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Vegan Outreach Enewsletter  •  May 23, 2007

 

An Irresponsible Attack

On Monday, May 21, the New York Times published an anti-vegan opinion piece (e.g. "Children fed only plants will not get the precious things they need to live and grow.") Below are three letters to the editor submitted by Vegan Outreach staff (there is a 150 word limit); you can also read the actual letters the Times published. Vegan.com also ran a podcast on May 21 devoted to the issue, and Erik Marcus has compiled letters he's received.

Update (5/25): More letters and comments have been added.

 

Nina Planck ("Death by Veganism," May 21, 2007) basically accuses me of child abuse for having eaten a well-planned, informed vegan diet during pregnancy and breast feeding, and for raising my daughter on an equally well-planned and informed vegan diet. In seventh grade, though, my daughter has an IQ over 140 (higher than mine or my husband's), gets straight-As in the gifted program [at right, receiving her award for a 4.0], and runs a 6:32 mile [below, leading the pack at a track meet]. The death of Crown Shakur, while tragic, implicates the parents -- clearly woefully ignorant of nutrition -- and not the vegan diet per se.

-Anne Green, Ph.D.

 

Nina Planck’s piece is a classic case of ignorant dietary extremism getting "debunked" by ignorant dietary extremism. Prosecutor Chuck Boring said that it was not because the child was fed a vegan diet but rather that "The child died because he was not fed. Period."

According to the American Dietetic Association, "Well-planned vegan and other types of vegetarian diets are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including during pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence." (J Am Diet Assoc. 2003 Jun;103(6):748-65.) I have met dozens, if not hundreds, of healthy children who have been raised as vegans from birth.

As with any diet, parents must make sure their children are getting all necessary nutrients. VeganHealth.org contains helpful information and links for anyone considering a vegan pregnancy or raising their children as vegans. It also has a page showing numerous thriving children who were raised from birth as vegans.

-Jack Norris, Registered Dietitian, Editor
VeganHealth.org

 

I was shocked to see the irresponsible -- and easily refuted -- attack on all vegan parents. Ms. Planck may want to rationalize her own personal failure to maintain a compassionate vegan diet, but according to the American Dietetic Association and Dietitians of Canada: "Well-planned vegan and other types of vegetarian diets are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including during pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence."

One child’s death condemns only the parents, not a diet. Many thousands of children thrive on a vegan diet (e.g., veganhealth.org/articles/realveganchildren), while avoiding the epidemic of obesity and diseases facing most children in the U.S.

All parents owe their children the best. Feeding kids the flesh of other animals -- although familiar and easy -- is not the best we can do. Raising kids on a well-planned diet based on awareness and compassion is a much better choice.

-Matt Ball
Executive Director, Vegan Outreach

 

I'm a little suspicious of the timing of Ms. Planck's op-ed, since she stands to profit from this "free publicity" when her book goes on sale at Amazon on June 12th! In light of this op-ed, some of my fellow vegans are receiving emails recirculating this "Hallelujah, what happened?" claim from non-vegans they know. I guess the anti-vegans are all trying to jump on the bandwagon.
-KO, Katy, TX, 5/23/07

I wrote a letter to their editor (not published of course) pointing out that Nina Planck is a disciple of the Weston Price Foundation, a lobbying group notoriously anti-soy, anti-vegan, pro-meat and pro-dairy. To allow someone with this type of personal agenda to be the only op-ed contributor regarding the Crown Shakur tragedy is absolutely biased and imbalanced. I've always noticed the Times to traditionally be less-than veg-friendly, so this really is no suprise. We just have to keep fighting even harder to inform the masses, and expose the bias of those the media allows on their pages. Most people have never even heard of the Weston Price Foundation, these people are the ones who were instrumental in spreading all the anti-soy propaganda a few years back that placed much confusion in the minds of the public and scared many away from tofu, soymilk, [see this page -- Editor.] etc. Though people are finally starting to slowly trickle back again. Thank you for all that VO does for the voiceless.
-TW, Bangor, ME, 5/24/07

To the Editor: As a registered dietitian and the parent of two healthy vegan children, I join thousands of other vegan parents in taking issue with recent comments on vegan diets. I'd like to share some up-to-date information on sources of key nutrients for vegan babies and children. In early infancy, babies, whether vegan or not, thrive on breast milk, with infant formula an option when breastfeeding is impossible. Vegan toddlers get adequate protein from a variety of foods including dried beans, whole grains, nut butters, and soy products. Vitamin B12 sources include fortified foods and supplements. Calcium comes from greens and from fortified foods like orange juice and soymilk. Interested readers can learn more about vegan diets from reputable organizations like The Vegetarian Resource Group. Yes, it's important to be aware of what you're feeding your vegan child; but this awareness is not limited to vegan parents. In view of the epidemic of childhood obesity, perhaps more parents should be focusing on the quality of their children's diets.
-Reed Mangels, PhD, RD
Vegetarian Resource Group

A healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby are possible when eating vegetarian. For years, the official position of the American Dietetic Association, the largest association of nutritional professionals in the world, has asserted that "[w]ell-planned vegan and other types of vegetarian diets are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including during pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood and adolescence." This is based on research dating back 20 years showing that vegetarian and vegan diets can support healthy pregnancies and healthy children. In fact, Dr. Benjamin Spock, who was perhaps the world's most esteemed pediatrician, embraced vegan diets in his final edition of Baby and Child Care -- described as the best-selling book in history (second only to the Bible). Dr. Spock wrote, "Children who grow up getting their nutrition from plant foods rather than meats have a tremendous health advantage. They are less likely to develop weight problems, diabetes, high blood pressure and some forms of cancer." For more information on raising healthy children on plant-based diets from birth to adolescence, see:

-Michael Greger, M.D., 5/22/07

This case was not an appropriate case to discuss the merits of feeding infants a vegan diet. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, this child never saw a doctor in his life and was born in a bath tub. His parents did not send him to a doctor because they had some phobia of hospitals. There is much more to this case than feeding children a vegan diet. It is inappropriate to use this child’s short life as an indictment of vegan diets for infants. Many non-vegan children would face the same fate if they did not see a doctor.
-PW, Atlanta, GA, 5/23/07

Ms. Planck's ... bolsters her faith-based science with anecdotal feelings and a massive syllogistic fallacy: "Vegan parents commit grossly ignorant act, therefore Veganism is grossly ignorant and deadly." Yikes, life for us vegans can be tough! As a group, we have to be perfect, because our compassion-based diet must bear the burden of all our potential character flaws. If one of us is stupid or tells a fib, it's conclusive evidence that our diet is a big dumb pack of lies. If a vegan kills someone, well, then, Soy is Murder. If only non-vegans were held to similar standards! ("Carnivore Mugs Old Lady in Doorway: FDA Nutritional Scientists Perplexed." Or better yet: "Carnivore Op-Ed Writer Logically Impaired: Egg-and-Cheese Intake Questioned.")
-CB, Beijing, China, 5/24/07

 

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