Animal Aid

BUILDING A VEGGIE FUTURE - Summary of results

Not all vegetarian and vegan parents feel sufficiently confident to raise their children on an animal-free diet. But how widespread is this reluctance and what is its cause? To answer these and other questions, Animal Aid conducted a survey of nearly 800 vegetarian parents throughout the UK. The results are published in a new report - Building a Veggie Future - to mark the start of Veggie Month 2003.

Introduction

Vegetarian Parents' Questionnaire - the background

Angela with her 18 month old vegan daughter Freya.

Our veggie parents' questionnaire - as well as charting the scale of and reasons for the parental nervousness - also asked key questions of the large majority of veggie parents who do, in fact, raise their children on an animal-free diet. What encouragement or negative pressures had they experienced, and from whom? Who offered them the most or the least support - doctors, teachers, other parents, their own family members or friends?

We also wanted to know whether shopping and eating out for vegetarian families could be made any easier.

The results show that the majority of vegetarian parents succeed in bringing their children up veggie without real difficulty. But prejudice and misplaced advice persist, which is why Animal Aid is offering targeted support and guidance.

Veggie parents, veggie children

The majority of vegetarian parents find that raising their children in a meat-eating world does not present major problems.

Number of veggie parents who bring up veggie children

  • 64% of parents decide to raise their children veggie from birth and stick to that decision.
  • Of these, 53% say there have not been any problems from relatives or other people.
  • Additionally, 17% of respondents went vegetarian after becoming parents. 62% of their children went vegetarian also.
  • 63% of our respondents said the other parent was also vegetarian.

A number of medical bodies, including the British Medical Association, have stated that bringing up children on a balanced vegetarian diet is healthy and can protect against certain diseases in later life.

Joanne with her 2 year old vegetarian daughter Abigail.

Encounters with the medical profession

The number of respondents who reported negative encounters with doctors and health visitors was roughly balanced out by the number who reported positive encounters with these professionals.

Positive response from the medical profession

  • Of the vegetarian parents who are bringing up their children veggie, 18% say they have received encouragement from their doctor (11% slight encouragement; 7% enthusiastic response). 20% have received encouragement from health visitors (12% mild; 8% enthusiastic).

Pressure from the medical profession

  • Of the 81% of vegetarian parents who are bringing their children up veggie - either from birth or after the parents themselves became veggie - 20% say they have experienced negative pressure from their doctor (15% mild; 5% strong). 19% report negative pressure from health visitors (12% mild; 7% strong).

  • 5% of parents intended to raise their children veggie but later changed their minds. Of this 5%, 30% were worried about their children's health and 30% were persuaded to introduce meat into their diets by someone else - sometimes their doctor (27%) or their health worker/midwife (27%).

  • 14% of vegetarian parents never intended to bring their children up veggie. Just 3% of these were advised against vegetarianism by a health worker or midwife.

Animal Aid has called upon the British Medical Association and Department of Health to issue guidelines to all health practitioners that will enable them to provide their patients with sound advice on vegetarian diets.

Encounters with relatives, other parents and friends

Veggie parents raising their children on a meat-free diet received the least support for their decision from members of their own family and the most from their friends.

Response from relatives, other parents and friends

  • Of the 81% of vegetarian parents who are now bringing their children up veggie - either from birth or after the parents themselves became veggie - 54% have faced negative pressure from other family members (36% mild; 18% strong). 20% have received encouragement (9% slight; 11% enthusiastic).

  • Of this 81%, 37% have faced negative pressure from other parents (27% mild; 10% strong). 16% have received encouragement (9% slight; 7% enthusiastic).

  • Of the 81%, 15% have faced negative pressure from friends (12% mild; 3% strong). 19% have received encouragement (9% slight; 10% enthusiastic).

  • Of the 64% who have stuck to their decision to raise their children veggie from birth, 30% say they can't trust certain relatives or friends to ensure their children are not fed meat when in the care of these other individuals.

Mark with his veggie boys Anthony (7) and James (9).

At school

Our survey results show that although peer pressure, feeling awkward, being bullied and negative encounters with teachers can be a problem for veggie children, these experiences are rarely bad enough to persuade them to start eating meat. If hostility, ridicule and bullying do take place, it is the obligation of the school authorities to remedy the situation - whether the negative pressure comes from teachers or other pupils. We have written to the Department of Education asking it to ensure that teachers and others involved in education are more aware of their responsibilities to children who have chosen, or who are thinking of choosing, a vegetarian diet.

Response in the classroom and the school canteen

  • 64% of vegetarian parents bring their children up veggie from birth. Of the 18% of those children who subsequently return to eating meat, 13% said they were not catered for adequately by their school; 7% said they felt embarrassed about being veggie and 14% were bullied about their diet.

  • Of the 81% of vegetarian parents who are bringing their children up veggie - either from birth or after the parents themselves became veggie - 13% say they have faced negative pressure from teachers (9% mild; 4% strong). 9% say they have received encouragement (6% slight; 3% enthusiastic).

  • Of the 14% of vegetarian parents who never intended to bring their children up veggie, 7% said they wanted their children to fit in with their peers and thought being veggie would cause problems.

  • Of the 5% of vegetarian parents who intended to raise their children veggie but later changed their minds, 17% felt the children were being deprived of some of the foods they liked and 11% said there wasn't much vegetarian food served at their school.

For Veggie Month 2002, Animal Aid published a report on vegetarian school meals, which was based on a survey of nearly 400 schools. We revealed that, although some canteens have good veggie menus, 27% have days when no vegetarian option is provided. Our report resulted in an important clarification of government guidelines to school caterers. Animal Aid provides a free catering pack to all schools, businesses and agencies with a responsibility for school meal provision.

Eating with friends

  • Of the 64% of parents who choose to bring their children up veggie, 34% say it becomes an issue when they visit friends' houses and when they eat out, as it is hard to get veggie children's portions.

  • Of the 18% of children who return to eating meat, the parents of 35% of them said it was because they were offered meat and liked the taste; while 32% said it was because the children wanted to eat in places like McDonald's with their friends.

At the supermarket

Almost all of the parents raising vegetarian children who responded to our survey said that they want more recognition from supermarkets.

What parents want to see in food stores

  • Regular in-store promotions of vegetarian products - 82%
  • Vegetarian products made easier to find in the store - 72%
  • Better labelling of vegetarian products - 70%
  • More frequent bulk-buy offers on vegetarian products - 68%
  • More child-orientated vegetarian products - 62%
  • More child-orientated dairy-free/vegan products - 52%
  • Better informed shop staff - 48%

We are writing to all the main supermarkets calling on them to provide more of the products that vegetarian and vegan parents want.

Building a Veggie Future describes, for the first time and in their own words, the experiences of veggie parents throughout the UK.

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