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Sunday, May 20, 2012

Vegan Is Love Cooks Up Controversy

If you're a regular here, you know that I've tried to make you aware of dozens of books that could be helpful to anyone who wants to control or eliminate the dairy in their dairy. That covers a huge range, from the basics of lactose intolerance to books on keeping kosher to non-dairy cookbooks to almost anything vegan. I've been doing this forever, since the 1990s in fact, when I added the Milk-Free Bookstore section to my website. (Remember websites? Apparently I don't, given how little updating I've done of mine lately. Most of the information there remains good, though. And just browsing through the titles should give you an understanding of the incredible range of materials out there waiting to be used.)

So I'm a friend to vegans. Always have been. Except, of course, for the nutty fringes, like PETA. Or Jenny McCarthy. I hate all nutty fringes, of all descriptions and varieties.

What am I to make of what one child psychologist called "the most disturbing children’s book I’ve ever seen"?

The book in question is Vegan Is Love: Having Heart and Taking Action by Ruby Roth

Book Description

Publication Date: April 24, 2012 | Age Level: 7 and up | Grade Level: 2 and up

In Vegan Is Love, author-illustrator Ruby Roth introduces young readers to veganism as a lifestyle of compassion and action. Broadening the scope of her popular first book That’s Why We Don’t Eat Animals, Roth illustrates how our daily choices ripple out locally and globally, conveying what we can do to protect animals, the environment, and people across the world. Roth explores the many opportunities we have to make ethical decisions: refusing products tested on or made from animals; avoiding sea parks, circuses, animal races, and zoos; choosing to buy organic food; and more. Roth's message is direct but sensitive, bringing into sharp focus what it means to "put our love into action." Featuring empowering back-of-the-book resources on action children can take themselves, this is the next step for adults and kids alike to create a more sustainable and compassionate world.

What makes the book controversial? Alyssa Giocobbe's blog, which is also where I found the child psychologist's quote, said the book:

explores complex themes like animal cruelty, big agriculture, and world hunger, and while the message is not overly heavy-handed, Roth doesn't dance around the idea that she believes eating meat will destroy the Earth and everyone we love, and soon — a heady concept for a kid, for sure.

It's unquestionably true that meat takes a larger toll on the environment than plants per unit, although it's not absolutely clear what the net result would be if we had to put many more acres under cultivation in order to go to an all-plant diet. I continue to eat meat myself, without guilt, although I try to keep portions to no more than 4 ounces at a meal. The gigantic servings that are the norm at restaurants and many homes are a waste and a recipe for obesity and health issues.

As an adult, I can make these choices for myself. Children cannot. I've listed many books that give parents help in putting and keeping their children on vegetarian or vegan diets. You can do this safely and healthily for a child, but you need to be even more vigilant than normal. As Giacobbe wrote:

John Bagnulo, PhD, MPH, who teaches nutrition in Kripalu Healthy Living programs, says that kids can be very healthy as vegans, but it's important to remember that it's not as simple as "just eat plants." For example, a vegan diet for children that is mostly grain, flour, and fruit juice is much more unhealthy than one that's mostly fruits and vegetables with, say, small amounts of fish, he says. "So many vegetarian and vegan parents embark on this journey with the misconception that kids have the same nutritional needs as adults," says John. "Nothing could be further from reality. Kids' brains are developing so fast and there is clear evidence that high-quality essential fatty acids, like those found in oily fish, are a factor in brain development. You can also get these nutrients in raw walnuts, raw pumpkin seeds, freshly ground flax seeds, and power-packed specific greens such as purslane." But getting them is essential. B12 and zinc are also critical.

This is a New Age-oriented site with heavy amounts of woo making these cautions. I'm quoting it in the hopes that the words coming from her have more of an impact than a warning from an old-fashioned carnivore like me. No matter how you raise your child, do your research. And keep away from the nutty fringes.

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