Should Vegans Impose Their Diets On Their Children?

​Parents who choose to feed their children a vegan diet in Italy could face a prison sentence


The world would be a much easier place if we could all choose our identity and beliefs at birth. 

But unfortunately, until we are of an age when we can point at things or voice an opinion, there are some choices our parents have to take the reins on – from deciding whether we'll follow a religion and the names on our birth certificates to what language we'll speak or the clothes we wear.

But, if you've ever had a long debate with friends about the pros and cons of certain dietary habits, such as veganism or flexitarianism, there's always one question that divides opinion with regards to the boundaries of parental control: should parents impose their eating habits on their children? 


Whether you like to think you can give children the choice, parents are ultimately the decision-makers as they're the ones buying and preparing the meals. 

As a result, most parents would agree that bringing up a child with the same eating habits makes the weekly shop cheaper and mealtimes easier, as food is being bought and cooked en masse. 

For many, bringing up a child with a particular alimentary discipline is akin to bringing them up within a religion.  If the values are important to the parents, they'll want them to be as important to their offspring.


However, others believe that restricting foods from a child's diet, such as meat, fish or dairy, is irresponsible. 

la (Italian) chiquita banana?💃🏼🇮🇹🍒🍌🍓🍋

A photo posted by Karlie Kloss (@karliekloss) on

This debate has never been more pertinent than in Italy, where a draft bill to parliament claims parents who force their children to be vegan impose a diet 'devoid of essential elements for [children's] healthy and balanced growth' and therefore deserve to go to prison.

Yes, you read that correctly – prison. 

According to the BBC, the bill – which is proposed by Elivra Savino of the right-of-centre Forza Italia party of which former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi was a member (of course) – suggests that if the bill is passed, offenders who subject their children to veganism could face up to a year in prison, rising to four years if the child suffers permanent health complications and six years in the case of death.


The bill comes after four cases in the last 18 months where children at a vegan diet were hospitalised in Italy.

Explaining the proposed bill, Savino says: 'There is no objection if the person making this choice is an informed adult. The problem arises when children are involved... The vegetarian or vegan diet is, in fact, deficient in zinc, iron, vitamin D, vitamin B12 and omega-3.'

However, the American Dietetic Association argues feeding children vegan diets poses no risk to the youngsters, as long as parents are vigilant as to which vitamins might be lacking from their diets, such as vitamin B12 which can be replenished with easily digestible supplements. 

The bill – which will be discussed by the chamber later this year – has also sparked off a debate among nutritionists who are concerned as its credibility and whether the bill's wording might result in some parents being condemned over the slightest change in their children's eating habits, be it with the occasional McDonalds after school or an avocado on toast for breakfast. 

Is it extreme to punish parents for feeding their children vegan food or is it a valid way to ensure the health and protection of children? 

Let us know what you think @ELLEUK

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