A children's book that will be released next week is stirring up controversy among parents. It's called "Vegan is Love," and according to the publisher, is a young readers' introduction "to veganism as a lifestyle of compassion and action." The details, however, including images of animals behind bars in crowded cages and graphic passages about animal testing are being called unsuitable for children –- the book is intended for kids as young as 6-years-old.
The pro-vegan message of the book isn't in dispute. While there is debate about whether an animal-product-free diet from birth is appropriate, nutritionists (and activists including Alicia Silverstone) agree that a vegan regimen can be healthy for little kids as long as their meals include enough supplemental nutrients and proteins. That said, the tone and wording in "Vegan Is Love" has experts concerned.
Child psychologist Jennifer Hart Steen told Matt Lauer on the "Today" show this morning that, "there’s so much fear presented in the book and if you would just give it to a child as a children's book they don't understand it. So now they're just going to be afraid."
Nicole German, a registered dietitian wrote on her blog that "Vegan is Love" might scare impressionable children into becoming vegan and "without proper guidance, that child could become malnourished."
The author, Ruby Roth, is raising her 7-year-old stepdaughter, Akira, whose favorite food is kale, to be vegan. Roth told "Today" that it is not her intention to instill fear. "If it's too scary to talk about, the reality of where those pieces of meat come from, then it's certainly too scary to eat," she said. Instead, the book is supposed to encourage "compassion and action," Roth told ABC.
The book promotes a no meat, no diary diet, but also suggests that kids should boycott the zoo, the circus and aquariums because "animals belong to this earth just as we do." Hart Steen worries that the title, "Vegan is Love" can send a message to kids that, if you don't follow this lifestyle, you don’t get to feel love or "you're clearly creating hate or bad feelings."
Dr. David Katz, HuffPost blogger and director of the Yale Prevention Center supports Roth's efforts and told ABC that childhood might be "the best time to create awareness and change behavior accordingly."
The illustrations are eye-opening and topics mature, but Katz says that, "the torture and maltreatment of animals are real." So, what's worse? "Telling kids about what's going on? Or raising them in a world where it is going on and keeping them in the dark about it so they become complicit to it?"