Originally from a small town in Indiana, Amy Jean Davis moved to Los Angeles as a top finalist on American Idol. After having become vegan, she started an animal sanctuary and also founded LA Animal Save, which is now the largest chapter of more than 600 Save groups worldwide. Amy also works with her partner, filmmaker Shaun Monson, creating films and other media for the animal protection movement. In 2018 Amy gave birth to a gorgeous baby girl, Phoenix, who has become the light of her life.
We reached out to Amy to ask her about her experience, the common misconceptions people have about raising vegan children, and for advice she can give to mothers who are standing in the same position she once was.
Q: Vegan mums often say the biggest challenge during pregnancy and early child rearing isn’t nutrition, it’s the judgement passed on to them from others. Would you agree?
A: I definitely agree. The animal agriculture industry guides nutrition education in the U.S. and supplies “food” to most of our schools. Government check-off programs pay for advertising campaigns for fast food giants pushing the public to eat more meat and cheese (with our tax money!). New mums are bombarded with messages from mainstream pregnancy and parenting outlets of when to switch your baby to cow’s milk and when to introduce eggs and meat. I found it shocking and appalling, although I don’t know why I expected anything different. This is the beginning of the programming: the pregnant/first-time parent and the newborn. While I didn’t experience any negative attention towards my vegan pregnancy (or vegan baby thus far) I read constant stories about parents who are getting so much judgement from their families and paediatricians. The nutrition ignorance is rampant in our society and these people casting shame and judgement come by it honestly; why would their government lie to them about what is healthy and normal to eat? Surely they are worth more than to act as cash cows for a government-funded collaboration machine that makes them sick and reliant upon medications and surgeries while being lifelong customers… I wish I could get these outlets to stop spreading propaganda and start educating new parents with the truth: a whole-foods, plant-based diet provides everything we need to be healthy and have the lowest possible risk for most of the top causes of chronic disease and death.
Q: What do you feel is the biggest misconception about raising a vegan child?
A: The biggest misconception – by FAR- is that raising a vegan child is “forcing” a way of eating or a way of life on them. Every parent forces a way of life and eating on their child. Even the parents who lean towards letting their child “eat whatever they want” puts only specific options in front of them. The idea that there is some standard and unquestionable diet is not just outrageous, but due to the fact that the diet that most people consider standard and unquestionable is an animal-based diet, it’s also one of the most dangerous things a parent can do to their child. Despite having mountains of peer-reviewed scientific evidence that a whole foods, plant-based diet preventing and reversing our number one killer (amongst other top lethal diseases), mainstream society- including medical and pharmaceutical industries- have yet to accept this evidence as truth and lesser even have they implemented this life-saving diet as a baseline treatment for everyone. Kaiser Permanente released a statement in 2013 advising all of their doctors to recommend a plant-based diet to all of their patients but so far it hasn’t made much headway in the medical community or the medical education system. Just because the information hasn’t been accepted by society doesn’t mean that it’s not true. And for those of us parents who have been privileged to come across this truth it can be a frustrating experience dealing with other parents who scoff at the idea. This is why constant self-education is important, if only to confidently be able to defend one’s choices at the same time as educating others on something that has a huge capacity to extend the life and quality of life of their kids.
Q: Have you received any personal criticism about your decision to raise your daughter vegan?
A: I haven’t had a single person criticise me personally, but I’ve seen it happen to so many other parents. However, if someone were to say that I’m forcing my “beliefs” on Phoenix, I’d remind them that every parent forces their beliefs on their children. They don’t get to equate any current social norms with the gold standard of parenting – as is easily seen by looking at the history of different social norms. What we must base our parenting choices on is the truth – which means science, philosophy, math – which also means usually going *against* current social norms. This takes courage and education.
Q: What has been the most valuable support network both during your vegan pregnancy and after having Phoenix?
A: My most valuable support network during my pregnancy and after was actually a Facebook group, called Vegan Pregnancy and Parenting. There’s 40,000+ members and I received tons of answers for every little thing I was worried about. But I also found a great network within the activist community. For us vegans, becoming an activist puts us in touch with people who are the most on our same page. We have so much to learn from others, and the activist community is a place where you can connect with like-minded people; I’ve found it invaluable for so many reasons. It also allows you to know what you need to know so that when faced with the push back, you can handle those people with ease and less stress. Being a parent comes with new stresses I was not prepared for, so finding ways to lower stress will prove very helpful for most parents in my opinion.
Q: How are you and Phoenix doing now?
A: Phoenix and I are doing great! She’s the light of my life. The apple of my eye. The centre of my universe! I never knew how much I could love someone until her. Everything parents told me while I was pregnant is true. The other truth is that it’s hard! We are not meant to raise children alone in our houses. I went through hell the first year. I had very little help. Shaun works from dawn until dusk and my family lives in other states. What mothers go through is almost incomprehensible. That part of our society needs to change but that’s a conversation for another time. Still, Phoenix is an angel on earth and I am so privileged to be the one to care for her.