Should Children Become Vegan? The Debate Goes On...
At a time when even cats and dogs are going vegan, talking about kids adopting this practice should not be such a bad thing. However, poor author Ruby Roth is being criticized severely for writing a book that encourages children to go vegan. Her book, “Vegan is Love,” has created all the wrong noises in the publishing world as many of her critics feel that talking to kids about veganism may be just too much. Read more about it here...
1) ‘Vegan is Love’
Ruby Roth’s new children’s book is her second, after she wrote, “That’s Why We Don’t Eat Animals.” As titles go, her books sure challenge some popular notions of our times. However, in her latest book, she wants parents to go beyond the “birds and the bees”, “sharing is caring,” and “don’t be a bully” talks and talk to their children about why veganism is good for them. Her book talks about why vegans don’t eat meat or any product that may contain any animal part, e.g., eggs, dairy, or leather. It advocates living on a pure vegan diet. The 40-page long book is mainly aimed at 7-year-olds and is appealing with its graphic illustrations, bright colors and mices, bunnies, dogs, and cats. Another concept that Roth tries to propagate through the book is that children should not be taken to zoos, circuses, or aquariums.
2) The Criticism
The major criticism against her book is that children, especially those which the book is targeting, are too young to understand these complex concepts. Turning vegan or shunning zoo visits is something children at that age will not be able to comprehend, say the critics. Although, the message to turn pro-vegan is not under dispute here, the debate is over whether it is appropriate to put children on a diet free of animal products from such a tender age. The experts are concerned that the book may be setting a wrong precedent. One child psychologist, Jennifer Hart Steen, says, “There’s so much fear presented in the book and if you would just give it to a child as a children’s book, they don’t understand it. So now they’re just going to be afraid.” Hart Steen also feels that the title – Vegan is Love, Having Heart and Taking Action – can send a message that if they don’t turn vegan, they “don’t get to feel love.” Another expert, dietitian Nicole German wrote in her blog that the book scares children into turning vegan. Her grouse is that “without proper guidance, that child could become malnourished.”
3) Her Defense
Roth is a stepmother to a 7-year-old daughter, Akira, and she wrote the book knowing fully well that she would face backlash. Says Roth, “These are all things every vegan hears on a daily basis. Of course there are going to be questions about misinformation.” In fact, she turned vegan after she was challenged to do so and since then has stuck to the vegan lifestyle, as she explains, “I lost weight, had more energy, and never went back.” Speaking about the illustrations in her book and their graphic nature, Roth says, “I don’t think that there’s anything in my book that a kid wouldn’t see walking in a supermarket or watching TV. I didn’t exaggerate anything. I wanted kids to recognize what they see in the book.” She is harsh to lash back at her critics when she says, “If the American public knew about the abuse, the outrage (associated with eating meat), the outrage would be directed at the industry and not this children’s book.” All said and done, Roth is not in favor of forcing children to do something as she herself won’t. The author says, “I will never try to control what she eats, in the end it’s up to her. The best we can do is make sure our kids have the information [they need] to make choices. My hope was to reach people who raise kids to love deeply.”
4) The Support
Not everyone is criticizing Roth’s book though. There are those who feel that the book is right in propagating a right way to eat and live. Addressing concerns about children being too young to start veganism, nutritionists say that a vegan diet would, in fact, be a healthy option for little kids as long as they receive adequate supplements in the form of nutrients and proteins. Dr. David Katz, director of the Yale Prevention Center is also supportive of Roth’s efforts as he says, “Adults are too willing to turn a blind eye to the way our animal-based diets are achieved. Adults can make the conscious choice not to look there, to help protect a lifetime of dietary preferences. Kids are more malleable and impressionable. Maybe childhood is the best time to create awareness and change behaviour accordingly.”
Veganism is catching up big time in the world of today, so much so that people are even starting to open vegan restaurants. In such a scenario, teaching your kids about vegan friendly foods can't be such a crime. Roth, an acclaimed activist, writer, and artist, has two other children, who are also vegan. She says, “With vegan choices, we can affect every major industry and reach every corner of world.” Whether the book meets that aim or not is yet to be decided but the kind of controversial publicity that it has generated, the message, for sure, will not go unheard. Would you want your child to read this book?