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Italy Wants To Jail Parents Who Raise Vegan Babies

The pasta nation has multiple personalities when it comes to its feelings towards plant-based diets.

[Photos: Francemora/iStock]

Oh man, those Italians and their food. First their scientists were reaching dubious conclusions in a study that says that pasta makes you thinner, and now the government wants to put parents in jail if they force their kids to become vegan. Meanwhile, in Turin, the mayor wants to turn her city into a vegetarian paradise.

Turin’s mayor Chiara Appendino, of Italy’s populist, anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S), wants to push vegan and vegetarian diets "as a priority." She sees meat-and-dairy-free diets as essential when it comes not only to personal health, but to animal welfare, and the environment in general. The first step, as yet unannounced, will likely be education, with programs in Turin’s schools to teach kids about nutrition and animal welfare, says the Guardian.

The M5S party isn’t officially pro-vegan—its founder is a meat lover—but its forward-thinking members are often in favor of going meat-free. The Italian parliament’s deputy speaker Luigi Di Maio had a vegan cake for his 30th birthday, for example.

[Photo: Flickr user Quinn Dombrowski]

Appendino’s councillor for the environment, Stefania Stefania Giannuzzi, is a vegetarian of 20 years, but says that the mayor isn’t anti-meat. "I would not want to make demands on the meat industry," she told Italy’s Corriere. "We do not want to close the small shops or ruin the people who have worked for years developing the Piedmontese food and wine heritage."

The reaction of Italy’s central government is that this is all some hippie nonsense. In fact, it is had had the opposite reaction: bill has been introduced that would jail parents for up to a year if they don’t feed their children meat or cheese. The reason for this absurd proposal? Nutrition. The bill says that a vegan diet is too restrictive, involves "serious nutritional deficiencies," and lacks essential vitamins, zinc, omega 3, and so on.

Several cases of kids and infants who were fed vegan diets, the bill claims, were hospitalized for malnourished and put in mortal danger by their parents. Public authorities, it says, have the duty to intervene. One wonders if the public authorities have a duty to intervene when a child’s life is compromised by feeding it meat and delicious cake until it becomes obese.

Food is a big part the Italian identity, and something they love to fight about, so promoting a vegetarian diet is likely to result in more of these spats before anything useful happens. But the big irony is that it’s probably easier to eat a vegetarian diet in Italy than anywhere. The cuisine is full of dishes based on vegetables and pulses, and you can even cut out dairy without too many problems. But try telling that to some paternalistic, old-world politicians, who think that everyone else should do what they do.

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