong, because their theories about meat eating are wrong. There is not a mechanical rule we can follow that makes it possible to avoid ever doing anything that is morally wrong.

And the question of whether a parent should, acting as a child’s agent, buy him a gun to shoot people (with money that is rightfully the child’s) also never comes up? Even if I agree they won’t, how can that be satisfactory to a vegetarian whose moral dilemma does come up?

The vegetarian who believes that meat eating ought to be legal ought to buy it for their child and give them the respect they would give another human being. The vegetarian who thinks it ought to be illegal shouldn’t buy meat for their child while they still think that, but they should change their theories to good ones.

But it can’t possibly be right for someone to take an action that they consider to be murder.

See also: I’m a vegetarian. What if my child wants to eat meat?

See also: What if my child wants me to help her murder someone?

Woty Free, 2002, ‘Vegetarian parents, meat-eating child’, https://www.takingchildrenseriously.com/vegetarian-parents-meat-eating-child/