As we were driving this morning, my husband mentioned a recent case that popped up in his news feed that he thought I should address in my blog. A Pennsylvania based mother following an “extreme form of veganism” was only feeding her baby nuts and berries. Not only was I immediately agitated by this story but my heart also went out to that baby whose mother was simply not following a healthy diet at all and was making extremely poor choices for both herself and her young child.
My husband, who is not even vegan, even mentioned his ire as he questioned why these writers and media outlets phrased the case as they did. “Vegan Mom only feeds her baby nuts and berries!” Truly, the malnourishment and child endangerment in this case is newsworthy, but her choice to be vegan has about as much relevance as the fact that Charles Manson was an omnivore. I have a feeling that no matter what this woman ate, she’d be making disastrous choices as her issues related to restriction and compulsion and an obsessive approach to “diets”. More important than her being vegan is the fact that she was continuing to feed nuts to her nut allergic baby- also a choking hazard.
Other cases have popped up in which a vegan mother or parenting couple is charged with child neglect and malnourishment and in each case, any well adjusted onlooker, vegan or not, could deduce quickly from the facts that the parent’s choices were not only weird but also unhealthy and very extreme. In no way do they represent healthy vegan living and plant based diets.
A major aspect of my vegan parents interview series is to contribute to the robust and growing body of information on the health of plant based eating and help share the stories of vegan parents, children and families – highlighting how informed they are, how motivated to do their own research for the benefit and health of their families and how active and bright they are. Many of the adults I interview are very committed to their role as healthy vegan citizens and advocates.
Becoming vegan is not a precursor to poor health or malnutrition. Becoming malnourished or endangering a child with such an extreme way of eating is a result of drastically poor choices. We see this among omnivores as well who may choose to feed their kids diets loaded with junk and fast food, leading to alarmingly high rates of child obesity, diabetes and other problems.
Of course it should also be emphasized that veganism is not a diet. It is an ethical viewpoint and philosophy of not consuming products derived from animals, not using and abusing animals for food, pleasure, entertainment, fashion and other uses. Veganism is not a diet but vegans follow a plant based diet (and not all people who consume a plant based diet are vegans). The benefits of reducing or eliminating consumption of dairy and meat are being increasingly researched and touted as not only positive for human health and animal welfare but also broader environmental impacts.
Certainly cases of child endangerment are newsworthy and deserving of coverage to raise awareness and serve as warnings. But media coverage that reduces vegan parenting to cases where veganism is shown solely as an extreme and unhealthy form of dieting are extraordinarily misinformed and slanted. I greatly look forward to seeing more positive and healthy representations of vegan parenting in mainstream media and to contributing to these representations myself with stories from my own life as well as through my project and interview series with fellow vegan parents.
Heading into Whole Foods this morning for a robust & varied batch of groceries