In 2008 a child in Lewisham was taken to hospital after collapsing at home where doctors alerted social workers to the case. They suggested that the child’s meat and dairy free diet caused him to have rickets, being low in various nutrients. Social workers then got a restriction order preventing the family ‘snatching’ the child from hospital suggesting that neglect leading to malnutrition had caused the illness.
The mother said
“They implied we had selectively starved one of our children. They twisted things, saying we were vegans even though we eat fish. We don’t eat dairy because asthma runs in the family and that can make it worse, but we are not vegans. We were told by social workers that they had obtained an emergency protection order in case we tried to snatch our son from the hospital, which was quite ridiculous.”
Social services continued to attempt to take the child into care but failed and eventually the child was removed from the at-risk register. While this case highlights various problems within the care protection and justice systems (legal aid was stopped because the case was considered unwinnable), it also questions the efficacy of raising children on ‘restrictive’ diets. Are the risks too great for children to thrive on a vegan diet?
Amanda Baker from the Vegan Society thinks not. She pointed out that health problems from bad diets can occur for children regardless of their diet ‘type‘. Besides, there are many health benefits associated with a vegan diet that children following regular diets lack.
When I first became vegan, many years ago I bought the excellent Vegan Nutrition by Gill Langley and later Plant Based Nutrition for Health from the Vegan Society. Either or both of these arm parents with sufficient information to very successfully bring up a vegan child. The Langley book has an entire section on child nutrition from a vegan perspective both before and after conception! There are also guides for parents wanting bring up kids on vegan diets available at the Vegetarian Resource Group and the Vegan Society.
I read these books years ago and absorbed the general message rather than strict guidelines. Variety is key to healthy living. Get plenty of fruit and vegetables of various colours, mix your pulses, and go for whole foods rather than processed rubbish. EAT A WIDE RANGE OF HEALTHY FOODS, COOK FOR YOURSELF.
Of course we’re not all angels and we will take the easy options at times but as the Vegan Examiner points out vegans are more likely to cook food than take the TV dinner ready meal option. This diet provides children with a greater number of pro’s than cons in comparison to others with ‘regular’ diets. There’s no need to go into the health benefits of the vegan dietsuffice to say there are plenty of benefits not least reduced risk of obesity, a growing problem for children in Western societies.
The case referred to is a terrible injustice derived from prejudice or at the very least misinformation. This case is surely illegal under Harman’s Equality Law, the social workers in this case really need to learn from their mistakes so this nonsense doesn’t have to be repeated with another family wasting time and money while causing huge upset.
As a general point, I dislike the term ‘restrictive diet’. I have mentioned before that becoming vegan, rather than restricting what I ate opened up a whole new world of options. That really is the way to do it, in my opinion.