In earlier profiles, we met local folks active in promoting vegetarianism. This month, meet Caity McCardell, who is creating new vegetarians in her own special way.
Profession: Mommy to a 2-year-old and a 3-month-old
City: Martinez (East Bay, near Walnut Creek)
Family: Husband Stefan; daughter Gianna; son Colin; dog Caine; cats Zen and Del
Are you vegetarian or vegan, and for how long?
I’m vegan — since early 2001
What motivated you to make this change?
My original motivations were purely for vanity’s sake. After 10 years of dealing with adult acne, I knew it was time to get serious about my problem. I had tried every product in the book (except major drugs) and I remembered my grandmother telling me that when she stopped drinking milk her skin problems diminished. So I tried it, too.
Two weeks later, my skin cleared up considerably. A month later, my 10-year acne problem was gone. Coincidentally, I attended a raw foods workshop that same month and it all clicked. I didn’t need to eat meat, dairy and eggs.
I read The Food Revolution and realized that I cared about animals — all animals. It was more important than my skin – I felt I was reading the truth under the façade of corporate messages. I also encouraged my husband, Stefan, to go vegan (he likes to say he was vegan by page 100 of The Food Revolution). So we were off on the same journey together.
What are you working on?
I’m on the Board of East Bay Animal Advocates, but truth be told I haven’t been participating in their work since I got pregnant with Colin (my second baby). I’m very focused on family, home, life right now since Colin is only 3 months old. We’ll be attending rallies and handing out Why Vegan’s as soon as I get used to juggling two children! Being involved means a lot to me.
How do your values of veg*nism play a role in being a parent?
Veganism touches my parenting style on a regular basis. I try to instill in my children a sense of connection with nature and empathy with animals, which is sometimes challenging when the children around us are being taught that animals are ours to be exploited.
Before Gianna was born, our belief in the rights of animals encouraged us to look at our feelings about children’s rights. We wouldn’t let our cats cry in a room alone, so why would we let our children do that (as popular parenting books teach modern parents)? I would stay out of the way of a calf and cow so they could nurse as long as nature intended — and the same applies to my nursing relationship with my children. There are plenty of other examples of how our empathetic parenting style was impacted by our feelings about nature and animal rights.
I used animals as a guide in my birth experiences. I asked myself, “what would an animal do for a more comfortable birth?” So I look to cats and giraffes and deer and how their birthing is seemingly pain free. They’re inside themselves, comfortable, focused — without machines around them and other animals nervously chattering. What does a deer do in the woods when she’s laboring and senses danger? Her labor stops. That teaches me something about what kind of environment I want to birth in. And, boy, did I have two amazingly pain-free births!
The more I produce milk for my babies, the more it is strange to me that people consume cow’s milk. People think I should wean my children at a young age from nursing — but then they question why we don’t drink milk. That is just bizarre to me.
Who/what inspires you to keep going?
Animals inspire me — the need to do something, anything, for the suffering animals on this planet. My husband helps me keep my focus. He is an incredibly firm stand for animals. He’s outspoken and unwavering — and so compassionate.
What resources were useful to you in preparing for being a vegan parent?
Erin Pavlina’s book Raising Vegan Children in a Non-Vegan World: A Complete Guide for Parents helped me a lot — mostly reminding me that there are others like me out there. (Maybe not in my neighborhood or town, but there are vegan children out there!) It also gave me information (ammunition) about nutrition for kids and general advice about the day-to-day experience of being a vegan parent.
What prepared me the most for vegan parenting was simple: Trusting my instincts. I was determined to not put junk into my children’s bodies. I knew that they didn’t need animal products to be healthy. It was just a matter of demonstrating that to my friends and family, which is easy if I don’t let their concerns bother me.
What advice would you give to an aspiring vegan parent?
Tell the world you’re a vegan parent! Don’t hide!
Also, relax as much as possible about food. It seems that whenever I get nervous about Gianna not eating enough or not eating the right food, she turns around and asks for a ton of bean salad and a box full of fruit. Providing our children (veg*n or not) a variety of tasty, healthy foods as close to their natural state as possible will give them the opportunity to eat well.
Favorite shopping website: petamall.com
Favorite dessert: Cold cereal with agave nectar, soy beverage, raw almonds and raisins
Favorite restaurant: Café Gratitude in San Francisco. Also, a tofu burger at Ananda Fuara. I miss it, since it’s hard to drive to The City from the suburbs now with two children!
I love 3 Bean Salad because it’s so colorful and super tasty — a hearty salad that has lots of good nutrients in it. When I make it, I don’t use a recipe — I just throw it all together and it always comes out yummy. Just leave out or minimize the onions if they don’t agree with you.
3 Bean Salad
Green beans (cooked and cut up into 2-inch segments)
Red onion (cut up into small pieces)
Salt and pepper