Can you be sued for raising your child as a vegan?

Family/Kids, Crime, Politics

Living and eating as a vegan is a lifestyle involving thought, research, and discipline. It would make sense that a person who feels this strongly about food politics would introduce their children to the same way of life. Others might not agree, but it’s no one else’s concern how you choose to raise your child—or is it?

Eat, drink, and be vegan

To some, the idea of raising kids without giving them the most ready sources of protein in the form of meat, eggs, or dairy products seems ill-advised, and possibly dangerous. Indeed, custody cases in which parents differ on a child’s diet are common, and can create major problems in divorce proceedings.

However, “with a vegan diet, it is possible for anyone to get all of the nutrients he or she needs. So long as the child is healthy, there is little basis for legal action,” says Matt C. Pinsker, a criminal defense attorney in Richmond, Virginia.

“What we see much more often in our courts is parents endangering their child’s health by feeding their kids far too much junk food,” says Pinsker.

The risk of child endangerment

So how do you go about lawfully raising a little vegan?

“Parents who choose to feed their baby or child a vegan diet must carefully monitor their child’s nutrition to be certain the child is growing adequately and has the proper levels of vitamins and minerals,” says attorney Angela W. McIlveen of the McIlveen Family Law Firm in Gastonia, North Carolina.

The American Academy of Pediatrics’ book Pediatric Nutrition, states that with careful planning it is possible to provide a balanced vegan diet for kids. Of course, parents are still responsible for medical problems that arise from a lack of necessary nutrients.

“When a child is suffering from malnutrition, whatever the reason, the parents risk being prosecuted for offenses pertaining to child neglect or endangerment, and Child Protective Services may get involved,” says Pinsker.

International vegan problems

Outside the US, the courts have weighed in on several occasions. In Italy, following several high-profile cases involving malnourished children, a controversial bill has been proposed that could subject parents to jail time if they restrict their children to a vegan diet.

And in May 2017, a 7-month-old baby in Belgium tragically died after being fed a strict vegan diet. The parents were charged in the case and face prison time.

But as was the case in several incidents here at home, the issue was not the vegan diet per se but the failure of the parents to provide their child with adequate nutrition. So go ahead and pass your diet along to your children, just be sure not to let your beliefs come before their well-being.