In 2019, the Royal Academy of Medicine of Belgium determined that raising children with a vegan diet is “unethical”. Their opinion will make it easier to prosecute parents whose children experience health problems because of a strict vegan diet. There may be many ethical and principled reasons to follow a vegan diet, but could it actually be unethical to raise your children vegan?
There are plenty of horror stories. Last year, two parents in Sydney, Australia allowed their toddler to become so malnourished while following a vegan diet that her bones fractured and her teeth fell out. The same year, a Swedish court sentenced the vegan parents of an 18-month-old to three months in jail for almost causing her death from malnutrition.
In 2017, a Belgian baby died after being fed a diet of vegetable milk made of “oak, buckwheat, rice, and quinoa”. In 2016, a vegan couple in Italy lost custody of their 14-month-old son after the baby was taken to hospital suffering from malnutrition and, also in Italy in 2016, a two-year-old girl was hospitalised for vitamin deficiencies caused by her parents’ vegan diet.
Experts say it is possible to raise healthy children according to a vegan diet. However, it absolutely must involve consulting with medical professionals for advice, be well-planned, varied, balanced, and ensure any missing vitamins and nutrients (such as B12) are given via supplements.
What do our readers think? We had a comment sent in from Nando saying: “[Many people] think they have to eat meat or else their children will be undernourished or weak.” Is that right? Would giving a child a vegan diet mean they might grow up undernourished?
To get a response, we spoke to Luisa Crisigiovanni, Secretary General of Altroconsumo, the largest independent consumer association in Italy. What would she say?
For another perspective, we also put the same comment to Isabelle Mulkerrins, who blogs on nutrition, veganism, health and lifestyle. How would she respond?
It is, in fact, possible (and healthy!) for children to eat a completely vegan diet, or at least a vegetarian one. And it can be very healthy for them to grow up eating a lot of fruit, vegetables, nuts and pulses. Not to mention the health benefits of limiting their intake of red meat, saturated fat in animal products, and dairy, as well as hopefully minimal amounts of processed high sugar foods. But a vegan diet for children does also require knowledge about nutrition or meeting with a dietitian to ensure proper nutrition.
Is it wrong to raise children with a vegan diet? Is it “unethical”? Or, with careful planning and professional medical advice, is it a perfectly viable option? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below and we’ll take them to policymakers and experts for their reactions!