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.