Feeding a child a vegan diet is “unsuitable and not to be recommended,” according to the Royal Academy of Medicine. The academy was consulted by Bernard De Vos, the children's rights commissioner for the French-speaking community, as hospitals in Belgium were reporting a growing number of children reporting with various ailment while being fed a vegan diet by their parents. The academy has now given its clear opinion.
A vegan diet is one that excludes all forms of animal-based food – not only meat and fish, but also eggs, milk and dairy products and in some cases even honey, which is seen as a product of the exploitation of bees. Strict vegans refuse to wear animal fibres such as wool, as well as other animal products like leather.
An estimated 3% of children in Belgium are living in households where a vegan diet is a rule.
A vegan regime, says the academy report, is “unsuitable and therefore not recommended for infants in the womb, for children and adolescents, as well as for pregnant and nursing mothers,” the report says.
The academy tasked professor Georges Casimir of the Queen Fabiola Children's Hospital with compiling the report. For him, forcing a child to maintain a vegan diet could be considered maltreatment.
“When we are children, the body manufactures among other things brain cells. That brings with it a major requirement for proteins and essential fatty acids,” he told Le Soir. “The body itself does not produce these, they have to be taken in from animal proteins. We are speaking here of retarded growth in height and weight, as well as retarded psycho-motor development, malnutrition an severe anaemia. Some developments have to take place at a precise moment of life. Otherwise, the delay is irreversible. It is not recommended, and may even be forbidden, to submit a child, in particular during periods of rapid growth, to a potentially destabilising diet.”
As far as dealing with the problem, he comes down against making this form of “mistreatment” a legal question. “We need to explain to parents before forcing them, but we cannot any longer tolerate this endangerment.”
The Brussels Times