Little Wren's vegan journey inspires Bishop's Stortford dad Matt Claydon to write book for other children
When four-year-old Wren-Ophelia Claydon starts her first term at Manor Fields Primary School this week, she will be taking a vegan packed lunch.
The little girl and her baby brother Cape, who is 21 months old, have never eaten any animal product and the little girl always checks if food "has animals in it".
Her matter-of-fact approach has inspired dad Matt, a 41-year-old international brand director for a clothing company based in Los Angeles, to write a book to help other families understand their philosophy.
Wren's Friends: A Fun Vegan Adventure is a picture book illustrated by his sister-in-law Danielle Hutchin, who lives in Harlow with husband Robbie and son Ronnie.
Matt said: "It's a story of meeting different animals and learning how similar they are to us."
He uses verse to explain why Wren sees animals as her friends rather than food and suggests tasty vegan alternatives to traditional meat treats.
For example, a cow tells Wren: "I'm a gentle giant and I don't mean to shout, but when humans drink milk, my babies miss out."
Wren's response is: "I spoke up, you know, just to lift the mood. 'My dear cow, we prefer oat milk with our food'."
Matt and his wife Jeri, a psychotherapist based in Bishop's Stortford, changed to a plant-based diet before their children were born.
The change was prompted by Shih Tzu Humphrey, the family's pet dog and Wren's travelling companion in Matt's book.
He explained that six years ago, when the couple were living in Stratford-upon-Avon, Humphrey encountered a ewe and her newborn lamb. The dog and the baby sheep were the same size and he immediately identified with the ewe's protection of her child and his own love for his pet, who is now 13. The thought of eating lamb was as abhorrent as eating his dog.
"Humphrey and the lamb were almost touching noses, and from that day I couldn't see what the difference was between Humphrey and the lamb and I knew I had to make a change," said Matt.
He became vegan overnight and the family have never regretted the decision. Supermarkets and restaurants increasingly offer vegan options as more people reduce their meat consumption, not just for animal welfare reasons but also because of health and climate change concerns.
Matt said: "People can be quite defensive on both sides, but we feed more crops to animals than we eat ourselves."
Ultimately, he would like his book to become a teaching resource in nursery and primary schools.
* Wren's Friends: A Fun Vegan Adventure is published by SilverWood Books and costs £11.99. It is available online from the Vegan Society.