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Tofu Is Murder
Kill a cow! Save a child!

Two nitwit vegans were recently convicted of murdering their child after he died of starvation at six weeks old -- at a weight of 3.5 lbs. Nina Planck writes in The New York Times that it's at least the third conviction of vegan parents in four years. At least she knew better. Well, at least before she spawned. She writes:

I was once a vegan. But well before I became pregnant, I concluded that a vegan pregnancy was irresponsible. You cannot create and nourish a robust baby merely on foods from plants.

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.

Responsible vegan parents know that breast milk is ideal. It contains many necessary components, including cholesterol (which babies use to make nerve cells) and countless immune and growth factors. When breastfeeding isn’t possible, soy milk and fruit juice, even in seemingly sufficient quantities, are not safe substitutes for a quality infant formula.

Yet even a breast-fed baby is at risk. Studies show that vegan breast milk lacks enough docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, the omega-3 fat found in fatty fish. It is difficult to overstate the importance of DHA, vital as it is for eye and brain development.

...An adult who was well-nourished in utero and in infancy may choose to get by on a vegan diet, but babies are built from protein, calcium, cholesterol and fish oil. Children fed only plants will not get the precious things they need to live and grow.

If you know any dietary faddists who don't eat meat, please show them this link, too, by BBC New health reporter Michelle Roberts:

Lindsay Allen, of the US Agricultural Research Service, attacked parents who insisted their children lived by the maxim "meat is murder".

Animal source foods have some nutrients not found anywhere else, she told a Washington science conference.

The Vegan Society dismissed the claims, saying its research showed vegans were often healthier than meat eaters.

'Development affected'

Professor Allen said: "There have been sufficient studies clearly showing that when women avoid all animal foods, their babies are born small, they grow very slowly and they are developmentally retarded, possibly permanently."

"If you're talking about feeding young children, pregnant women and lactating women, I would go as far as to say it is unethical to withhold these foods [animal source foods] during that period of life."

She was especially critical of parents who imposed a vegan lifestyle on their children, denying them milk, cheese, butter and meat.

"There's absolutely no question that it's unethical for parents to bring up their children as strict vegans," she told the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

Missing nutrients

She said the damage to a child began while it was growing in the womb and continued once it had been born.

While we're at it, here's a link for any raw food faddists you might know or encounter:

No human foragers have been recorded as living without cooking, and people who choose a 'raw-foodist' life-style experience low energy and impaired reproductive function. This suggests that cooking may be obligatory for humans...

And finally, isn't life simply too short to eat things that look and taste like sesame seed-encrusted turds? Want a cruelty-free meal? Eat a steak!

Posted by aalkon at May 22, 2007 10:47 AM

Comments

At least these idiots were convicted. Gah. Poor baby. This is why comments such as, "Well, maybe you weren't meant to have children!" made to the infertile drive me into a rage. Newborns are pretty much either sleeping or wanting to eat - this child was essentially suffering for all of his short life. For God's sake, if these people wanted to be "natural" so obsessively, why the hell weren't they breast-feeding? Yes, yes, I know that some people can't breast-feed for one reason or another, but I wonder if they even tried. (Generally, my position is that the best food for a baby is that that doesn't drive that baby's mother crazy, be that breastmilk or otherwise. But I apply that rule to normal people, not those who would rather adhere to some weird diet than give their kid enough nutrients.) Alternatively, there are rice and soy formulas - not ideal, but better for newborns than apple juice.

I'm willing to listen to arguments that a vegetarian lifestyle is healthier, as I know a few people who have lost weight and lowered their cholesterol on one. I like steak and bacon too much to ever go for one myself, but God knows not everyone has my eating habits (or genetic tendency toward low cholesterol). But veganism just strikes me as being SO First World - look at all of the food we have in abundance! We are going to deny ourselves the vast majority of it in order to make ourselves feel morally superior! Meanwhile, the genuinely starving people in the world would KILL for one-eighth of the food at which these people turn up their noses.

