PARENTS who impose veganism and other “reckless and dangerous eating behaviour” on their children should be thrown in prison if a conservative Italian politician has her way.
Legislation proposed by Elvira Savino, of Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party, hopes to “stigmatise the reckless and dangerous eating behaviour imposed by parents … to the detriment of minors”, and is aptly named the ‘Savino law’.
Savino lays out a punishment menu starting with a one year prison sentence for ‘ideological excesses’ in enforcing a vegan diet on children under 16, with time added should the victim be under three. Sickness or injuries related to the diet could see a four year term, while death by vegetables calls for six.
The former PR professional argues in the legislation that there is a growing belief among Italians that “a vegetarian diet, even in the rigid form of a vegan diet, results in significant health benefits”.
“There is no objection if the person making this choice is an informed adult. A problem arises when children are involved.”
Her proposal hasn’t come entirely out of the blue, following a series of notable controversies over vegan-related malnutrition in children.
In January 2015 a father in Turin was given a nine month sentence after forcing his daughters to take up skiing and a macrobiotic diet based on Asian philosophy because they were ‘too fat’.
Another bizarre case saw the courts step in to resolve bickering separated parents (and the obligatory mother-in-law) as a Bergamo boy’s mother fed him a vegetarian diet, then his father gorged him on McDonalds over the weekend, while his grandmother stuffed sausages down his throat to compensate.
The judge ordered his mother to cook meat at least once a week for her son to solve the dispute, presumably resisting the temptation to channel an inner King Solomon.
There was, however, a darker turn just last month when authorities rescued a one-year-old boy raised on a strict vegan diet from his parents in Milan. Severely malnourished and weighing a mere five kilograms, he was taken from their custody.
Despite the obvious need to protect children from their parents’ beliefs, especially when their health is involved, the Savino law has been criticised by the Italian Society of Food Science, who argue reasonably that shovelling bucket-loads of sugar, saturated fats and processed junk down children’s gullets presents a far graver health risk.