Vegan parenting and media bias: same old, same old.
A couple in a Amiens, France, is facing charges of neglect after their exclusively-breastfed, 11-month-old daughter, Louise, died of pneumonia and vitamin deficiency. Distrustful of Western medicine, the parents treated a 2007 case of bronchitis with cabbage poultices and camphor, and bathed their daughter with dirt. Both parents are facing up to 30 years in prison.
While the French article makes a point of saying that we shouldn’t confuse a “respectable lifestyle choice and human drama,” the English articles I have come across on the internet often do not make the same distinction. In fact, some of the articles even neglect to mention the bronchitis/pneumonia, which is recognised as playing a part in the death. Comments on these articles include such gems as “Poor kid… vegans are idiots to begin with,” and “Those idiots, here is a clue, mothers milk is an animal product. Cows are mammal’s so are humans. I feel so sorry for children of morons.”
Is anyone really surprised by this anymore? In T.O.F.U.’s last issue, our focus was on vegan parenting. Both Kelly Twomey and I spoke on the additional scrutiny vegan parents face, and stories like this just contribute to that hysteria. Among other issues that some news sources don’t mention is the fact that the child had an older sister – who is still alive and well – and that the family lived in a “run down” home. Ignoring economic context, the baby’s long battle with illness, and the parents’ reluctance to seek medical care frames veganism as the main element of Louise’s death… But this just isn’t the case (or at least, it’s not the whole case). The sensationalist headlines and blatantly anti-vegan spin represent a dishonest, incredibly biased form of journalism that I am, frankly, sick and tired of seeing. For those of use who are vegan parents raising healthy, happy children, this kind of coverage is a reminder that we will always have to defend ourselves and our children from a sea of status quo.
Not every media outlet is so blatantly biased, however. At the very least, this article from UPI makes a point of mentioning not only the bronchitis/pneumonia, but also the fact that the parents did manage to raise a 13 year old without any vitamin deficiencies. Why it is so difficult for most other media outlets to handle this story with an ounce of even-handedness, I don’t know. When Fox News is reporting with more journalistic integrity than you, you know you’ve got some issues to work out.