Posted by: marion at May 22, 2007 7:05 AM

Whenever in a discussion with a vegan, I try to ask them if blowjobs are kosher...

Posted by: doombuggy at May 22, 2007 7:12 AM

I'm with you on how stupid it is to deprive a child of nutrients. It's incredibly selfish and stupid, and also cruel. Not with you on the whole "eat a steak" thing. That's like berating you for not eating twinkies. Twinkies are delicious, never mind that they're actually bad for you. Maybe steak and twinkies aren't equally bad for you, but I don't get where voluntary dietary choices fall into the harmful choices that I must preach against column. Vegan babies, no. Vegan adults that don't blow up factories, destroy property and otherwise annoy others, sure.

Posted by: christina at May 22, 2007 7:45 AM

Well, actually, if you want a real cruelty-free meal involving animal protein, you can always learn how to shoot accurately and how to kill animals with one shot, and then go hunt some deer, which are basically big rabbits with better PR. They go from having free lives out in the open air to being unaware of anything at all...and they taste mighty good with relatively little fat. I bring that up not to judge those who eat steaks (as I do!), but to point out the hypocrisy of meat-eaters who indulge in vapors upon hearing about hunting. Factory farming isn't exactly kind to animals. I don't see animals as having the same rights as humans, but I do think that the animals who end up dying through hunting have better lives than those who are born into the factory system.

Sorry to get off-topic.

christina, theoretically I agree with you, but...most parents want to share their values with their children, a goal with which I heartily agree. Combine that with the fact that there are a lot of stupid people in the world, and many of those people reproduce, and I think you have a recipe for disaster where highly restrictive diets are concerned. I could be overstating the risk, though.

Posted by: marion at May 22, 2007 7:53 AM

I make a point to make sure my presently pregnant wife eats a variety of meat on a regular basis. She's already good about getting a variety of fruits and veggies. She's no vegetarian, she just tends to eat more like a rabbit, and less like a bear. Working on that is no chore, like I need an excuse to fire up the grill. :)

Marion, I'm definitely not an anti-hunter/steak-eater/hypocrite. I'm not crazy about hunting only for sport and not doing anything with the animal other than making a trophy, though. If you use what you kill, it's all part of that cycle of life thingy they sing about in Lion King or something.

Posted by: Jamie at May 22, 2007 8:15 AM

Lions aren't vegans, either. And if animals are killed humanely (not kosher killing, which is inhumane) I don't have a problem with it. Humans and animals aren't equal, and it is the life cycle thingie.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at May 22, 2007 8:20 AM

Why is alot of India vegetarian? I know the religious reason behind it, but what's the real reason that it caught on so well over there?

Posted by: PurplePen at May 22, 2007 9:29 AM

Poverty.

Posted by: Lena at May 22, 2007 9:32 AM

Took the nephew and his missus to Juliano's on Sunday night:

http://www.planetraw.com/

For all its problems and all the expense, it's still my favorite restaurant. The owner and I are the same age, but he moves like a 14-year-old boy and I move like a middle-aged video tech who loves cheese... His diet must be doing something for him.

When we fight about gay adoption, you always point out that the adoptees of gay couples always do well, and I have to point out that (to date) becoming a gay parent is so difficult that anyone who attempts it is probably (atypically) serious about it. Ditto with raw vegetarianism: Anyone who's taking that kind of time and interest in what they're eating is watching their protein closely anyway.

The problem is that we haven't made veggie protein convenient enough. But it's a lot of trouble and expense to safely raise, kill and distribute meat too. And animal farming has warped our economy to where you just don't see it anymore. That burger at McDonald's is costing us a lot more that 99 cents (or whatever the counter price is)

Posted by: Crid at May 22, 2007 9:37 AM

Lena rulez

Posted by: Crid at May 22, 2007 9:39 AM

We love Lena. Even more than we love steak frites.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at May 22, 2007 9:44 AM

I Googled a bit about the case mentioned in the NYTimes, and it's even worse than it appears:

1) It seems very likely that the parents fed the kid soy milk and apple juice rather than formula because that was cheaper

2) When they were being sentenced, the parents asked for mercy and said they didn't know how they'd survive in jail. If I had killed my child, I'd WANT to be in jail, but maybe that's just me.

