Animal Aid

BUILDING A VEGGIE FUTURE - The vegetarian parents' questionnaire

Baby Lucas will be brought up vegan.

This photo shows Kat Macmillan, husband Mat and Lucas, just a half hour after his home birth. Says Kat: "I am vegan, my husband is veggie. We will bring our son up vegan and believe that by offering him a wide, varied diet and by not hiding from him the truth about where meat comes from, he will make the decision to remain vegan or veggie into his adult life. I had no problems with pregnancy, birth or breastfeeding and Lucas has been nothing but healthy and happy. I would never feed dead animals to my children, I know of the horrors of the meat and dairy industries and there is no doubt in my mind that a vegan diet is the healthiest diet of all for children, babies, pregnant mothers, teenagers and adults alike."

What parents say:

"I find it disturbing that health professionals (including dieticians and nutritionists) have such little knowledge of veganism. Rather than admit they don't understand what it involves, they choose to offer misinformed and prejudiced 'advice!'"

Jo - Birmingham, West Midlands, whose daughter Serena is 7 months old

"Hospital staff and student nurses here are told that babies/children who are raised vegetarian will be more prone to illness and death than others! I know because I am one of these nurses!"

Deb - west of Scotland, whose daughter Daisy is 6

Despite a clear endorsement of vegetarianism from respected medical bodies, vegetarian parents may receive conflicting advice from GPs and health visitors on a local level. Animal Aid has called on the British Medical Association and the Department of Health to issues guidelines to all health practitioners that will enable them to provide their patients with sound advice on vegetarian diets. These guidelines should clarify that a balanced vegetarian diet is not only 100% healthy for children, it can actually offer health advantages.

"Matthew is a happy, lovable, healthy 18 month old vegan. He is the best thing ever and is continually amazing us! We have had fantastic support from our family and friends, and our health visitor was interested and supportive, over raising him as a vegan."

Vicky and Matthew - Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire

"When Michael was young he suffered terrible headaches and pains in his legs, so bad he could not walk at times. The doctor told me it was because I made him vegetarian and that he was lacking in calcium. He told me to make sure Michael drank at least two pints of milk a day. I gave Michael extra milk and he got worse, so bad that I took him to the hospital where he was diagnosed with an allergy to dairy products."

Sheena - York, North Yorkshire, whose son, Michael, is now 19

Why vegan? The dairy industry argues that it provides a range of irreplaceable, health-sustaining milk, cheese, yoghurt and flavoured drink products. Not only are there now delicious, dairy-free versions of all these items but there are no nutrients in milk products that cannot be obtained from plant food - calcium included.

a name="refs">References

  1. British Medical Association, Diet, Nutrition and Health, BMA Report, 4, 11, p.49, 1986.
  2. Messina VK, Burke KI, Position of the American Dietetic Association: Vegetarian Diets. J Am Diet Assoc 1997; 97: 1317-1321.
  3. Dwyer JT, Miller LG, Arduino NL et al, Mental age and IQ of predominantly vegetarian children. J Am Diet Assoc 1980; 76: 142-7.
  4. NHS wakes up to child obesity crisis, The Observer, 03.11/02.

In the second section of Building a Veggie Future, we report on the reactions of other people outside the veggie family, including relatives, friends and teachers.

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