French couple Sergine and Joel Le Maoligou appeared before a judge earlier this week, charged with fatally neglecting their 11-month-old child, Louise. Medical experts told the court that the baby, who had been fed only with her mother’s breast milk, was deficient in Vitamin A and B12 vitamins. This is relevant because Sergine and Joel are vegan.
The couple’s veganism is being implicated in what seems like a much more complicated case. Because the couple are “militant vegans” who only use alternative medicine, they must be responsible for recklessly endangering their child with their lifestyle, right? Well, not quite. This perspective ignores the fact that the child was diagnosed with bronchitis and was losing weight when she went in for her 9-month checkup. The couple did not take Louise to the hospital, as their doctor recommended; instead, they tried alternative therapies. So it seems as though this wasn’t just about food deprivation – although it may still be, in some sense, the couple’s fault that Louise died.
The case reveals strong prejudice against vegan parents, since it’s being painted as a “crime directly linked to a vegan lifestyle,” even though that’s clearly not the only factor in baby Louise’s death. A few weeks ago, writing about vegatarian parents who were denied child adoption rights in Greece, Mac McDaniel wrote, “There’s a special brand of fear-mongering that comes into play when discussing veganism and children.”
A few years ago, a similar story surfaced in Atlanta, where a vegan couple was sentenced to life in prison for feeding their infant only vegan foods; he died at the age of six weeks. In this case, though, it quickly became clear that this wasn’t healthy veganism, regardless of whether the parents were deliberately underfeeding the child (as the prosecutors claimed).
While it may not be a deliberate tactic on the part of journalists, it certainly reflects fear and ignorance about veganism. As long as women who breastfeed are healthy themselves, their children will be healthy, regardless of whether they eat meat or animal byproducts.
The issue, with the French couple, seems to be less about veganism and more about alternative medicine. As blogger Madeline Holler points out, “Instead of standard medical treatment, the parents tried homeopathic ones. That’s not always a bad thing, but the cabbage leaves, mustard and clay didn’t help their girl. Pharmaceuticals could have.” But the whole tragic case is certainly teaching us a valuable lesson about strong prejudices against vegan diets.
Photo from Flickr.