When my son was born I decided to raise him on a vegetarian diet. Not because I wanted to impose my will on him, but mainly because I’d been a vegetarian for years before my son came along, and cooking two different meals three times a day didn’t sound like my idea of a good time. Thankfully, no one came along and arrested me, but this sort of situation could change in Italy if parliamentarian Elvira Savino has anything to say about it. Savino, a member of the conservative Forza Italia party, has proposed a law that parents of children on a vegan diet could face jail time. The preamble of Savino’s bill, as posted by the BBC, shows that Savino’s proposal is extremely unsettling, stating that the real problem with vegetarian or vegan diets arises when children are involved, because, “The vegetarian or vegan diet is, in fact, deficient in zinc, iron, vitamin D, vitamin B12 and omega-3.” Her bill further aims to, “stigmatise the reckless and dangerous eating behaviour imposed by parents” who pursue a vegan diet, “to the detriment of minors.” In a phone call to Reuters, Savino showed that her intent is indeed as extreme as the bill sounds, stating, “I have nothing against vegans or veganism as long as it is a free choice by adults. I just find it absurd that some parents are allowed to impose their will on children in an almost fanatical, religious way, often without proper scientific knowledge or medical consultation.”

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If this bill passes, what then? Well, offenders (vegetarian and vegan parents) can face up to one year in jail for simply feeding their child a plant-based diet, four years if the child suffers illness or permanent injury, and up to six years in the case of death. Not surprisingly, the BBC reports that nutrition experts have challenged the validity of the bill. Others are worried that the bill’s imprecise wording could be used to punish more parents than just vegans or vegetarians, for example, parents of obese kids.

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So, let’s sum it up. Basically, this bill is doing exactly what it says it stands against – imposing a will on others, forcing children to eat meat, eggs, cheese and other animal products or else their parents could go to jail. It also imposes a will on adults, forcing them to buy and cook food for their kids that they themselves don’t want to eat or buy. Savino says she proposed her anti-vegan law due to her dismay when doctors determined that a one year-old hospitalized boy in Milan, had the weight of a three month-old due to a vegan diet. She told Reuters that, “If even only one child ends up in a hospital because of this behavior, I feel we have to protect them all.” Savino, also said pediatricians should be obliged to report vegan parents to authorities just like they’re obliged to report child abuse!

Children ending up in a hospital due to a vegan diet is an extreme situation — and much more rare than obese children who end up with diabetes, or you know, children who are actually abused by abusive parents. Vegan and vegetarian diets are considered acceptable by many major health experts, for adults and children. In fact, both the American Dietetic Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics state that a well-planned vegan diet can support adequate nutrition in the growing child. Take a look at the following links to learn more.

The draft of Savino’s proposal is expected to be discussed this year by parliamentary committees before it goes to the floor for debate.

+ Reuters (Rome)

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