How To Make A Vegan Passover Seder Without Hurting Any Animals

Passover is a celebration of freedom from slavery and the end of oppression. How does it make sense to exploit and eat animals that have been oppressed and held captive for a holiday celebrating freedom?

The Passover history

Passover is a Jewish holiday about freedom. It commemorates liberation of the Israelites from ancient Egypt and their Exodus from slavery. This eight-day festival happens in the spring during the Hebrew month of Nissan. This year, the first seder starts at sundown on March 30 with the second seder the following night. If you have never attended a seder before, call a Jewish friend and politely invite yourself over.

A traditional Passover seder is a ritual that is conducted as part of the overall Passover observance and includes reading from a book called a Haggadah. This book tells the story of the holiday dating back to ancient Egypt.

Like with many religions, there are several degrees of Jewish observance and some families read the entire Haggadah, while others do a faster version. However, all seders contain a festive meal and seder plate. The plate is a nicely decorated centerpiece with symbolic foods. Needless to say, don’t eat off this plate until the designated time!

“I don’t mind taking the extra time in order to save lives. After all, Passover is a celebration of freedom.”

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You probably know it’s forbidden to eat bread on Passover. This is to remember what the Jews ate when they escaped Egypt. They didn’t have time for their bread to rise and ate flat unleavened bread, otherwise known as matzo. In Hebrew, this forbidden bread is called Chametz and defined as all leavened grain and anything made with yeast. So, besides bread, the forbidden foods include cake, cookies, cereal, pasta, wheat, barely spelt, rye and oats. And to make things more complicated, the tradition for Ashkenazi Jews includes not eating corn, rice, peas, beans and, yes, even tofu, since it’s a soybean. The good news is that quinoa is permitted because it’s a seed, not a grain.

Our vegan life

Each year at Passover, I make a seder for my son Noah. We are both vegan and follow a plant-based diet because we love animals. We don’t eat meat, fish, dairy, eggs or any products containing animal ingredients, like gelatin or honey.

I don’t mind taking the extra time to find humane alternatives in order to save lives. After all, Passover is a celebration of freedom from slavery and no longer being oppressed and held captive.

Essential items

Here are a few essential ceremonial items, and how you can keep them vegan.

Matzo

Most matzo is vegan since the main ingredients are flour and water; just be sure not to purchase egg matzo. Three pieces of matzo are placed on the table in a special matzo covering. I still use the one Noah made for me in kindergarten.

Wine and grape juice

Seders include wine for adults and grape juice for children. There are four cups of wine or grape juice throughout the meal that are drunken out of beautiful silver Kiddush cups. It may come as a surprise to you that not all wines are vegan, but there are many vegan wines.

Barnivore is a great resource for searching for vegan wines. You can also contact or research individual brands for their refining agents and decide what is acceptable to you in terms of cross-contamination.

Lighting the candles

On the first two nights of Passover, candles are lit. As long as you don’t use beeswax candles, you are good to go!

“Hopefully one day all species will be free from oppression.”

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A vegan seder plate

This food is mostly for decoration, although some of it is eaten at specific times during the seder. I have consulted multiple sources to create our vegan Passover seder plate; you can be creative and add your own vegan flair.

Shank bone/zeroah

We love lambs and of course don’t eat them, but we also don’t want a body part on our seder plate even just for decoration. I use a beet instead of a blood-red bone. Beets are dark in colour and can symbolize the bloodshed of the slaves.

The egg/beitzah

No eggs for us! Free range eggs are not a real thing and the egg industry is built on lies and endless cruelty. If chickens cannot give us permission, we don’t take what is not ours. Eggs are a symbol of new life and hope for the future and the round shape is the cycle of life. Luckily there are endless alternatives to round foods. I typically use a little white turnip. Other ideas are oranges, avocado pits, or even a plastic or wooden toy egg.

Bitter herbs/maror

Vegan approved! These are usually horseradish root (and no horses were killed in the growing of this veggie)! Other choices include bitter greens like dandelion or radish.

Parsley/karpas

Parsley is dipped in salt water and represents the salty tears of the slaves in Egypt. Other vegetables that can be used are potato, celery or a small slice of onion.

Lettuce/chazeret

It’s usually romaine lettuce and eaten with the second portion of the bitter herbs.

Haroset

This is typically a sweet mixture and can easily be made vegan. It’s made with chopped apples, walnuts, spices, and red wine or grape juice. If the recipe calls for honey I swap it for agave nectar. Freshly ground cinnamon tastes great sprinkled on top!

Afikoman

This piece of matzo is hidden during the seder for kids to search for later. The seder cannot be completed until the afikomen is found and everyone at the table eats a small piece. Think of it as a matzo treasure hunt that concludes the meal, though at many seders the joyous songs go long into the night in celebration of freedom around the world.

Hopefully one day all species will be free from oppression.

Chag sameach! Happy Passover!

 

 

This article was originally published in The Huffington Post in 2017.

Photo credits: Rescued cow and writer by Vanessa Sarges; rescued sheep and writer’s son by Miriam Porter, both taken at Wishing Well Sanctuary

Photo of matzah by Eczebulun – Português: pascoa

 

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6 Ways to Raise a Child Who Doesn’t Eat Animals

My son Noah and I live a vegan lifestyle. That’s different from following a vegan diet — although both are great! In fact, whatever you do that helps the environment, animals, humans or the earth is pretty awesome. For us, veganism extends past the plant-based food on our plate.

