Vegan Book For Children Putting Parents In A Needless Tizzy

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vegan is loveVeganism and vegetarianism for children doesn’t have the best PR. Every time a vegan baby or child pops in the news, they’re usually on the brink of starvation having been malnourished by some truly whack job parents who only fed their babies soy milk and apple juice. But while those extreme cases always tend to garner media attention, much like everything else, a well thought out vegan diet is pretty healthful. But that fact alone doesn’t seem to assuage parents all panicked about Vegan Is Love, a children’s book by Ruby Roth.

The book reportedly explores animal testing, “clothing choices,” animals in the entertainment industry, as well as dietary practices for a child audience. Today Moms reports:

“The main problem I have with this book is that children are impressionable, and this is too sensitive of a topic to have a child read this book,” Nicole German, a registered dietitian in Atlanta, writes on her blog. “It could easily scare a young child into eating vegan, and, without proper guidance, that child could become malnourished.”

Without proper guidance, definitely. As what often doesn’t get discussed in conversations surrounding vegan children is how picky so many children are. And although the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has deemed a balanced vegan diet appropriate for all stages of life, the odds of a child consuming enough tempeh to compensate for those absent chicken nuggets is pretty slim. Generally speaking, children’s palates are often not developed enough to go those extra dietary miles to ensure that all vitamins and nutrients are being consumed — and that isn’t even innate to veganism.

Who only knows if the many children on meat heavy or even meat moderate diets are getting all the nutrition they need, as kids tend to get their vitamins where they can stand them. For many families, this means peas every night of the week or perhaps just raw carrots along with fish sticks because that is about all their children will consume.

A vegan children’s book perhaps scaring those children into even further limited dietary terrain is a valid parenting condern, but one that of course can only be gauged by parents.

Scare tactics — which this book doesn’t seem to contain — are never a practical way to convey anything to children, including that recent PETA ad that popped a dog head on a turkey. The ad, which was geared directly towards children, asked them if they would ever consider eating their pet — and I wasn’t a fan. But having peeked through Vegan Is Love, the topic does seem to be framed in age-appropriate way that is nowhere near your standard “Meat is Murder!” tirade. Even the depictions of animal testing are pretty tame, with morose monkeys sitting in the shadows behind bars.

Vegan Is Love also teaches children how to identify cruelty-free products and asks them to consider how their clothing is made. A page towards the back encourages them to write letters to companies and individuals urging them to have more animal-friendly policies and to adopt animals from shelters rather than breeders. Certain pages remind children that “your choices are powerful” and ” ‘What kind of person do I want to be?’ and decide the answer for yourself.”

Vegan Is Love, although written in a “we” narrative, seems to merely ask children to think about where their products and their food comes from. And if that question alone spurs uncomfortable questions for parents and children, then perhaps those questions need answering.

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  1. Clericsdaughter

    April 17, 2012 at 3:45 pm

    What bothers me is not the promotion of a meat-free lifestyle, but the implication that those who don’t choose it are bad people who should feel guilty. I’m especially wary of that line at the end, “What kind of person do I want to be?” The goal seems to be in getting the child to feel that this is a black-and-white choice: good people become vegans and bad people use animal products. It seems to me like relying on guilt and doubt is a poor way to pass on your beliefs to your children. I’m not a vegetarian or vegan, but why not emphasize the positive side of your choice by emphasizing how delicious and healthy your diet can be, rather than spooking a kid with images of suffering animals?

  2. hthrd

    April 18, 2012 at 8:59 am

    If being kind to animals is part of being a good person, then not being vegan DOES make you a worse person. Animals are suffering, on a massive scale, and it is directly caused by the demand for milk and meat. The more chicken nuggets you eat, the more horrible things happen to animals. Most people have built up some layers of denial in order to be ok with their daily choices. I don’t think stripping away some of that denial is a bad thing.

    • Another Steph

      April 18, 2012 at 7:37 pm

      I eat free range wherever possible and I also live in a country with a government that is constantly reviewing the meat industry to ensure that animals aren’t suffering unecessarily, but thank you for making massive assumptions about me and my moral worth.

      Unless you’re claiming that eating any meat = making animals suffer = bad, in which case we should start shaming lions and other predators for ripping animals to pieces while they’re still alive.

  3. Kel

    April 19, 2012 at 11:05 pm

    I am vegan; I haven’t seen the book.

    I’ve never been huge fan of “issue” children’s books on the whole–and by “children’s books” I’m thinking books that are geared towards non-readers who sit with their parents with a book, which would be somewhere around ages 2-5ish. To me, 2-5 y.o. is kind of young to take on issues such as animal testing and factory farming–2-5 y.o. is ALSO too young to take on issues such as the Holocaust or war, both of which crop up as issue children’s books topics.

    I do think that children should learn, eventually, that many of the products we use were animals at one time, just as I think that they should learn about war and the Holocaust and prejudice and all the difficult things in this world. So for me, it’s not so much the message itself, it’s more the method, in this case.

    And, ITA with Clericsdaughter–I’m a vegan but not enamored with PETA (they do some great things; they do some not-so-great things) and I also think that it’s counterproductive to guilt anyone into any kind of behavior. Veganism has taught me so much about cooking and preparing food and before I committed to being vegan all the way, it was truly an expansion of my existing diet. There’s much to celebrate about the lifestyle and the cuisine that doesn’t involve being smug, preachy, or guilty and I agree that satisfaction, creativity, and health is what we should be imparting to our kids about their diets, omni or vegan alike.

  4. Esbee

    April 21, 2012 at 7:46 am

    it is ok to be vegan if you want to but I do not like the militant way vegans attack others who chose different diets is downright fascist…talk about intolerance in a society where we are supposed to be tolerant of all life styles…

    hey what does a french cannibal eat? EMIL (for those who do not know French, Emil is a boy;s name pronounced A- MEAL !) Get it?

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