Tom Parker Bowles said that raising children on a vegan diet is child abuse on ITV’s This Morning show. It went unchallenged, but as it’s a serious accusation, we felt it would be appropriate to react to it. Below is our letter to ITV.
To whomever it may concern:
I’m writing to you on behalf of Viva! (Vegetarians International Voice for Animals) and Viva! Health.
We were very disappointed by the comment Tom Parker Bowles made on ITV’s This Morning about raising children on a vegan diet. He said: 'All these ridiculous hippies who bang on and tell us that we shouldn't be eating this, we should be eating vegan raw diets...for children, that's child abuse, I think.'
While it may be ‘just’ his opinion, it remained unchallenged and given that it is a serious accusation, we feel it is necessary to rectify that.
Plant based diets are the healthiest possible and, when appropriately planned, are perfectly suitable for infants and children. Many health and nutrition professionals recognise this and publicly recommend such diets.
It is the position of the American Dietetic Association1 that: ‘appropriately planned vegetarian diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases. Well-planned vegetarian diets are appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes.’
And as a joint report of the World health Organisation and Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations2 states: ‘Households should select predominantly plant-based diets rich in a variety of vegetables and fruits, pulses or legumes, and minimally processed starchy staple foods. The evidence that such diets will prevent or delay a significant proportion of non-communicable chronic diseases is consistent.’
While there is an overwhelming number of studies showing that plant based diets are healthy and should be recommended, uneducated comments such as that made by Tom Parker Bowles are very harmful as they send a very flawed message to the public. In fact, diets based on animal products and high in saturated fats are the reason we are facing a public health crisis with numbers of people suffering from heart disease, diabetes, obesity, etc. reaching epidemic levels. Promoting such diets is simply wrong and accusing people living a healthy lifestyle of child abuse is inexcusable.
Although we cannot change Tom Parker Bowles’ opinion, we think it would be appropriate that you issue a statement clarifying that labelling vegan parents guilty of child abuse is unacceptable and untruthful. Should you wish, we can offer an expert quote or recommend renowned nutrition authorities to contact.
We also offer an easy-to-use nutrition guide for parents planning to or raising their children on a vegan diet, you can access it here: http://www.viva.org.uk/guides/new-mother-baby-guide.pdf.
I’m looking forward to hearing back from you.
1 Craig, W., Mangels, A.R., American Dietetic Association, 2009. Position of the American Dietetic Association: vegetarian diets. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 109 (7) 1266-1282
2 Report of a joint FAO/WHO expert consultation Bangkok, Thailand, 2001. Human Vitamin and Mineral Requirements. Food and Nutrition Division FAO Rome