Posted by: bridget | 23 May 2007

Anti-Vegan Madness

Recently, a couple in Georgia were sentenced to life in prison after their son died of malnutrition.  Crown Shakur weighed only 3.5 pounds when he died; he was six weeks old.  Prosecutors demonstrated that he was fed only apple juice and soymilk, as his parents are vegan; moreover, he was fed insufficient quantities of food to sustain him.  The prosecution focused on the fact that he was given so little food as to waste away.

The defense focused on the fact that the parents were vegans and refused to be cruel to their child’s body.  Beyond the absurdity of letting a child die instead of feeding him some Infamil,  this is not a case of malnutrition, anemia, or the like: this is starvation.

Infants need 130-150 kcal/kg per day (or about 60 kcal/pound).  A six-week old child ought to weigh approximately 30 pounds; therefore, he would need approximately 1800 kcal/day.  If Crown weighed 3.5 pounds, he was getting approximately 200 calories/day, or one-tenth of his required needs.  That is the equivalent of about two cups of apple juice or 1 3/4 cup of soy milk per day.

It should be plain that these parents starved their child to death and such starvation has nothing to do with veganism.  Yet, the blogosphere (here, here, and here) and even the mainstream media says otherwise.  Nina Planck wrote an anti-vegetarian/vegan polemic in the New York Times, blaming Crown’s death on veganism and not starvation.

This vegetarian blogger will be the first to admit that eliminating animal products is very difficult and requires a lot of discipline.  However, she takes issue with the idea that it is veganism that killed this child and not neglect, cruelty, and starvation.   Ms. Planck would think that growing children need meat, but ignores the millions of Indian children (and many American children) who grow up without ever having eaten meat.  Vegetarians and vegans have a longer life expectancy than do meat-eaters, are at a lower risk of many cancers, diabetes, and obesity. Ms. Planck’s position is simply that growing children need lots of nutrients, and the death of a starved baby proves that veganism and vegetarianism don’t work.  Can we point to the skyrocketing child obesity rate to point out that the American diet doesn’t work, either?  At least that’s an entire generation, not one isolated incident.



  1. first off… inform me here. Would a vegan oppose breastmilk then. I mean technically we are mammles and all… but breastfeeding is about as natural as it gets… and it is the perfect food for babies. Not all women are in a position to do it… some can’t physically produce… but most women are capeable. So tell me, is a there a vegan stance against breastfeeding?

    Also, your point is well made. Sounds silly to blame this on being a vegan and not on them just being screwed up people/parents.

  2. Zabs,

    I was wondering the same thing! I know that a lot of vegans oppose the exploitation of animals and their treatment; they probably would not have the same concerns about themselves.
    Vegetarian Resource Forum says that breast milk is ideal for vegan infants. IMO, that is a sensible position. The mother can take all of her B12 supplements, lentils, hummus, and other stuff and pass it along to her baby.

    Here is a pretty good rationalisation for breast feeding but raising your kid vegan:
    “Philosophically, the animal rights pillar of my veganism comes down to this: humans can give consent that is meaningful to other humans, animals can’t. So I support breastfeeding (even from a wet nurse), blood transfusion, french kissing, etc., but oppose milk drinking, wool wearing, bestiality, etc. (not that those practices are equivalent – obviously they are all complicated by the other issues they raise).”

  3. Incorrigable carnivore that I am, I must grudgingly admit that I think you are correct, this was starvation, apparently through ignorance.

    Commercial livestock producers load animals with anti-biotics and growth hormones. Then meat processors use other products to insure their meat is tender and uniform. Dairy cows are implanted with growth hormones these days as well. Some producers are even spraying hay with pesticides and preservatives. I think this and not the meat itself causes the problem.

    Sadly vegetable producers are following closely behind the livestock industry. I know a tomato producer who sprays his plants to kill them before harvest. Soon we will have genetically modified vegetables. Theoretically of course we will be able to buy non-modified products. But I don’t believe it is possible to get completely uncontaminated corn and soybean seed already and I see no reason to think the same thing won’t happen with vegetables.

    Boy, sorry for the cheery outlook and I know you have heard some of this from me before.

  4. “humans can give consent that is meaningful to other humans, animals can’t.”

    Well when I start my farm I will be sure to obtain full consent from any goat I milk. :-)

  5. Hi Bridget,

    I really don’t think the skyrocketing childhood obesity rate is due to eating meat. Don’t you think it is more the availability of soda, candy, and processed foods such as chicken McNuggets?

    As for vegetables getting sprayed to kill insects and the such, spray away for my sake :) I’ll take my chances with the chemicals. Bugs suck.

    Also, I’ve actually worked in the beef industry. In cattle feeding yards to be exact. I guess I’d rather have a grain fed, hormone implanted steak any day over something grass fed. Truthfully, beef very safe. There are scientific studies showing how long it takes antibiotics and other drugs to leave the bovine’s system. Accurate records are kept and the animal cannot be taken to slaughter if the withdrawl period is not up. Not all beef cattle are given antibiotics. Only if an animal gets sick does it get treated. It’s treat the animal or have it die.

    Okay, that’s my 2 cents. Coming from the midwest (Kansas), I felt the need to defend the livelihood of the wonderful beef industry. Now, I will not do the same for chickens ;)

    Back on topic — obviously, the poor baby was starved. However, I think common sense should dictate feeding a baby a balanced diet to include meat and dairy. Adults should be able to choose what they eat or do not eat, but pushing that off on an innocent baby seems ridiculous to me personally.

  6. They are lucky in my opinion that they didn’t get the electric chair, something they soooo deserve. Hope they don’t have lenient parole laws in Georgia. …Next Stop Lauderdale

  7. Tammi,

    Agreed – I don’t think that meat is responsible for childhood obesity. Mostly being satirical. :)

    More later. :)

  8. Bridget, completely off topic, but somewhat related:
    Can you tell me where I can fund information about cheeses and whether they use animal rennet? TJ’s labels theirs, but the national brands don’t seem to specify.

  9. Hi Kelly,

    I avoid rennet when I know it’s there (i.e. I don’t ask in restaurants or if I’m eating at someone’s house, because it’s too much of a pain). Trader Joe’s does label; so does Costco.

    Any microbial or fungal “cheese culture” is rennet-free.

    Here’s a link to some national brands:

    Look for kosher cheeses (prohibition against cooking a kid in its mother’s milk – this would be sort of the same thing).

  10. This is typical to try to pin veganism to crazy people. They Starved the baby, plain N simple, nothing to do with being vegan. Im so tired of seeing these articles like this. Six week old newborns DO NOT weigh 30 pounds. UGH!

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