Sunday, April 29, 2012
Vegan Children's Book Stirs Controversy, Sparks Debate
It's been a crazy week for vegan author Ruby Roth.
Her children's book, "Vegan is Love, Having Heart and Taking Action", has stirred debate across the web and on television.
At issue is the pro-vegan message within the book and illustrations that some consider too graphic for children.
Some of the first criticism for the book came from L.A. Times columnist, Alexandra Le Tellier. In a column entitled "Babies Don't Want Vegan Mommies?" Le Tellier cited a theory by Swedish researchers that meat helped enhance the evolution of man. She also cited a cookbook author, Nina Planck, who claimed that vegan diets lack essential nutrients and vitamins for babies.
Miami New Times blogger Camille Lamb wrote a fabulous rebuttal to LeTellier's article that debunked the arguments against a vegan diet. She pointed out that, though meat may have been helpful in evolution, it is now making humans develop too quickly. She also took Planck to school as she pin-pointed her many false statements about the unhealthiness of a vegan diet.
To Le Tellier's credit, she responded with a more balanced follow-up column that shined light on both sides of the argument and highlighted some of the criticism her initial column received.
The debate didn't end there though. Meat advocates such as Sally Fallen Morell, president of the Weston A. Price Foundation, called Roth's book "extremely dangerous". Morell went on to say that a vegan child will not develop to his or her optimal potential, even though she provided no scientific evidence to support that statement.
The Today Show even featured Roth's book in a segment on "Extreme Parenting". During the segment, they claimed that it is easier for vegan children to miss out on essential nutrients. They even referred to the diet as a trend even though, earlier in the segment, they cited the Acadamy of Nutrition and Dietetics saying that a vegan diet is healthy in all stages of the life cycle.
We find this debate troubling on a number of levels.
First, the anti-vegan arguments do not seem to be backed up by any hard, scientific facts. They seem more motivated by a personal bias against a vegan diet, as evidenced by the use of words like "extreme" and "dangerous". Many of the "experts" are, in fact, affiliated with the meat and dairy industry in some way. For instance, Planck sells cookbooks that claim that butter and lard are good for you and Morell works for a foundation that claims you can't be healthy unless you eat butter.
We also find it troubling that people are more obsessed with a vegan children's book than by what the children are actually eating in their school lunches. This book is not required reading for children, yet most children are given one option at school of starchy, sugary, overcooked mush for their lunches. If parents are so concerned about nutrition, shouldn't there be a huge uproar over the lack of nutrition in the actual food at school?
Finally, to reiterate, this book is NOT required reading for children. Even if it was, the last time we checked, your child could still opt out of reading certain books at the parents request. For parents who choose to raise their children as vegans, this book could be a helpful learning tool. For those who choose a more traditional diet, they can leave it on the shelf. It's simple freedom of choice.
As for Ms. Roth herself, we want to wish her the best of luck for her new book. With the amount of publicity it has already received, we think it will be a smashing success. Thank you controversy.