Whether it’s for religious, ethical or health reasons, it’s not easy being vegan. The diet excludes some obvious things like cheese, milk and eggs. But other food products are derived from animals in more subtle ways. Wine, for example, is often filtered through fining agents which are made from animal products including blood and bone marrow, or fish gelatin. In the United States cane sugar is filtered through activated carbon sourced from animal bones.
The media makes it harder still, with a story that surfaces every six months or so. Taken at face value, it suggests that a vegan diet can be dangerous (or even fatal) for children. Here are a few recent examples:
The stories are shocking, especially at a glance. From the most recent example, in Italy:
‘Doctors said the baby was severely malnourished and showed signs of deficiency in vitamin B12, which is found in foods including fish, meat, eggs and milk.’
But scratching below the surface reveals that it isn’t a vegan diet which kills children, it’s neglectful parenting. Further down in the article it is revealed that by the age of six months the child was fed exclusively on breastmilk. It’s the same story in the case of the French couple, whose child sadly died as a result. Their daughter was only given breastmilk until she was almost a year old.
The couple from Atlanta who were sentenced to life in prison over their baby’s death fed him ‘a diet largely consisting of soy milk and apple juice.’ That’s probably enough to kill anyone; a six-week-old child didn’t stand a chance.
The story from Salon relates to a mother who refused to admit her child to hospital or take medicine offered to her ‘on the grounds that it contained ingredients that came from animals.’ Any sensible vegan will agree that is taking it too far.
These people are all vegans, yes, but they are also criminally stupid. There are probably valid criticisms of the vegan diet – not least Al Gore’s conversion to it – but none of them justify this sort of sloppy reporting.