This post was originally featured on Be Vegan Anywhere, a site Surly Amy & I founded to help make veganism accessible to as many people as possible. Shout out to drrubidium for linking us to the news story!
In today’s “WTF?!” news, a Florida mother has been taken into custody for neglect after she disregarded her pediatrician’s directive to have her dehydrated baby hospitalized – citing “strong vegan beliefs.” According to investigators, Sarah Anne Markham chose to feed her child an “organic soy formula” (Markham allegedly stated that she knew it was safe because it came from Whole Foods), instead of the formula suggested by her child’s pediatrician. After finally telling officers she would take her baby to the hospital, she sat in her home for an hour at which point officers decided to arrest her.
This story makes me incredibly sad, though I’m happy that the baby is in state custody and should now be getting the care it needs. While I don’t feel qualified to speak to the larger issue of whether it’s safe to feed your baby an all vegan diet (maybe someone at Grounded Parents could help out!), I think it’s safe to say this mother did not do so in a safe manner. And although “holistic” medicine like Markham was attempting to practice and general “woo” aren’t automatically tied to veganism, the two appear to be often intertwined to an alarming degree. This relationship, fostered in no small part by buzzwords like “organic” and shops like Whole Foods, is doing vegans a disservice.
Many people like to claim that pseudoscience is innocuous (“So what if homeopathy is just a placebo as long as people feel better?”), but a quick look at the case of Ms. Markham makes it clear that isn’t always the case. For many of us, the goal of being vegan is to reduce harm, and that includes doing so amongst our fellow humans. One way to do so is by promoting healthy skepticism in the vegan community. Not only does this lend our position more credibility, but most importantly: it helps keep us safe and healthy.