Monday, September 12, 2011

Bits and Blurbs

A short article on veganism in the Purdue University Calumet Chronicle yesterday ("'Ve-gain' your health") had the misfortune of being piled on a clumsy swipe at those who take the rights and interests of other animals seriously. Its writer begins by attempting to correct what's presented as a misunderstanding of vegans as having "an unnatural passion about animal rights". So basically, this statement takes as a given that concern with animal rights is tantamount to having abnormal and out-of-control emotional reactions (i.e. effectively dismissing it while failing to consider that there are indeed sound rational arguments to not involve oneself in the exploitation and slaughter of sentient nonhuman animals). The writer insists, furthermore, that promoting the health benefits of a vegan diet can "outweigh the negative stigma that has been branded on the lifestyle".

The irony here, of course, is that the writer herself has managed -- whether maliciously or not (and most probably not) -- to stigmatize ethical veganism and to perpetuate stereotypes. Somehow, she'd have her readers believe, there's something inherently wrongheaded with making lifestyle choices which reflect respect for others rather than merely reflecting concern with oneself.


Ireland's Independent featured an article today on the rise in incidence of anorexia in young children. I won't weigh in on its merits as a piece on eating disorders, per se. What did stick out quite sadly, however, was that its author chose to include a vague third-party anecdote in the middle of it to lump veganism in with eating disorders. After stating that children need "full-fat milk for their bones", Emma Woolf writes:

My sister tells me about the boys too. One of her daughter's friends is a vegan.

"Yes, vegan, at nine years old! We go round there and he's on this weird diet, he basically eats soy paste and Ryvita, a few vegetables and nuts, everything organic, gluten-free, no sugar, meat or dairy.

"His mum calls it the 'perfect diet' but it's horrendous. He can't eat at friends' houses, he's anxious and nervy around food, emotionally unstable and really weak and pale. He takes about six supplements with every meal."

Imposing such diets on young children has been dubbed "muesli starvation".

The truth is that even the most mainstream health/nutrition organizations agree that children can thrive as vegans. That it's a second-hand anecdote in and of itself leaves the information's validity or credibility questionable. Even if this weren't the case, though, I'd strongly suspect that there was more going on with the child being discussed (e.g. food allergies or pre-existing health issues) since the boy purportedly doesn't consume gluten or sugar.

Plus, I'd be a pretty "anxious" kid too if friends' parents were so closed-minded and judgmental that they would conflate veganism with an eating disorder and view my parents as no better than child abusers. The bottom line is that there was just no legitimate justification to place that anecdote in that particular article, and that including it seems no more and no less than a shameful and uninformed swipe at veganism, as well as a cheap swipe at vegan parenting. I'd like to say that it's just another drop in the bucket where mentions of veganism in mainstream media are concerned. Having spoken with responsible vegan parents about the additional societal pressures of raising their children as vegans, though, I would hate to think that someone might stumble across this article and mistake Woolf for some sort of "expert" and proceed to lean harder on vegan parents who are making responsible choices for their families.

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