Today, nobody can deny that a balanced and varied plant diet is much healthier than the typical Western diet.
Numerous studies have found that the consumption of meat and other animal products is conducive to many Western lifestyle diseases, such as obesity, diabetes, allergies, heart/circulation
ailments, high blood pressure and cancer, so it is no wonder that vegetarians and vegans have also been
shown to exhibit a higher life expectancy. Typical fears about
plant-based lifestyles, frequently spread by the animal husbandry industry and those in its orbit, have long since been found out for the myths that they are: vegetarians and vegans don’t have to
be specially qualified experts in nutrition, nor do they have to perform complicated calculations to prevent malnutrition.
Like other key organisations such as the British Medical Association and World Health Organisation (WHO), the American Dietetic Association
(ADA; since 2012: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics) takes a positive view of vegetarianism and veganism. In a position paper published in 2009, it stated that “appropriately planned vegetarian
diets, including total vegetarian or vegan diets, are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and may provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases” and that they are
“appropriate for individuals during all stages of the life cycle, including pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence, and for athletes.” This statement was confirmed in
A balanced and varied plant diet for children is therefore not only suitable but also positively recommended because it offers a range of health benefits and promotes healthy eating habits at an early age. One of the ultimate beneficiaries of this is society at large – after all, the cost of treating Western lifestyle diseases associated with, or promoted by, the consumption of animal products is borne by the taxpayer.
So where does this leave the animal-based diet, which is so widespread today? Let’s take a brief look with a focus on meat: In light of food scandals over recent years, the realities of meat production and the current available evidence, the question arises of whether – purely in terms of health – it is responsible to feed children meat at all. At the latest since October 2015, when the WHO announced on the back of more than 800 studies that red meat was “probably carcinogenic” and processed meat such as sausage was “carcinogenic”, hardly anyone can now be unaware of just how harmful to health meat in general can be. On top of this, in the UK, 80% of chickens, 45% of laying hens and 75% of breeding pigs are factory farmed, meaning that their bodies and products are also contaminated with the residue of antibiotics, tranquilisers, psychopharmaceuticals and other substances administered on a large scale in the livestock industry. Over the years, these residues accumulate in the bodies of those who consume these animals and their products, which also explains why the breast milk of long-term vegetarians and especially vegans has been shown to contain much fewer contaminants. The organic livestock industry also permits the use of, say, antibiotics to a degree. And while even toxin-free animal products (which in fact hardly exist in reality) do not contain any nutrients that can't be easily obtained from a balanced meat-free or vegan diet, they still always contain potentially harmful substances such as saturated fatty acids and cholesterol.
Factory farming is on the rise in the UK, as everywhere else, to meet the demand for cheap animal products, so this issue is only going to get worse. Also, the UK, which prides itself on being a nation of animal lovers and its comparatively high animal welfare laws, imports huge amounts of meat from countries with much lower production and welfare standards, such as Germany and the US for instance, where about 98% and more than 99% respectively of all meat is produced under factory farm conditions.
As parents, we are responsible for our children’s diet and should be aware that the foundations for healthy eating patterns are laid in infancy. Anyone who still believes that animal procucts such as meat and dairy are vital either doesn’t know any better, so is simply uninformed, or stands to gain from the uncritical acceptance of this assertion. Knowledge is power and only those armed with the requisite knowledge are in a position to make informed nutritional decisions.
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