Noah didn’t want to eat animals or contribute to their suffering. Noah continues to be my inspiration to stick with the diet part of veganism even if it’s challenging. We do our best to be kind and compassionate to all creatures, both human and non-human. We don’t participate in activities that exploit or oppress another species like the zoo, circus or marine parks. We don’t wear fur, leather, or wool. But still the most common questions I receive surrounding veganism are food based. So although ethical veganism is all encompassing, this article is about food choices. Here are a few things I have learned from raising a child that does not eat meat, fish, dairy, eggs or anything containing animal ingredients.

1. It’s easy and economical to make humane food choices

If someone says it’s more expensive to eat vegan food they are mistaken. I am a single mom living on a writer’s budget — needless to say there is no extra money flying around! The cost of eating animal flesh is on the rise and the cost of local produce is considerably cheaper. Yes, the government subsidizes our school’s milk program, but we drink water instead — it’s free! I buy grains like rice, lentils and quinoa in bulk. I shop at small family owned fruit and veggie stores for fresh produce, it’s more economical than large grocery stores. I choose food in season whenever possible. Simple unprocessed foods like potatoes, pasta, oatmeal, lentils and beans are inexpensive yet have nutrients and calories that children’s bodies need.

2. Yes, my son eats healthy plant based food, thank you for asking

I have done my research. Over ten years of it actually, since I first started reading about the topic during pregnancy. I have spent a zillion hours learning about protein, calcium, and B12, yet some people try and find something I am doing “wrong.” You will never hear me criticizing parents that feed their kids animal flesh or cow milk. So shouldn’t it work both ways? Years ago, to be on the safe side, I consulted with my son’s pediatrician and even went to see a kid’s nutritionist. When we met I was delighted to share my menu choices, we even exchanged recipes! I make a variety of different proteins and calcium-enriched foods daily. In fact, if I knew twenty years ago what I know now about how unhealthy dairy is I would have stopped eating all those grilled cheese sandwiches in my twenties. Study after study suggests milk is not healthy for human consumption and not good for our bones after all. There are so many dairy free alternatives with exciting new products being introduced all the time.

3. You can travel and still eat a plant-based diet

I am often told “I can’t eat vegan food it’s so hard!” or “I don’t know how you do it!” I know everyone means well, but honestly, when something comes from a place of passion it’s not hard. When Noah and I travel we never go hungry. Even in a small fishing village in Prince Edward Island we ate delicious vegan food and found plenty of restaurants with healthy plant based options. We always find farmers markets, salad bars, accommodating restaurants — even fast food restaurant chains have vegan food options now. Many dishes with meat can be prepared without it and taste great. Also, as a mom, I load my purse with non-perishable snacks just in case of flight delays. But these days even airlines are stocking up on vegan food! Bon Voyage!

4. School celebrations, birthday parties, and festive holidays

When I was a Girl Guide our motto was “Be Prepared.” I highly recommend this to avoid having a disappointed child at a school party serving non-vegan food. Sometimes I keep a treat with his teachers in the classroom in case. For birthday parties I always offer to send Noah with food but often I don’t need to because the kind mommas have offered. I never expect anyone to make special arrangements but am always grateful when we are considered. It’s simple when ordering pizza to request a few slices without cheese and now so many pizza chains serve vegan dairy free cheese! School pizza parties are never a problem. It’s important to speak up though, as I hear from moms at different schools their vegan children are often left out of celebrations.

All festive meals can be made using plant based ingredients. In Judaism there are countless holiday meals that traditionally involve eating animals. But there are creative alternatives for a vegan Passover Seder Plate; egg and dairy free Challah bread for your Rosh Hashanah feast; you can dip your apples in agave nectar instead of honey for a sweet year; and even plant based chicken soup for the soul!

5. Teaching kindness and compassion

This is my starting point for everything. Am I perfect? Of course not. But I try my best to raise a child that makes kind choices, including dietary ones. I have read informative books about raising kind children but most of the time I just try to follow my heart. As the famous saying goes, treat others as you want to be treated. Don’t exploit or oppress another species. If you don’t encourage children to eat dogs, why encourage them to eat pigs? What is the difference? Perhaps it’s time to realize there is no difference. Furthermore, why would I want to participate in an industry such as dairy and meat that hurts others when humane alternatives are so readily available? The shelves are stacked with non-dairy milks and every kind of meatless flesh-free food you can imagine.

6. It’s progress not perfection

Some people still try to catch me doing something “unvegan- like.” Somebody call off the vegan police! Because If you think I shouldn’t do anything because I can’t do everything, you are mistaken. Every little bit helps and choosing compassionate food is a great place to start. I hope as Noah gets older people don’t focus on what he isn’t doing, but look at all the wonderful things he is doing. In his young life he has already saved approximately 4,800 animals by not eating them. (About 400 lives a year are saved by being vegetarian, not including dairy or eggs)

So why am I raising a vegan child? For the same reason I became vegetarian at seven years old. The day I found out my hamburger had a cow face was the start of my journey. I do it for the animals.

love at the sanctuary

Rescued baby cow at Wishing Well Sanctuary

A variation of this article was originally published in The Huffington Post in 2015. It was shared over 60,000 times around the world. Noah is now almost 12 and in May we will be celebrating our 7 year vegan-anniversary.