ST. PETERSBURG — Vegetarians and vegans in Russia face an uphill battle in receiving broad acceptance of their diets.
State health officials warn of poor nutrition, and some psychiatrists say strict meat-free lifestyles are an indicator of mental illness.
Vegetarianism took the spotlight in St. Petersburg when the city's chief dietitian, Vladimir Dotsenko, said vegetarian and raw-food diets are dangerous for children and pregnant women.
"Vegans practice raw foodism. Such a diet results in a lack of vitamins A and D, calcium and protein, which are all found in animal products," Dotsenko said at a recent news conference.
"Rational vegetarians consume milk and eggs, giving them close to optimal nutrition," he said, according to Interfax. "However, children need to eat meat to grow, and pregnant women also need to in order to help the development of a normal fetus."
The comments didn't sit well with locals who choose to avoid meat.
Vera Kozlovskaya, 30, who teaches at St. Petersburg Polytechnic University, said some of her vegetarian and vegan acquaintances had given birth to healthy children.
They also put their children on full-fledged vegetarian diets, and the children have grown and developed well, she said.
Kozlovskaya, a vegan, said that to get enough protein she eats different kinds of legumes such as chickpeas, lentils and beans.