3) Oh yes - the prosecutors made it VERY CLEAR that this wasn't a case about the parents being vegan, but about them being criminally negligent.

Sigh. I'm beginning to think that Lois McMaster Bujold's depiction of a world in which every woman gets fitted with a contraceptive at menarche and has to go through parenting classes and psyche tests and find a qualified co-parent in order to have the contraceptive removed sounds pretty good.

Posted by: marion at May 22, 2007 9:46 AM

The early stages of Hinduism (Vedism or historical Vedic religious phase) was quite warlike and full of ritual animal sacrifices. (Ashvamedha)

The practice of vegetarianism didn't come about until the rise of the Vedanta religious school of thought and the reforms of Siddhartha Gautama (5th-6th Centuries BCE)

Posted by: Joe at May 22, 2007 9:59 AM

Lena is right.

This couple received life imprisonment and what the prosecutor says about them is interesting.

Here is the link and also an interesting bit from the piece.

http://elizabethmcclung.blogspot.com/search/label/Vegan

"The prosecution says vegan beliefs hid deliberate murder and cruelty, and the reason we know that is because the mother did not breast feed enough, that they used soy milk instead of formula. Except that the accusations of murder arose BECAUSE the couple acted in a manner consistent to a personal interpretation of vegan belief. Home birth is not typical, water birth is not typical, believing hospitals have germs to harm babies is documented fact, but not taking a baby there anyway is not typical, not solely using breast milk is not typical, trying to feed a vegan diet to a baby is not typical. Having a black couple in Georgia being vegan is NOT typical. But does that really mean it is deliberate, calculated cruelty to children in a form of malice murder? So in the end, what exactly was on trial and how much did "perception" alter this trial?"

Posted by: kg at May 22, 2007 10:44 AM

Crid writes: "The problem is that we haven't made veggie protein convenient enough."

Ye gads, man, what do you expect. When I walk into a supermarket, they practically cram the stuff in my mouth. Are you still a hunter-gatherer?

"But it's a lot of trouble and expense to safely raise, kill and distribute meat too."

I would say not. It is a commodity, delivered at market price, pretty efficiently.

"And animal farming has warped our economy to where you just don't see it anymore. That burger at McDonald's is costing us a lot more that 99 cents (or whatever the counter price is)"

How so? Animal ag is one of the more transparent markets in this country. Is the legal profession giving better value than dairy farmers?

Posted by: d at May 22, 2007 10:58 AM

But does that really mean it is deliberate, calculated cruelty to children in a form of malice murder? So in the end, what exactly was on trial and how much did "perception" alter this trial?"

I'm not a father, but I'm an uncle, and have several friends with babies. I'm sorry, but babies let you know when they're not being fed the right stuff in the right quantities. It's not frickin' rocket science. Maybe these people didn't set out to kill their kid, but they it sure looks like they failed to do any of the stuff they were supposed to do. I'm sorry, but if you reproduce, you're obligated to take care of your kid, or give it to someone who will. Period. If your neglect leads to your child's death, you should get punished.

And here's the screwed up thing with the "perception" issue - if the couple were white, dreadlocked stinky hippies in San Francisco and their baby died under similar circumstances, lots of folks would say they should be punished, perception be damned. To say that a black couple should be treated differently than my hypothetical white couple strikes me as... well...don't make me say it...

Posted by: justin case at May 22, 2007 11:07 AM

> what do you expect.

Anticipation, novelty, flavor, fulfillment... That sort of thing. I was delighted as we walked into Juliano's the other night when the nephew perked up and said "Something smells great!", because there are no ovens.

