It’s bad enough when such nutritional idiots as Paul McCartney and his late wife Linda (and maybe the peg-legged soon to be ex also, for all I know) endeavored to put their cat (cats are pure carnivores) on a vegetarian diet, but when misinformed parents do it to their newborn babies it’s beyond the pale. A couple were recently found guilty and sentenced to life imprisonment for starving their baby to death by feeding him a vegan diet. The baby, Crown Shakur, weighted a mere 3.5 pounds when he died at 6 weeks of age. He had subsisted since birth primarily on soy milk and apple juice.
I don’t know any of the testimony that took place at the trial, but in comments to reporters the parents seemed to believe they were doing a good thing by feeding their baby a vegan diet.
The couple were found guilty May 2 of malice murder, felony murder, involuntary manslaughter and cruelty to children. A jury deliberated about seven hours before returning the guilty verdicts.
Defense lawyers said the first-time parents did the best they could while adhering to the lifestyle of vegans, who typically use no animal products. They said Sanders and Thomas did not realize the baby, who was born at home, was in danger until minutes before he died.
I’m not in a position to rule on the guilt or innocence of these poor people, but my hunch is that they did think they were doing right. It would have been just as easy to buy real milk – and probably less expensive – than the soy. And they were feeding the baby apple juice. Had they simply neglected the baby, why would they have fed it anything at all?
My problem lies with the idiots who espouse this kind of diet. Humans need protein, vitamin B-12, and other nutrients that come from meat, or at least eggs and dairy products. If someone who is a diet faddist takes up this kind of vegan lunacy, I don’t have an argument with it. After all, it’s that adult person’s life and health. But when vegan diets are held out by the likes of PETA and the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) – a mis-named organization if there ever were one – to be the optimal diets for human health it makes my blood boil. In my view, the people running the propaganda arms of these organizations are almost as culpable as these poor parents who will spend many, many years behind bars.
There is medical debate over which is the best diet for long-term health, and proponents of the low-carb diet duke it out with proponents of the low-fat diet. Though strongly in the low-carb camp, I’ll admit to there being some legitimate controversy. But there is no controversy over the fact that an unsupplemented vegan diet is deadly in the long run, and especially deadly to a newborn baby.
A few years ago the jerks at the PCRM came up with what they purported to be a study showing that people following low-carb diets often complained of fatigue and even bad breathe. (This ‘study’ was an accumulation and categorization of complaints that people ostensibly on low-carb diets had submitted to the PCRM website.) At the time I wrote a scathing piece refuting their idiocy that was published on a now-defunct low-carb e-zine. (If anyone is interested, I can dig it up and republish here.) Taken at their worst, these complaints were fairly trivial, whereas the complaint about the PETA/PCRM diet is that it can cause death in it’s followers due to malnutrition.
Nina Planck, about whom I’ve written in these pages, had an excellent editorial piece in today’s New York Times about the starvation of this baby and the lack of nutrients in a vegan diet.
Indigenous cuisines offer clues about what humans, naturally omnivorous, need to survive, reproduce and grow: traditional vegetarian diets, as in India, invariably include dairy and eggs for complete protein, essential fats and vitamins. There are no vegan societies for a simple reason: a vegan diet is not adequate in the long run.
Protein deficiency is one danger of a vegan diet for babies. Nutritionists used to speak of proteins as “first class” (from meat, fish, eggs and milk) and “second class” (from plants), but today this is considered denigrating to vegetarians.
The fact remains, though, that humans prefer animal proteins and fats to cereals and tubers, because they contain all the essential amino acids needed for life in the right ratio. This is not true of plant proteins, which are inferior in quantity and quality — even soy.
A vegan diet may lack vitamin B12, found only in animal foods; usable vitamins A and D, found in meat, fish, eggs and butter; and necessary minerals like calcium and zinc. When babies are deprived of all these nutrients, they will suffer from retarded growth, rickets and nerve damage.
Those vegans with children should feed their children a diet rich in all the nutrients needed for good health. Then, when the kids grow up and can make responsible decisions about their own health and diet, if they want to choose the vegan lifestyle, they can. They should understand that they can cause their children, whom I’m sure they love very much, irreparable harm by foisting off on them a diet lacking in many of the nutrients essential to proper growth and development.