It seems that a new children’s book promoting veganism is causing quite a controversy. The book, which I haven’t actually read, apparently contains rather graphic images of butchered meat and statements such as “… all animals raised for meat and dairy are captured and killed in the end. Their deaths are violent and sad.” I’m inclined to agree with the sentiments of many of the contributors to the article. I think the child psychologist is correct in stating that this is disturbing and inappropriate for children. I also agree with the mother who learned the hard way that forcing a strict vegetarian diet on her children was not ideal.
The two big issues here, as I see them, are the manipulation of children and the appropriateness of a vegan diet for children. To address the first issue: I don’t think that exposing children to messaging that implies that eating meat is basically evil is right. This sort of tactic could lead to serious issues with food later in life. Children’s brains are still developing and they don’t have the same capacity for decision making as adults. This method of pushing veganism on them seems harsh. To address the second issue: Yes, a vegan diet can be nutritionally appropriate at any age. And prior to my brief stint as a vegan I would have been all for parents deciding to feed their children a vegan diet. However, I am a little bit more reluctant to say that now (queue the vegan hate mail). The thing is, a vegan diet must be done well, and supplements are needed to ensure adequate nutrition at any age but especially for a growing child. It’s a LOT of work to do a vegan diet well and children are notoriously finicky eaters. Also, many store-bought vegan meat substitutes are substitutes in appearance only, not in nutrition. You need to be very well informed about food and nutrition to provide an healthy vegan diet for a child.
I think that it’s important to keep an open mind when feeding your child and this goes both ways (for both the omnivorous and herbivorous parents). I recently listened to a mother of a young child complaining that he wouldn’t eat meat and she was worried that he would become nutritionally deficient. In a situation like this I would recommend trying to get him to eat other sources of protein such as tofu, legumes, nuts, eggs, etc. She, for some reason, was not receptive to this idea and was convinced that he needed to learn to eat chicken. Just as she should be open minded to non-meat sources of protein and iron, I think that vegetarian and vegan parents should consider the possibility of feeding their children animal products. Sure, principles are important, but these are personal values (hopefully) to be instilled in children through example and not through dictatorship. Your priority should be the health and wellbeing of your child.