> It is a commodity,

My point exactly. The risk of nutrition from animal products has been pushed back by generations of investment, regulation and infrastructure, all of it pricey and labor-intensive. It's not fair to call it "transparent." That's the point: The Big Mac is cheap at the drive-thru.

And if there's a break in the machine at some point, you can still get really sick from eating meat... Probably a lot sicker than you'll get from a bad apple or a tired tomato.

I'm not fanatic! My lunch had a microscopic portion of beef as a garnish. But maintaining our high standards has costs. Others just aren't up to it:

http://tinyurl.com/34fs2e

Posted by: Crid at May 22, 2007 12:41 PM

How is kosher slaughter inhumane? Sharp knife, one stroke, and widely considered to be the most humane form of slaughter. Any deviation creates non kosher meat.

Perhaps the question is, how is kosher slaughter less humane the non-kosher slaughter?

http://www.jewfaq.org/peta.htm
http://www.jewfaq.org/animals.htm

Posted by: jerry at May 22, 2007 12:44 PM

"The risk of nutrition from animal products has been pushed back..."

Some has been lost, a lot has been gained. A McDonalds hamburger is not bad, and it is a choice we did not have in 1919.

"you can still get really sick from eating meat... Probably a lot sicker than you'll get from a bad apple or a tired tomato."

When you are flavorful and nutrient dense, you get attention from the hungry microbes of the world. Still better than spooling up the stomach flora that would let us digest sawdust.

Posted by: doombuggy at May 22, 2007 1:27 PM

Fast Food Nation said a McDonald's hamburger can have meat from a hundred different cattle. That's 400 hooves, and it's hard to believe none of 'em ever stepped on something evil.

When I was a kid, fast food was better. In 1968 Twinkies were made of things that were fun to eat. Nowadays, everything's heavily processed to shave off a fraction of a pennies' value per each ton shipped.

Posted by: Crid at May 22, 2007 2:20 PM

A Coke made with sugar instead of corn syrup. Ah, memories. One of the small blessings when visiting Mexico.

http://tinyurl.com/2lcjtf

Posted by: Joe at May 22, 2007 2:38 PM

kg, They fed their NEWBORN BABY soy milk and apple juice and did NOTHING to help him as he slipped below the 5-pound mark. The apparent starvation death of ANY baby would have triggered an investigation. Not to mention the fact that, they didn't just eschew a hospital birth, which thousands of people do every year - they didn't take the baby to ANY doctor, which most crunchy, granola, homebirthing and/or vegan types DO do. Tell the average midwife that you don't plan on taking your child to any type of pediatrician and she will have Words for you.

Were they poor? They certainly appeared to be. Know what? There are resources out there for poor people with babies (and there are Planned Parenthood centers for poor people who want to *avoid* having babies). Medicaid, soup kitchens, food stamps - the list goes on. And for fuck's sake, they didn't breastfeed! Right now there are responsible vegan mothers out there taking fenugreek and doperamide in order to boost their breast milk supply and carefully calibrating their diets to get enough nutrients into their kids, and they deserve better than being lumped together with these nutsos.

Their defense? They were feeding soy milk and apple juice to their child because it fit with their beliefs. Well, you can find people out there whose "beliefs" cover shaking newborns to discipline them. You can find ones whose "beliefs" cover allowing their babies to lie crying in dirty diapers all day in order to "teach them to behave." You could find people whose "beliefs" tell them to mutilate the genitals of their 10-year-old daughters. Know what? I don't respect those beliefs, and I don't respect this couple's "beliefs" either. If you are going to have a child, it is your responsibility to figure out what that child NEEDS. Not what you want that child to have - what that child NEEDS. There are books out there on vegan pregnancy and childbearing. If you are going to try to impose something like a vegan diet on your newborn, then I don't care how literate or not you are - you have to try to educate yourself about it, even if it's asking a friend to look in the paper to find a vegan group meeting and attending that with your questions.

