Animal Aid


Posted 12 February 2003
Building a Veggie Future, the new report from Animal Aid

Despite a clear endorsement of vegetarianism from respected medical bodies**, around one in five vegetarian parents who are bringing up their children on a meat-free diet face negative pressure from their doctors and health visitors.

The revelation comes in a major new Animal Aid survey based on the experiences of nearly 800 veggie parents throughout the UK. Wrote one of the respondents: "Hospital staff and student nurses where I work 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!"

The new report, called Building a Veggie Future: Animal Aid's Vegetarian Parents' Questionnaire, is published to mark the start, on March 1, of Veggie Month - the annual nation-wide celebration of the meat-free diet organised by Animal Aid.

Building a Veggie Future shows that, despite encountering prejudice and misplaced advice, most vegetarian parents succeed in bringing their children up veggie without real difficulty. In fact, while around 20% of veggie parents face negative pressure from doctors and health visitors, almost the same percentage receive encouragement from medical professionals.

Said Animal Aid Director Andrew Tyler:

"For the first time, veggie parents have spoken out about the prejudice they can face from doctors when following their conscience and giving their children a diet that is both healthy and animal-friendly. That most are undeterred by the negative pressure is testimony to the strength of their own convictions and to the common cause they find with a rapidly increasing number of other veggie families."

Animal Aid has called on the British Medical Association and the Department of Health to issue 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 meat-free diet is not only 100% healthy for children, it can actually offer health advantages.

Notes to Editors

  • Building a Veggie Future: Animal Aid's Vegetarian Parents' Questionnaire (available from 25th February in hard copy or on our website, describes, in their own words, the experiences of veggie parents throughout the UK. Many parents are available for interview. Contact the office for details.
  • The new report is available to the public on request as part of a free Veggie Month pack that includes lots of nutritional, health, recipe and animal welfare information. The pack can be ordered through the group's website, by email (, by post, or via the special Veggie Line: 01732 354032.
  • For more information call Becky Lilly or Andrew Tyler on 01732 364546.
  • We have an ISDN line for broadcast-quality interviews.

**As early as 1986, the British Medical Association stated that, 'Vegetarians have lower rates of obesity, coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, large bowel disorders, cancers and gall stones. Cholesterol levels tend to be lower in vegetarians.' It concluded that vegetarians have higher folate levels and that the diet is therefore suitable for infants. (British Medical Association, Diet, Nutrition and Health, BMA Report, 4, 11, p.49, 1986.)

The influential American Dietetic Association (ADA) agrees. In its 1997 position paper on vegetarian diets, it states: 'Appropriately planned vegan and lacto-ovo-vegetarian diets satisfy nutrient needs of infants, children and adolescents and promote normal growth.' (Messina VK, Burke KI, Position of the American Dietetic Association: Vegetarian Diets. J Am Diet Assoc 1997; 97: 1317-1321.) In another study, published in the ADA's journal, paediatric developmental tests in vegetarian children indicated a mental age that was advanced more than a year beyond chronological age. Their mean IQ - at 116 points - was well above average. (Dwyer JT, Miller LG, Arduino NL et al, Mental age and IQ of predominantly vegetarian children. J Am Diet Assoc 1980; 76: 142-7.)

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