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New mom shares her food beliefs with her daughter
A small food-processor whirs, puréeing roma tomatoes with olive oil and garlic. It's a raw pasta sauce, explains Jenice Schneider, for the zuchinni pasta she made just moments before.
Spaghetti-like strips of crisp zucchini stand in place of the traditional flour and egg pasta. And the finishing touch is a far cry from aged parmigiano reggiano. Instead, Schneider sprinkles several spoons of ground walnuts over the "spaghetti" to add texture to the dish.
This plate of veggies masquerading as spaghetti – though delicious – may have a few Italian nonnas rolling over in their graves.
But Schneider doesn't seem to mind that her "spaghetti" isn't authentic Italian cuisine.
It's more important to her that no animals were harmed in its making.
Schneider, 35, is a vegan. And she has been for seven years.
The reason is simple.
"I don't have any right to derive pleasure from the pain and suffering of others, so that's how I guide myself," says Schneider, an Okotoks mom and graphic designer.
What is a vegan?
There are two types of vegans. Dietary vegans don't eat any animal products like beef or milk.
But Schneider is what's known as an ethical vegan. Ethical vegans take it one step further and don't use any product that is from an animal – like silk or leather – or that has been tested on an animal. She says she won't go to zoos or aquariums either.
Schneider says she's always had a deep sense of empathy for all creatures on earth, human and animal alike.
Love for all creatures
Growing up in Alberta and later, Manitoba, Schneider says she had "a great deal of love" for her family pets. Her first pet was a St. Bernard named Heidi. Over the years, she's had three cats, another dog, a hamster, three guinea pigs, and two budgies.
There was even a barn cat she brought home when she was 16 that became their grandmother's pet, says Selena Bird, Schneider's younger sister.
"Jenice has always been the mothering type," says Bird. And that extends to animals.
Now, Schneider has a blind dachshund named Winston whom she adopted from the SPCA in B.C., where she was living at the time. It's evident when you step into her home that she loves him. There's a "Winston lives here" welcome matt emblazoned with the little dog's face and he's present in the framed family photos with the Schneiders' newborn daughter.
Her love and desire to take care of animals has been consistent throughout her life, says Schneider's sister.
Despite being surrounded by animals her entire life, Schneider says she was never taught about animal suffering by her parents.
Her mom served meat for dinner, though Schneider wouldn't touch a rare steak, says Bird.
Schneider went to zoos, an aquarium and a circus. All of the places that most parents take their children.
And while Schneider says she was never comfortable eating meat, the reason why didn't click until many years later.
The media coverage of the seal hunt was what opened her eyes to animal rights, says Schneider.
"I went wait a minute, why are these poor animals being bludgeoned to death? Then I made the connection to the food I ate and specifically meat. I wouldn't eat my dog, why would I eat a cow?"
Impacts of being vegan
First, Schneider became involved in animal welfare and volunteered at the SPCA. Then she became a vegetarian. But she says, the more she learned about the earth and its inhabitants, the more she changed. Eventually, she cut animal products out of her life completely.
"It's a conscious choice I make every day. And that principle that I abide, it extends as much as it possibly can into my life. It governs most of my decisions."
Schneider says it impacts most of her decisions, large and small. From buying shoes to her ordering her wedding cake, to posting on Facebook about dairy farms and rescued puppies.
"I think it's fantastic...She has shaped her whole lifestyle to stand behind something she believes," says Bird.
Being vegan is part of Schneider's identity, says husband Tom Schneider.
"If I think of Jenice, veganism is right there with her."
She was already a vegan when the couple met while working at a UPS store in B.C. in 2006.
At first, Tom says he had never met a vegan and thought the lifestyle silly. But as he continued his relationship with Schneider, things changed.
"You become more informed and learn more about the environment and the things that are occurring so you change your tune," says Tom.
While Tom is not vegan, he respects Schneider's lifestyle.
Now there will be another vegan in the home.
Raising a vegan
The couple recently had their first child Nellie. And Nellie will be raised as a vegan.
"It really wasn't a decision because it's like, how could I be vegan and not feed my daughter that same way? I think it would be very hypocritical if I fed my daughter meat and I proclaim to be vegan," says Schneider.
Tom says he expected that his wife would want to raise Nellie as a vegan and he supports her. He says his only concern is the impracticality of a vegan lifestyle, but that it can easily be worked around.
Schneider hopes that by raising her daughter to be kind to all creatures, that the vegan lifestyle will be Nellie's first nature.
She recognizes that Nellie will grow up in a non-vegan world: friends who eat meat, clothes made from leather and field-trips to the zoo.
But Schneider hopes – like any mom – that Nellie will have the strength to say no to what she's been taught is wrong.
"I hope that she gets it and that she embraces it."
Have you ever had to defend a dietary choice? Share your stories in the comment section below?