Health professionals in Belgium say that parents raising children as vegans should be prosecuted because forcing kids into this lifestyle amounts to ill-treatment.
It is estimated that 3 percent of Belgian children are raised vegan, according to the Belgian Royal Academy of Medicine, which serves as an advisory organ for governmental institutions.
The Academy has published a legal opinion, seen by local newspaper Le Soir, which is said to assert that a vegan diet causes under-nutrition and growth delays and is not recommended for pregnant women, children and adolescents, or for women who are lactating.
The health professionals maintain that such a diet leads to particular deficiencies in high-biological-value proteins, vitamin B12, vitamin D, calcium, iron, zinc and iodine, as well as docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which is essential to the development of the brain in infants.
"It is not medically recommended and even forbidden to subject a child, especially during periods of rapid growth, to a potentially destabilising diet, requiring frequent supplementation and control," reads the statement, noting that it is not ethical to impose a vegan diet on children.
"We must explain to the parents before forcing them," said Professor Georges Casimir, a paediatrician who led the commission that wrote the report, "but we can no longer tolerate this endangerment."
He told Le Soir that forcing children into veganism will now fall under a Belgian law that makes it a crime to fail to provide assistance to a person in danger, which is punishable by up to two years in jail and fines.
This finding was reportedly commissioned at the request of Bernard De Vos, ombudsman for children's rights in Belgium's French Community, who was alarmed by the increasing number of health complications (including deaths) among children in hospitals, nurseries and schools.
Since a plant-based diet is not technically prohibited in Belgium, imposing it on children will not necessarily qualify as child neglect but will make it easier for authorities to remove the child from their parents if his or her poor health is associated with a vegan diet.