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The Vegan Society debate childhood vegan nutrition on Channel 5’s The Wright Stuff

Welcome back to Thursdays show with Helen
Led, Steve First and Joe Woods, still to come Is it acceptable to tell someone, friend,
family, stranger to wash their hands especially if they’ve just come out of the loo. 02071735555
is the number. First though is putting your child on a strict vegan diet tantamount to
abuse? An Italian couple have just lost custody of their 14 month-old son after his strict
vegan diet reportedly left him severely malnourished. The child was taken to a hospital by grandparents
a week ago and after finding him to be under weight, the same weight as a three-month-old
in fact, and in general poor health, authorities took him into care. Veganism is a lifestyle
that excludes all animal products and by products so there’s no meat, no fish, no milk, no eggs,
no honey, no leather fur silk or wool. It’s grown in popularity, the number of vegans
in Britain is up by a staggering 360 percent in a decade. 542,000 in total and It’s usually
an ethical choice and some choose it for their children to follow too but given It’s restrictive
nature, can it provide the nutrients that children need to develop. What experts say
is It’s more difficult to nourish a young child adequately on a restrictive diet especially
as they often have to eat more to get the same energy values, some can end up deficient
in vitamin D, calcium and iron. Unsurprisingly those at The Vegan Society would disagree,
they say research shows vegans are generally healthier then those on an animal-based diet,
as their more clued up about nutrition and joining us now is Jimmy Pearson who is a spokesperson
for The Vegan Society, thank you very much for joining us Jimmy and how long have you
been a vegan?. I’ve been vegan for two years now and I must admit It’s the best decision
I ever made. Why did you decide to go vegan? Well I went vegan initially because I wanted
to improve my health and I very quickly noticed a string of benefits, I was sleeping better,
had clearer skin, my digestion was much improved and I had a lot more energy that was the main
thing I noticed. I went from someone who didn’t enjoy running at all to loving long distance
running, It was fantastic and all the evidence also suggests that the vegan diet is really
effective and protecting against lots of long-term chronic health conditions so I’m sure the
benefits will continue throughout my life but It’s not just about health for me, the
more I looked into the meat industry and the dairy industry, the more the standard practises
shocked me so now I would say I was mainly vegan for the animals. And I would like to
know and I mean It’s all very well you being an adult doing this but do you have children
Yes. And are they vegan? Yes they are. My partner Emma and I had our first child, our
daughter Sharon only 3 months ago so she’s exclusively breast feeding still and I think
we’ll start weaning at about 6 months. And then what are you gonna put the child on?
If they don’t have milk or even goats milk. I think goats milk is quite a good option
but what will after she’s finished breast feeding what will you give your child Well
we will of course be raising her vegan on the basis that we think based on our experience
how we feel and all the evidence and research in front of us that it will give her the best
possible start in life and as soon as she’s old enough to start eating she’ll be eating
all the fantastic wide variety of vegan foods that we eat. Straight to food Laura will continue
breastfeeding as long as she can which is up to two years which I think is the world
health organisations recommendation, particularly people on vegan diets. Do you think people
are going to judge you for that stand? Well they haven’t done so far, I’d say not at all
actually. Well you’re on national TV now so maybe. Public perception is changing fast
and old stereotypes are fading slowly but surely and most people nowadays rather then
asking me where I get my protein from, they’re asking me for recipe ideas which is fantastic
and throughout my partner being pregnant and Sharon being born we had unqualified support
from the medical profession, now that’s not the experience all vegans get but it was for
us whether It’s GPs, midwives, health visitors, they’re all completely behind us and I think
that’s an indication that the tide’s turning and that people are much more accepting of
veganism but there’s a point I’d really like to make here actually and It’s that the media’s
portrayal of this case that’s particularly misleading. Now there are on average 5,000
cases of malnutrition in the UK alone every year yet the media has decided to highlight
a single instance with a vegan family in Italy. Now in terms of malnutrition the problem in
this case and with every case is a shortage of calories and nutrients, It’s nothing inherently
to do with the vegan diet which contains everything you need for great health at every age and
life stage including childhood and infancy and that’s the position of the British Dietetic
Association who are widely regarded as the leading authority on matters like this in
this country. You put your case very well, as one would expect, I’m just interested that
you’ve been a vegan for two years so before that, didn’t you like a pint and crisps and
the steak? Admittedly I was a big meat-eater and if someone told me I’d be vegan a number
of years ago I would not of believed them. I used to work in KFC. Oh my god, even I don’t
do chicken in a drum stick, in a basket sorry. So It’s interesting, you’ve done this for
2 years, I applaud everything you’ve said, what would you do if your child says “Right
dad, I want a steak and I want it now.” Well of course those kind of choices about her
diet are entirely hers and as they will be throughout her life and all different things,
My partner and I will support her however she chooses to live her life and with whoever.
