In an upcoming What Would You Do? episode, which takes place at the Mason Jar Grill in New Jersey, a couple pressures the young daughter of a vegan mother to eat meat (they are all actors, including the waitress). After overhearing the girl’s mother explain to the waitress that she and her daughter are vegan, the intervening couple scolds the mother, saying, “She gets no protein,” and “It’s really a form of child abuse.”
Non-actor diners at nearby tables whisper among each other and stare as the couple goes so far as to order a hotdog for the little girl while her mother is in the bathroom. When the show airs, viewers will see whether the bystanders “step in, step up, or step away,” but ABC has already posted polls on its website.
The overwhelming majority of respondents responded to the poll question, “Would you try to convince a vegan family to feed their child meat?” with the answer, “No, I think vegan food is a healthy option for children.” But it’s definitely a controversial issue.
Less controversial is whether the hotdog the intervening couple orders for the little girl is actually “good for you,” as they say. Hotdogs aren’t “good” for anyone, vegan or not.
But is it child abuse, as the intervening man suggests?
In my (humble, vegan) opinion, that’s a ludicrous suggestion. It’s impossible to bring up child abuse with regard to diet without acknowledging the childhood obesity epidemic in the United States, a growing problem that is certainly not the result of veganism.
Childhood obesity is one of the most complex health and social issues in this country, and I’m not suggesting that parents who raise their children on a diet that contributes to obesity should be accused of abuse (though some have). But let’s keep some perspective, here.
Just like any parents, parents who choose to raise their children on a vegan diet ought to take care that they are getting all the B-12, calcium, iron, Vitamin D, and protein they need. The website EatRight.org offers some guidelines for raising kids on a vegetarian or vegan diet.
Watch What Would You Do? On Friday night at 9pm if you’re interested in seeing how the bystanders at the Mason Jar Grill react. My guess: the vegans win.