Vegan parents starve children (updated)

A story of horrendous child abuse in Arizona was mentioned by Rush Limbaugh, and it got me thinking. Here is the story from 3TV and

A Scottsdale woman who severely malnourished her three children was sentenced to 30 years in prison, the Maricopa County Attorney's Office announced Thursday.

Kimu Parker was convicted on three counts of child abuse and received 10 years for each count, Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas said.

The sentences will be served consecutively.

"Thirty years in prison is entirely appropriate for a person who almost starved to death three defenseless children.  We will strongly oppose any attempt to reduce this sentence," Thomas said in a press release.

When she was arrested, Parker's 3-year-old weighed 12 pounds, her 9-year-old child weighed 29 pounds and her 11-year-old child weighed 36 pounds.

The parents attributed the low weights to a strict vegan diet.

The youngest child was taken to the hospital in April 2005 after suffering many seizures over the course of several hours. Police reports show the parents didn't call 911 for several hours.

This is heartbreaking, of course. The Maricopa County Attorney does us all a favor by calling attention to the severity of the crime and setting an example with this charge and conviction. I hope that this story gets discussed widely. Because I am afraid there are a fair number of people who will sympathize with the parents and believe they were well-intentioned, and just got a little carried away.

In my lifetime I have met a lot of enthusiasts for a lot of diets. A vegan diet can probably provide a fairly complete diet for some adults, if they take exquisite care to get fermented products containing certain critical amino acids and treat them with the meiculous delicacy required. But most people don't know how to do this. I have seen more than a few vegans wither away and start to look unhealthy as adults.

Children are another matter entirely. They are developing in all sorts of ways. The parents in this case must have lived in their own parallel universe, choosing to ignore obvious problems. 

A lot of people seem to think that they get to choose their own reality. This is self-indulgence of the highest order, a childish insistence that tangible facts should yield to deeply-held beliefs about the way the world should be. No parent can afford to do that as a child suffers. If not out of decency, then out of fear of a long, long prison sentence.

Update: Ashlee N. Titus writes:

There is a significant population of people that will defend vegans making unhealthy diet decisions for their children, yet denounce Christian parents for making medical decisions based on religious conviction.  Or, people that passionately and simultaneously defend animal rights and abortion rights.

Update: Diana Blackwell writes:

The vegans who starved their children deserve every day they get in prison.  There is no excuse for such poor parenting. 

On the other hand, it isn't fair to blame veganism per se.  I'm a vegan myself and so is my husband.  We have been for decades.  We're both very healthy, not underweight, not diseased, not malnourished.  To look at either of us, you would never guess that we're any different from you.

I might add that eating correctly as a vegan is not as difficult as you seem to think.  Especially now, with the advent of a wide variety of vegan convenience foods, including gluten-based fake "meats," etc., it's easier than ever for a vegan to have a delicious and nutritionally complete diet.

The nutrional superiority of the vegan diet has been scientifically demonstrated in a very respectable book called The China Study by T. Colin Campbell. This is the most comprehensive study ever done on human diet.  Dr. Campbell is a physician and scientist who undertood the study to prove the need for meat and other animal products in human diet.  But the more he learned, the more he saw connections between animal-based foods and disease:  cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and a host of lesser ailments.  At the same time, he saw that plant-based diets, as followed by many deprived people in China, actually promoted good health.  Campbell himself found his experimental conclusions so compelling that he reversed his own position both professionally and personally.  He became an advocate for plant-based diets and adopted a vegan diet himself. 

Please don't throw the baby out with the bath.  Our highways are full of crashes that kill and maim, but you don't call for the elimination of cars.  Slippery bathtubs kill some people every year, but we keep right on bathing.  Also, it's perfectly possible for parents to malnourish their children on an omnivorous diet.  Take a look around.  For every anemic vegan you see, there are hundreds of unhealthy omnivores.

Update: Gayle Dean writes:
There is no connection between starving children to death and veganism.  Children of meat-eaters have also been starved to death.  It is a matter of not feeding them enough food of any kind.

Even the prosecutor in the Crown Shakur case (and all the doctors and other experts) agreed that the child did not die from veganism, he died from simply not being fed enough food, period.

And the comment about a vegan diet not being appropriate for babies and children, well that is simply false.  Here is the official statement from the website of the American Dietetic Association, which heartily endorses a vegan diet for everyone.

"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. Vegetarian diets offer a number of nutritional benefits, including lower levels of saturated fat, cholesterol, and animal protein as well as higher levels of carbohydrates, fiber,magnesium, potassium, folate, and antioxidants such as vitamins C and E and phytochemicals. Vegetarians have been reported to have lower body mass indices than nonvegetarians, as well as lower rates of death from ischemic heart disease; vegetarians also show lower blood cholesterol levels; lower blood pressure; and lower rates of hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and prostate and colon cancer."

And Dr. Frank Oski, former director of pediatrics at Johns Hopkins University said:

"There is no reason to drink cow's milk at any time in your life. It was designed for calves, it was not designed for humans, and we should all stop drinking it today, this afternoon."

Dr. Spock agreed, saying, "[T]here was a time when cow's milk was considered very desirable. But research, along with clinical experience, has forced doctors and nutritionists to rethink this recommendation."

And finally, The World Health Organization (WHO) says that western nations that consume a lot of meat/dairy have the highest levels of osteoporosis, which is caused by eating a lot of animal protein. It says, "...hip fracture rates are higher in developed countries where calcium intake is high than in developing countries where calcium intake is low...fracture risk has recently been shown to be a function of protein intake in North American women."  Anyone concerned about osteoporosis should read the WHO report here.
The scientific information about the benefits of a vegan diet and the hazards of a meat and dairy diet are well known in the medical and scientificcommunity, but we rarely hear the facts from the media.