Friday, April 1, 2011
Can veganism kill kids?
I really have never blogged about anything too serious in the past, but I have to say the media articles over the last few days about the French vegans who are being charged with their baby's death had me amazed and concerned - not about veganism but about questionable media practice. Let me say up front, I am not a vegan but I do generally believe that a vegan diet can work for most people if managed properly. This French family's situation a bit more tricky that the papers make out. While it would seem easy to conclude straight up that a vegan diet is inappropriate for small children there is a lot more to going on here. Firstly, the parents had decided only to feed the baby breast milk for nine months even though she wasn't putting on enough weight. Secondly, they ignored the symptoms of bronchitis which were picked up in a routine nine-month check up and only decided to treat it with some questionable home remedies (I don't know what a cabbage poultice is). Thirdly, the parents are not believers in supplementing their vegan diet to get vitamin B12 which is generally accepted as something that a vegan diet cannot provide. Interestingly, a Canadian article I read clearly stated that that the cause of the baby's death was pneumonia-related illness (the bronchitis no doubt) and that the subsequent autopsy showed vitimin deficiency. However, when the issue was relayed in the news in Australia, the wording had changed to say that the baby died suffering from vitamin deficiency - which is technically true but misleading in suggesting that the vegan diet was the cause of death. This suggestion concerns me because I have read plenty of sources that say a vegan diet can be managed even for small children but that it needs to be carefully monitored and should be supported with vitamin B12 supplements. The French parents were not making any sensible decisions from the information available - they were not offering a diverse diet to their child, they were not offering vitamin supplements, and they were ignoring professional advice and not seeking medical advice for an obvious illness. So while I think it is absolutely reasonable that these parents are being held to account for the neglect of the wellbeing of their child, veganism really shouldn't be on trial here. That is an issue to be dealt with elsewhere and ideally backed up with research and evidence if it is to be deemed totally inappropriate for young children. I say veganism doesn't kill but that it is a choice that needs to be made with the backing of nutritional advice and a serious commitment to the health needs of the people involved. Ok, serious blogging over - next time I'll tell you about the wonders of "space food".