Vegans are threatening to sue the government for not providing a plant-based alternative to milk in its Nursery Milk Scheme.
The government scheme provides one-third of a pint of milk daily to every child under the age of five in nursery school, but the Vegan Society claims the government’s lack of a plant-based alternative to cow’s milk is “discrimination”, according to The Mirror.
The Vegan Society wrote in a letter to the government that they would be taking it to court unless children on vegan diets are offered a fortified plant-based “milk” under the scheme, writing: “Public authorities are under a general duty under the Equality Act 2010 to avoid discrimination by limiting the Nursery Milk Scheme only to cow’s milk, the Department of Health is failing in that duty.”
Campaigns manager at the charity Mark Banahan claimed that “vegan children are unfairly treated”, lamenting that parents have to buy their own “plant milk” for them, “something that is not always possible for low-income families and causes a great deal of inconvenience to families who should be entitled to free milk alternatives”.
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The European Society of Paediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition (ESPGHAN) had said in May 2017: “Studies have shown that children who follow a vegan diet are leaner and smaller than those children who consume meat or those who have vegetarian diets.”
Attending the 50th annual meeting of the ESPGHAN, Mary Fewtrell, a professor of Childhood Nutrition at University College London, had warned of the dangers of young children being fed a vegan diet without proper supplementation and advised parents to strictly follow doctors’ guidelines.
Professor Fewtrell said: “It is difficult to ensure a healthy and balanced vegan diet in young infants, and parents should understand the serious consequences of failing to follow advice regarding supplementation of the diet.
“The risks of getting it wrong can include irreversible cognitive damage and, in the extreme, death.”
In May 2019, parents in Sweden were jailed for putting their toddler on a strict vegan diet that left her malnourished, almost killing her.
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Vegan activists have called for their dietary choice to be deemed a protected characteristic — such as sexuality, gender, age, or race — and discrimination against it an offence, with three philosophers speaking to Quartz last year saying it should be given the same legally-protected status as religion.
Utilitarian philosopher at Princeton University Peter Singer said veganism was “a sounder belief than any of the religions” which “rests on a strong moral foundation. It’s clearly a deep belief, it affects your life and the way you behave and outlook on the world, and I think should count as philosophical belief.”
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