I claim that there is pro tanto moral reason for parents to not raise their child on a vegan diet because a vegan diet bears a risk of harm to both the physical and the social well-being of children. After giving the empirical evidence from nutrition science and sociology that supports this claim, I turn to the question of how vegan parents should take this moral reason into account. Since many different moral frameworks have been used to argue for veganism, this is a complex question. I suggest that, on some of these moral frameworks, the moral reason that some parents have for not raising their child on a vegan diet on account of this risk is plausibly as strong as the reason they have for raising their child on a vegan diet. In other words, the moral reason I outline is weighty enough to justify some vegan parents in plausibly finding it permissible to not raise their child on a vegan diet.
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Readers may be objecting that, if this is the case, then a parent also has no rights-based reason not to forbid their child from killing another human being and so forth. This is an objection that originates in Regan’s claim that we only have a duty to help prevent rights-violations and only a duty to assist victims of injustice, rather than there being a duty of justice to help protect life, property, and so forth. This a claim he formulates to avoid the implication that we must prevent animals from killing one another. As a non-Reganite, I am not attempting to defend Regan’s claim from counterexamples. The counterintuitive results that might be alleged against this application of Regan’s framework are problems that originate in Regan’s framework and are already noted and contested, though seemingly not resolved, in the literature (Jamieson 1990; Ebert and Machan 2012; Milburn 2015).
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Thanks to an anonymous reviewer, Josh Milburn, and Siofra Frost, for their helpful comments on earlier versions of this paper.
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Hunt, M.W. Veganism and Children: Physical and Social Well-Being. J Agric Environ Ethics 32, 269–291 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10806-019-09773-4
- Children’s rights
- Animal ethics
- Applied ethics