Ruby Roth's children's book, "Vegan is Love," promotes a vegan lifestyle for kids, which has adults and medical experts concerned that going vegan too early could have negative developmental consequences. Roth says her book emphasizes the virtues of veganism, but human behavior expert Dr. Wendy Walsh says trying to teach kids about animal cruelty and testing is detrimental because they are forces beyond their control. Stephanie Elam reports for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on May 21, 2012.
A new children’s book – “Vegan is Love” – is stirring up controversy among many parents, some of whom argue that the way the topic of veganism is presented in this book is too complicated for kids to digest.
Author Ruby Roth contends that making vegan choices means a more than just not eating animals. She said it aims to teach children about the virtues of a vegan lifestyle.
“I think it’s never too young to start learning about how our choices affect the public realm,” Roth said. “I touch on all major tenets of veganism, from health to food pollution to the environment and the well-being of animals and people around the world.”
As for nutrition, Roth believes you can get all important nutrients from a vegan diet.
“The nutrients found in whole foods, a plant-based diet, are superior quality – they are more dense, they are more bio-available and they come free of harmful side effects that meat and dairy cause,” Roth said.
Some adults are calling Roth’s book and the vegan lifestyle extreme. The main issue: how safe is a vegan diet for children?
“It’s more difficult to get enough protein, enough B-12 and enough fat,” said NBC4 medical expert Dr. Bruce Hensel. “A child’s growing body needs fat to develop the nervous system in the brain. If they don’t get enough, there could be developmental problems.”
Human behavior expert Dr. Wendy Walsh said the book can be a good tool, but that some of the messages in it could cause anxiety for parents.
“The reality is teaching kids about the atrocities of animal cruelty and the atrocities of animal testing is like teaching them about the awful things about war,” Walsh said.
But, Roth pushed back against the opposition.
“There’s nothing more graphic in my book than what any child would see on any given day in the supermarket deli section or on the myriad shows on TV about hunting, fishing or even cooking,” she said.