Earlier, we reported on a vegan/veg buffet at Lake Side Cafe, not realizing that the world’s biggest vegan story was playing out in a Georgia courtroom today. It is a particularly sad tale: everyone involved loses big time, and it’s unclear whether justice has been truly served.
The story began around three years ago, when 6-week-old Crown Shakur starved to death following a diet of soy milk and apple juice. Which is to say, his parents, Jade Sanders, 27, and Lamont Thomas, 31, were evidently not feeding their child enough calories to survive. They were convicted of malice murder, felony murder, involuntary manslaughter and cruelty to children last week after 7 hours of jury deliberation, and sentenced today to life in prison (the sentence was automatic, and the appeal will likely take years to be adjudicated).
This case seems to be less about the ethics of fringe diets for children than of pure stupidity on the part of the parents. Whatever you feed your newborn, he or she should be under professional medical care (Crown was born at home) to monitor weight, vital signs, and all that important stuff. It is certainly possible to raise a vegan baby, as long as the parents keep in mind this warning from the Vegetarian Resource Group: “It is important to note that soymilk, rice milk, and homemade formulas should not be used to replace breast milk or commercial infant formula during the first year. These foods do not contain the right amounts of nutrients for babies.” When breast milk is not an option, there are plenty of supplements on the market to create the right diet for a newborn. (Also, it seems to us that breast milk is an ethically acceptable animal product; it would be difficult to more fully guarantee consensuality on the part of the donor.)
The (legal) point, though, is that starving your child is not okay, whether it was intentional or not. Based on the facts of this case, it does not seem to us like these people killed their baby on purpose, but they certainly did not fulfill their legal responsibilities as parents. The triple punishment - prison time, the facticity of infanticide, and the knowledge of how the latter caused the former - is severe (the prison time may get reduced in years to come), but it might serve as a reminder to all current and potential parents of newborns that children are not indestructible, and sometimes, the needs of one’s baby come before the needs of the planet.