Monday, 9 June 2008

Misplaced blame

Girl admitted to hospital - vegan diet blamed. Now, while I'm willing to believe that the parents in this case are messing up somewhere, I don't see why the default assumption has to be that the vegan diet is to blame. In every similar case so far, there has been some other factor - usually that the parents are cranks in some other way. (Hey, I'm not denying that veganism does attract this sort of person - but they don't represent the majority of us, ok?) For example, the family (maybe more than one - sadly, plenty exist) who rely on the 'power of prayer' to fix illnesses rather than taking their kids to the doctor. Or the mother who thought breastfeeding wasn't vegan - come on, you think a demographic containing a large number of crunchy granola types would really accept that as a norm?

Why am I so dubious? You may be thinking at this point that it is a knee-jerk response (rather like that of the doctor blaming veganism rather than looking any further?) from someone who will defend veganism at all costs. And you may worry about the future of my potential children. That is entirely your problem, since I'm unlikely to have any in the near future anyway.

But you know what? Although I don't have children, I do have a fair bit of knowledge here. I know enough people who have raised healthy vegetarian or vegan children to know that the diet isn't intrinsically a problem. (Some of their parents aren't even people I like, let alone carry a torch for - the point is that their kids are physically healthy.) I even know a smattering of life veg/ans of various stripes who have, amazingly if the press is to be believed, actually reached adulthood with no more than the average number of health problems.

Then there is my own experience. While not a life veg/an, I have been either vegetarian or vegan since well before puberty. If you ask me whether the change in diet affects a girl's periods, I won't be able to answer. (Yes, I do have them. And sometimes take iron supplements during them. Just like my omni friends, in fact.) I went pescatarian at age nine (being a child with no vegetarian relatives might be construed as one of the few good excuses for this), vegetarian at maybe 10 or 11, was vegan consistently from 14-20, slipped up and went back to being vegetarian for a bit, went vegan again in my early 20s. I do not have the spine of an 80-year old. I get back pain when doing heavy lifting, for sure, but am fairly confident that this isn't a specifically vegan trait. I am above average height for a female in England (5'8") and possibly slightly overweight. I have obviously female breasts for the first time in my life, probably because the soy content in my diet has gone up. I get more than my fair share of throat and chest infections - brought on by stress and living in a polluted city - but no other health problems. I take no daily vitamin supplement - just massive doses of vitamin c to ward off freshers' flu each year and iron for maybe one period in five. (Btw, I have heard from certain quarters that 'real vegans don't have periods' - this is neither typical nor healthy, and the people in question can jam it up their non-bleeding parts and get a sodding life.) I get my ID checked for alcohol purchases way more often than my 'young persons' railcard (I'm a mature student) gets checked closely on the train. I sometimes have the mouth of a thirteen-year old. I have spent my entire life listening to doom-laden predictions about my future health, none of which have come true.

Finally, there is the question of why exactly the press doesn't seem as keen to cover the health problems of children raised on junk food. Or if they do they blame it on external factors, never parental choice. There does seem to be a concerted anti-vegan trend in the media, and it does rather make life difficult for the majority of us who aren't like that.


Elaine Vigneault said...

Argh! That article makes me mad. They said she has Rickets, which is caused by a lack of vitamin D. They say vitamin D is "found in liver, oily fish and dairy produce." They DON'T mention that it's also absorbed through SUNLIGHT and that the vitamin D in dairy is ADDED, not natural. Vitamin D is also found in fortified soymilk and plenty of other fortified foods.

This sounds like the true cause is that the child was either deprived of sunlight (easy to do in Scotland) or she has a genetic condition that reduced absorption of vitamin D or they simply didn't provide her with enough variety and fat.

I bet if we watch this story, the truth will come out that it's not, in fact a vegan diet that hurt the child, but rather some other issue. Anyone can screw up their diet regardless of whether they include animal products or not. It's obviously not veganism that hurt this child, it was a poorly planned diet, which can happen with or without meat.

Cody said...

I had a few family members get on me after those kids died from being fed apple juice and soy milk or whatever.

"I guess this just proves that veganism isn't healthy."


The media tries to grab onto anything out of the norm to make a story more interesting. There was some story about a couple who sexually abused a little girl, and who also happened to be pagan. Suddenly, it's "proof" that pagan-types are all evil predators.