So it’s just for while she can’t answer back she will get the lentils. We will of course
try our best to ensure those choices are informed choices and we’ll explain where food comes
from, how the animals are treated and importantly the impact that has on animals and our health
but also the environment. Jimmy we’ve got a lot of calls on, haven’t we storm? absolutely
we’ve got Ang on line 4, Hello Good Morning Ang, Would you like to address your question
straight to Jimmy. Well my question is that I stopped eating red meat and I became really
really ill and I had to be hospitalized twice and have blood transfusions and nearly die,
I think what you’re doing is really irresponsible, what people need to understand is it’s not
really a question but our biology is animal biology, we can take in iron from animal better than iron from vegetables and I do think It’s a subtle form in my opinion of abuse. I don’t
know whether you could look at it properly because you probably weren’t brought up as
a vegan from birth where you? No I was a meat-eater all my life, and speaking from my experience
I felt significantly better once I removed animal products from my diet and to call it
irresponsible I would have to disagree with that, it’s not a restrictive diet, it contains
everything you need for great health but I suppose the problems come from a lack of educational
knowledge or information about it but there are huge amounts of resources online, It’s
never been easier to vegan than it is now so I’m sorry that you had a negative experience
but that’s not the general experience and if you were willing to give it a try again
there’s lots of support which perhaps there wasn’t years ago. Jimmy I just want to come
back to that point about bringing up a child as vegan and part of the problem seems to
be about the calories being large enough with a vegan diet. Well that is something that’s
been raised, and it’s a point, I can’t dispute that, children of course have smaller stomachs, but the recommendation about breast
feeding for as long as you can goes some way to alleviating that and eating little and
often is another good way to do it. Part of the problem is a vegan diet has a lot of fibre
in it which of course means you need to get even more calories. Absolutely but also there’s
a misconception that things like calcium come exclusively from dairy products but actually
if you look at green leafy vegetables, almonds, tofu, spinach for example, they’ve got much
higher rates of absorption then dairy products. Storm? We have bob on line 3. Hi there Bob,
Hi there. What’s your point? I agree with the guy from The Vegan Society, I’ve got three
kids myself and after two and a half years, for thirty years I ate meat, dairy, and eggs
and I had no reason to change but we came across some information about the ethics,
the health and environmental aspects and as responsible parents we did our research and
put the time in to find out if this was something applicable and that if our kids especially
could thrive on it, that’s what the difference is, maybe if these parents have dived into
this with their child without really doing their research and they haven’t really fed
him that’s where the problem lies but like the man from The Vegan Society said, all the
information is out there and we even consulted a nutritional therapist who gave us some more
information and since then I’ve had a knee problem of 14 years that disappeared, my kids
acne completely cleared up and we’ve never been healthier really. That’s what Jimmy was
saying, Bob thank you very much for giving us a ring. Storm? We’ve got Fiona on line
one. Hi There. Hi There, Good Morning, what’s your point? I agree with Jimmy that there
is a lack of understanding around what veganism actually is, because being plant based as a diet, being vegan is more about a wider understanding on where you can get your values from, if you explain to a child from a young age how their choices impact the wider world, then you are raising a compassionate human
being. I can see how that is a benefit to society and to them long term. Ok Fiona thank you
very much, Jen am I right in thinking you’re vegetarians? I’ll eat fish and occasionally
chicken but only if it’s organic. I’m all about organic and eating clean. You very rarely
see a fat vegan, vegans I see tend to be very healthy looking people. I want to be a vegan
now, let me be a vegan if I can look like him. He looks very lean and healthy. Storm?
We have Aaron on line 2. Hi, I find it astonishing that people equate veganism to extremism,
I’d ask people what’s more extreme eating a plant-based diet that reduces and reverses
your chances of diabetes, heart disease, cancer, or slaughtering 259 million animals daily
on the global scale? I suppose we come back to that point that Jimmy made, that there
is malnutrition on what people could consider a normal diet so in this particular instance
it’s more about the parents perhaps not knowing quite so much. Aaron thank you very much and
I suppose that’s what you’d say Jimmy doesn’t feel extreme to you, you just think it’s all
about food. Emma you’re a vegan aren’t you? Yeah I’m vegan, I think it’s the best decision
I’ve ever made, I’ve never felt healthier then when I started being vegan. I feel great.
How long have you been a vegan? I’ve been a vegan for a year and a half now and I feel
absolutely great and I stand by everything that Jimmy said so its great, it’s not a extreme
diet. Perhaps a little more difficult when you’re eating out with friends. Oh actually
it’s got easier and easier, Most restaurants now do offer a vegan option and I don’t find
it difficult at all, I think it’s fine. Ok thank you very much Emma and to you Jimmy.
I’m not being frivolous but can you have vegan wine? You can absolutely. So growing and fermenting’s
okay, I think that’s what happens with wine. Some of them are cleared with animal products.
With wine sometimes they use egg white to wash in the product. Ok, I’m leaning. Thank
you very much and thank you Jimmy. Thank you to all of you for calling.

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