I know these people were poor. I know they weren't well-educated. (Or so what I have read suggests.) But poor, ill-educated people manage to raise babies to adulthood every day, because they do what their parents did - they feed the baby breast milk or formula, and they ask someone else - a parent, an aunt, a friend - who has raised babies what to do if the baby "acts funny." There are 13-year-olds out there who don't fully realize that their babies aren't big dolls who nevertheless manage to FEED them. And you don't have to be well-off or educated to feel crushing guilt when your baby dies because of something you did. These two stood up in court and told the judge that they didn't think they could survive in jail. Guess what - your baby isn't going to survive anywhere, at all, because you starved him.

Gah, I'm sorry for going overboard, but this is really pushing my buttons. I could theoretically agree that a more fitting punishment here would be a sentence shorter than life in jail and compulsory sterilization, but the latter isn't an option (and I am well aware of the eugenics-type implications in any sort of state-mandated sterilization, believe you me). So, as an alternative, they're being jailed until she, at least, can't produce any more babies. Not the ideal solution, but the best one available.

Posted by: marion at May 22, 2007 2:45 PM

There have been welfare reform measures that would make anyone under the age of 25 ineligible for welfare benefits. That would drastically cut the rate of teenage pregnancies by a great deal. If the measure was ever passed, there would be plenty of teenage girls suddenly interested in proper birth control procedures. Also it would place pressure on local school districts to maintain proper sex education classes along with the abstinence lessons.

Posted by: Joe at May 22, 2007 3:41 PM

I was a vegetarian in college. I'll never forget my dad asking, "What will you eat, you hate vegetables?" Yeah well, potato chips and beer are vegetarian. I survived years and years of junk food vegetariansim. I was just as healthy as all the other beer swilling lazy-ass junk food fiends. The ADULT human body has an amazing capicity to defy biochemical odds. I can see how positive results in this personal experiment would soften these parents to the risks they were placing upon their baby.

"and they ask someone else - a parent, an aunt, a friend - who has raised babies what to do if the baby "acts funny."
You don't suppose those parents and aunts are the very people who have been poking fun at these freaks and alienating them for years?

Murder is the most heineous of crimes. This is negligent. To call it murder cheapens the word.

"Nowadays, everything's heavily processed ..."
Ever taken a look at the ingredients in Tofutti?

"...to shave off a fraction of a pennies' value per each ton shipped" And so we can have our cake and be vegans too.

Do you think they will get vegan food in jail?

Posted by: smurfy at May 22, 2007 3:46 PM

"You don't suppose those parents and aunts are the very people who have been poking fun at these freaks and alienating them for years?"

That may be the case, but if you believe you have nowhere else to turn, they're a resource, and they're unlikely to say, "You freak, we won't do anything!" However, I note that, in THIS case, these parents don't seem to have believed that they needed any outside help. I was referring more to the hypothetical example of poor, under-educated parents frantic for help with their baby but without much knowledge as to where to turn. These people never seem to have hit the frantic stage...until, that is, they found that they might spend time in jail.

Posted by: marion at May 22, 2007 4:45 PM

"I was referring more to the hypothetical example of poor, under-educated parents frantic for help with their baby but without much knowledge as to where to turn. "

I've got a lot of sympahty for them. I just took a 6 week parenting class, I still feel overwhelmed. It's a lot to take in.

I walked into a pregnant woman's apartment this morning, dirt poor. She had just extingushed her cigarette. Absolutely disgusting, I can see she needs help with this, but I had no idea how to offer. You're right Marion, they've got to ask.

Posted by: smurfy at May 22, 2007 5:54 PM

There have been welfare reform measures that would make anyone under the age of 25 ineligible for welfare benefits. That would drastically cut the rate of teenage pregnancies by a great deal. If the measure was ever passed, there would be plenty of teenage girls suddenly interested in proper birth control procedures.

Do you really believe this?

