An estimated 3% of Belgian children are vegans — and doctors think their parents ought to be prosecuted, the Telegraph reported.
The Royal Academy of Medicine of Belgium, in an opinion published Thursday, asserted it is unethical to subject children to a diet that does not include animal proteins and amino acids that can help growth and prevent health problems.
The vegan diet could only be made safe for growing children if complemented with medical supervision, regular blood tests, and vitamin supplements, the academy opinion stated.
"We must explain to the parents before compelling them," said pediatrician Georges Casimir, who led the commission that wrote the report, "but we can no longer tolerate this endangerment," the Telegraph reported.
"It is not medically recommended and even forbidden to subject a child, especially during periods of rapid growth, to a potentially destabilizing diet, requiring frequent supplementation and control," the opinion added.
"This concept of nutrition is similar to a form of treatment that it is not ethical to impose on children."
The opinion was published after a request by Bernard Devos, a regional government official — and reportedly followed a number of deaths, in schools, nurseries, and hospitals, the Telegraph reported.
Casimir warned the strict vegan regime would legally qualify as "non-assistance to a person in danger," a crime that carries a sentence of up to two years and fines in Belgium.
"We are talking here about stunted growth and psychomotor delays, undernutrition, significant anemia," he said, the Telegraph reported. "Some developments must be done at a specific time in life, and if they are not done, it is irreversible."
British vegans pushed back.
"[National Health Service] nutritionists confirm that while a meat- and dairy-based diet is what strikes people down in adulthood – as it can lead to hardened arteries that cause stroke, brain aneurysms, and heart attacks – a well-planned vegan diet is perfect for babies and children," Dawn Carr, of PETA, told the Telegraph.
Heather Russell, dietitian at The Vegan Society, in Britain asserted "it's possible to provide all the nutrients needed for growth and development without animal products."
"Both the British Dietetic Association and the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recognize that well-planned vegan diets can support healthy living in people of all ages, including infants, children, teenagers, and pregnant and breastfeeding women," she added.
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