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Tuesday, June 10th 2008

Vegans Face Prosecution

I Spit My Green Beans Out As A Twelve Year Old And Ate A Whole Lot Of Meat

A little girl in Britain is sick, suffering from, amongst other things, rickets and several pathological fractures at the age of twelve years old. Such is the case because her parents have raised her on a strict vegan diet.

A 12-year-old girl in Scotland brought up by her parents on a strict vegan diet has been admitted to hospital with a degenerative bone condition said to have left her with the spine of an 80-year-old woman.

Doctors are under pressure to report the couple to police and social workers amid concerns that her health and welfare may have been neglected in pursuit of their dietary beliefs.

This wouldn’t be the first time that vegan parents were prosecuted for neglect. An infamous case in Georgia last year involved parents whose attempt at weaning their newborn along on a strict vegan diet led to his death and their life sentences. I’ll stay away from passing judgment on a specific case based on some blurb article in The Times. That said, it really is unacceptable to neglect children like this based on parental beliefs.

I’m drawing a line here admittedly. In the past I’ve been sympathetic to parents circumcising their children, I’ve supported the decisions of children young adults, who have reached a level of comprehension, to forgo medical treatment even when it appears clear their parents were influencing such a decision. Serving your child a strict vegan diet goes beyond that though. We’re discussing risk versus reward here and while you’d hate to have the government and society weighing every parental decision on such a scale in hindsight, there are things that clearly cannot be accepted.

What makes cases like this difficult is that we (or I at least) like to imagine negligence as something of lack of caring and lack of action. True, in vegan cases there is usually some of that. For instance, it is hard to imagine many of these children getting to the point they do if they had gone to recommended pediatrician visits. But, these aren’t parents trying to starve their children. They often come across as…well, moronic but not malicious.

That makes it tough, but it shouldn’t excuse it. We should expect parents to either know that such diets are bound to harm their children or, if uninformed about infant and children nutrition, to seek out information from reputable sources. Anything less has to amount to negligence, doesn’t it? Shouldn’t the state strive to protect its most hapless charges by reprimanding parents who harm their children by essentially starving them even if such isn’t through malice?

I think the answer has to be ‘yes’.