Posted by: justin case at May 22, 2007 6:04 PM

Personally, I would prefer that no one should have a child until they reach the age of 25. Passing a child through a birth canal doesn't endow a person with a complete set of parenting skills. I would further endorse:

-Mandatory parenting classes.
-Proof of consistent healthy income levels.
-Criminal and psychological background checks. Juvenile and adult records open to the public.
-Mandatory family medical history for the last 150 to 300 years.

If you really want a child... then you are going to have to earn the privilege.

Posted by: Joe at May 22, 2007 7:14 PM

Joe, your lax standards are shameful.

Proof of financial ability to care said baby.
Proof of financial ability to care/house adolescents.
Proof of ability to provide cellphone at age 10, car at age 16.
Proof of ability to pay for private lessons, tutoring, possible private school, internships, and college.

Proof of bond or liability insurance to cover any babies said baby has before the age of maturity.

Come on Joe, get with the program.

Posted by: jerry at May 22, 2007 7:27 PM

My lack of details is partially based on my lack of interest in having children. There are always a beginning to reform or a drastic change within society, Jerry. History has proven that over the centuries.

Trust me I would go much further than your suggestions, but time is not my friend at the moment.

Posted by: Joe at May 22, 2007 7:56 PM

As I once complained in a column: "You need a license to cut hair, but only working ovaries to have a child."

Posted by: Amy Alkon at May 22, 2007 8:16 PM

marion,

I certainly hope you didn't think I was defending these parents. I used the word "interesting." I also find it interesting how the events of this case can be distorted on both sides. The prosecution believes these parents "had planned" on killing this baby. That's ridiculous. The parents said they were acting on their "beliefs" when starving their own child. Equally ridiculous. Did you read the part about WHY they didn't go to the doctor? Sounds like paranoid personality disorder times two, plus one, minus one. The part that strikes me the most is the poverty issue, which is more complex than most people know to believe. I work everyday with people who live in a kind of poverty I didn't know really existed in modern America until 8 years ago. We make value judgments on people all the time based on our own experiences and what we think we would feel if we were in someone else's shoes. The thing that Smurfy said about the pregnant smoker gets at the heart of the issue in a profound way. Ignorance and poverty seem to go hand and hand, but not always. College degrees and intelligence seem to go hand and hand, but not always.

Have you ever heard the story about the educated fool?

Posted by: kg at May 23, 2007 7:02 AM

> How is kosher slaughter inhumane?


The problem with Shechita is the ban on stunning the animal prior to slaughter. Sharp knife, yes. One cut, yes. Then up to two minutes of bleeding to death while restrained, often in ways that are questionably humane in themselves.

It's obviously impossible to know exactly what experience animals are having at our hands. All I'm saying is, if I had to die to make somebody's steak au poivre, give me the stun gun first, please.

Posted by: Stu "El Inglés" Harris at May 23, 2007 7:23 AM

Thanks, Stu. I was on deadline yesterday and didn't get to that question.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at May 23, 2007 8:31 AM

Sorry to jump back in so belatedly, but I've read that the cost of producing meat is not adjusted for the environmental impact it makes. It doesn't include the loss of huge portions of the rainforests of the world, though estimating that cost would be hard to do because we don't even know half of what we've destroyed. I don't want to get into global warming because, truth be told, I'm not educated enough about it, but I also read that livestock produce methane, which can't be good on a huge scale. Agriculture certainly has its share of nasties added to the environment, but I think that mass production of meat is certainly not balanced by your 99 cents.

Posted by: christina at May 23, 2007 8:38 AM

As a life-long vegetarian until I was 16 the difference is huge between eating what is most beneficial to you and not eating something because of some hokie belief. My parents studied alternative diets and were vegetarians for around 20 years. However, they both thrive now that they eat meat. I believe that I did benefit and I learned to be health conscious, but now I could never go back because it's not what is best for me.

Posted by: Esther at May 23, 2007 6:38 PM

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