02/18/09 Reaction to the Article on "Kindergartens without Vegetarians"

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Tratinčcca Kindergarten
c/o Ms Slavica Mihalec-Kanizaj
Podravskih Heroja Square 7
48000 Koprivnica

Dear Ms Mihalec-Krizaj,

Animal Friends is a non-profit organization promoting vegetarianism as an ethical, ecological, and healthy lifestyle.

We are writing to you in response to the article in Glas Podravine from February 13, 2009, page 3, where you state that vegetarian nutrition should have no place on children's menus. The article lists a number of false claims, which not only show a total lack of insight into the vegetarian/vegan diet, but also violate the basic rights of an individual.

The American Dietetic Association and Dietitians of Canada have produced a very detailed and exhaustive study, in which they came to the conclusion that "well planned vegan and other types of vegetarian diets are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including during pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence." Further on, the study states that "appropriately planned vegetarian diets are healthful, nutritionally adequate, and provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases." Attached to this letter you will find the entire study.

The same opinion is endorsed by the British Nutrition Foundation in a briefing paper from 2005, which you will likewise find enclosed. Since leading American and British experts from the field of nutrition agree in their positive opinion on vegetarianism in all stages of life, including childhood, there is no reason why children in Tratinčica kindergarten should not be offered vegetarian meals like children in progressive Western countries.

Croatian Institute for Public Health has published an analysis of the quality of nutrition in a kindergarten in Rijeka, which offers a vegetarian option, in the Croatian Journal of Public Health. They showed that vegetarian nutrition satisfied the recommendations of the Nutritional Guidelines for the Planning of Meals in Kindergartens. Please find the article enclosed. It is obvious that in Croatia the practice of introducing vegetarian nutrition in kindergartens is not without precedent.

According to an independent survey of SPEM Communication Group from 2007, there are 3.7% vegetarians in Croatia, which means that more than 150 000 of its inhabitants are vegetarians or vegans. This means that such a large group of Croatian citizens is denied its basic rights, putting the children and their parents into a painful situation of feeling rejected and unwanted by the rest of the society. The parents have to face serious problems in securing meals for their children, since despite such pressures they certainly will not (and should not) change their habits and principles in bringing up their children, whom they want to adopt a healthier, more ecological, and more ethical lifestyle.

Since vegetarian nutrition is accepted globally in all public institutions and generally acknowledged by medical practitioners, nutritionists, and scientists, we expect that Croatian experts in this field also invest some time in educating the broader public on the benefits of vegetarian/vegan lifestyle. Subjective beliefs, resentments, and misinformation can only cause damage in situations like this, where objective opinions, proper information, and expert guidelines on meatless nutrition would help to solve the problem.

Moreover, one should keep in mind that all public institutions have a legal and moral obligation to offer vegetarian meals, which is gradually put to practise in Croatia as well, so that hospitals, for example, follow a regulation that secures the right to a vegetarian or vegan meal. But then again, bad examples like this one indicate that the situation in Croatia is still serious and that there is a considerable lack of knowledge, expertise, and education on meatless nutrition, leading to violations of some of the basic human and particularly children's rights.

We invite you to visit the web page of Animal Friends, www.prijatelji-zivotinja.hr, where you can find many scientific articles on vegetarian/vegan nutrition. We also distribute literature on vegetarianism and we would especially recommend Dr. Benjamin Spock's book Baby and Child Care, 7th revised edition, in which this world-famous paediatrician endorses a vegan diet as perfectly advisable for children's health. During his lifetime, Dr. Spock was a member of advisory board with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) and we are enclosing to this letter some of their texts regarding vegan nutrition for children in order to encourage you to further reading.

There are also numerous scientific studies that demonstrate the benefits of vegetarian and vegan diet in the prevention of certain diseases in both children and adults.

Vegetarianism is not merely a whim of fashion or a gastronomic trend; it is a scientifically proven beneficial diet for all stages of the life cycle.

We remain at your disposal for any form of cooperation and we are also willing to assist you in finding the relevant scholarly literature.

Best regards,
Ivana Surjan, coordinator
Animal Friends


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