Lil’ Discerning Brutes: A New/Old Era of Fathering

By Sid Garza-Hillman

I am a father of three young children, and it occurs to me that while the particulars of fatherhood have changed over time—today’s much increased and often equal involvement of fathers in the everyday lives of our children and households (carpool, homework, cooking, cleaning, laundry etc.)—one aspect of fathering remains the same: full participation in teaching our children about right and wrong.

The inspiration for this post came from my 10-year-old daughter who was recently upset about a strongly held family ethic that is literally not shared by any other family in her school, or in our entire town for that matter. Her dismay stemmed from the fact that she found herself having to behave, if only in this one regard, differently from virtually every other child at her school. She made no bones about asking me point blank if she could compromise on that ethic in order to ‘fit in’ with her friends. And here was the rub: allow my child to act in conflict with the very values and morals that I, along with my wife, want to instill in her, OR, essentially ‘force’ her to do what we believe is the right thing even if it means having to be the ‘different’ kid at school.

You might be thinking the answer is simple: require her to do the right thing, the lesson being that doing the right thing is more important than fitting in. The answer for me wasn’t that simple. I wanted HER to make the decision on her own. To weigh the options for herself. I wanted her to understand that there would be ramifications and consequences for her actions that would come from her—not from me, but from her. I was clear with myself on what I definitely did not want—for her to resent me for forcing her to do the right thing, thereby making the act a “I’m only doing this because my dad’s making me” decision rather than a personal value-based choice.

For me, instilling a sense of right and wrong is the exact opposite of programming some robotic child who will just do what I say. It is about clearly communicating the reasons we, as a family, act the way we do (in this particular case it was explaining that our decision to have our family be 100% plant-based was for reasons of compassion, care for the planet and care for ourselves, but could easily have been a discussion about stealing, lying, cheating or any other ethical choice), and allowing her the freedom to then act based on that information. I felt confident she was at an age where she could handle the weight of this choice, and it turned out that I was right, at least this time.

In the end, discussing the issue as we did apparently took the pressure off her. She stayed true to what she believes is right, and the issue has not come up again. So while day-to-day parenting may continue to change over time, hopefully it will always be the case that a parent’s main responsibility is to raise the next generation of discerning brutes.

PS After a quick Google search, turns out ‘Lil’ Discerning Brute’ was the least popular child’s toy of 2011.

Valentine’s Dude

Whether you’re getting a gift for your lover, your friend or you’re spoiling yourself – I selected these diligently designed Valentine’s Day gifts that will have you swooning in no time.

Gift Pack of Organic Fudge Squares - vegan & gluten-freeCLASSIC COLLECTION


The Herbivorous Butcher, which launched in 2013, is a Minneapolis based, small-batch artisan butcher and cheese shop run by herbivorous siblings Aubry and Kale Walch. They will be opening their retail shop in April of 2015, but for the time-being appear at pop-ups and farmers markets.  The duo have taken on sausage, pepperoni, deli bologna, chorizo, bacon and even launched a Camembert cheese this week – all plant-based of course.

The National Museum of Animals & Society has big plans for 2105, and they are half-way to meeting their fundraising goal. Please watch the video below, and visit their IndieGoGo page.

Our goal in 2015 is to move to a much larger space in a more prestigious location, close to Los Angeles’ museum row. We will continue presenting animal protection issues through world-class curating in a palatable, viewer-friendly manner. The new space will allow us to house permanent, as well as rotating exhibits and appeal to a broader group of visitors. We will also host educational and motivational film screenings, lectures, classes, and events.

• A former leather industry expert, Carmen Hijosa, was fed up with the limitations of animal skin. The textile innovator is now making leather from pineapples with the support of the Royal College of London. You heard that right. The leaves of the delicious, juicy fruits will longer go to waste. Instead, the incredibly strong and fine fibers from the leaves are felted and then processed into Piñatex  –  a supple, lux, strong materials that looks and act like skin. What’s better is that the byproduct of processing is a fantastic, plant-based fertilizer. Say hi to Piñatex on Facebook!

Principled Workout Gear


If you don’t compromise on your workouts, why should you compromise on your gear? It seems like a contradiction to pursue fitness, whether for health or pleasure, while simultaneously harming workers, animals and the environment. Imagine if, like a comic book villain, you were draining the life-force of factory workers, animals and ecosystems so you could get stronger! That’s sort of what happens with many athletic companies today. It isn’t that they’re sinister so much as they’re negligent in this massive, global, fashion industrial production complex. There is no silver-bullet; no zero-impact workout gear, but many companies are striving towards ideal standards. When it comes to my own Crossfit regimen, I had trouble finding companies whose business ethics matched their products’ performance. Luckily, I found a few great brands I’ll share below.

Product View

Product View
It’s been difficult to find a high-quality lifting shoe that meets my stringent criteria: fair, sustainable and vegan. Many lifting shoes are either made with inefficient, toxic and cruel leather (a livestock product), while others are made in dangerous or exploitative factory conditions that go unmonitored. Inov8 has many vegan shoe options and an environmental auditing system in place to track their ecological footprint (no pun intended). In addition they clearly state their  labor standards.
Base layers and running tights were hard to come by in anything but traditional poly. But Patagonia  has a line is called Capilene® made from at least 35% recycled poly, and a line of bluesign®-approved content made in fair labor conditions.

M's Capilene® 1 Silkweight BottomsM's Baggies™ Shorts - 5"

M's Capilene® 2 Lightweight T-ShirtM's Capilene® 1 Silkweight Graphic Crew

If you’re looking for equipment made in the USA, Rogue has a line made in Ohio including  jump ropes, barbells, and lifting straps. The Rogue SR-2 Ballistic Jump Rope and Ohio lifting straps. They are hand made in Ohio. Spud Inc had an insanely strong lifting belt made in the USA from woven nylon, and Massage Blocks offers a recyclable, self-massage solution made in the USA for those crazy knots you get after a few days of working out.

Rogue SR-2 Ballistic Jump Rope


I’ll be hosting the The Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary’s posh gallery event on January 14, 2015.  Sanctuary in the City will take place at the renowned Chelsea gallery, Alexander Gray Associates, and I hope you’ll join me for a cocktail!

Animals like Maribeth (above), a rescued dairy-farm calf, are torn from their mothers so people can instead drink her milk. She was injured and would have been slaughtered for veal, but was rescued by The Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary just in time. Countless stories like Maribeth’s have happy ending thanks to The Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary, and they need our support to continue their crucial rescue, rehabilitation and education work.

Jan 14, 2015
6:00 PM
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Alexander Gray Associates (art gallery)
510 West 26 Street
New York NY 10001
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