VegFamily News

Op-Ed in the NYT - Death by Ignorance

By now you have probably read or caught wind of the op-ed piece in the New York Times titled "Death By Veganism" by Nina Planck. If not, and if you are of the activist sort, please read it and grab a letter-to-the-editor pen and paper. Or a blank doc and keyboard. And maybe even shoot off a letter to Nina Planck herself:

A few facts to counter the ignorance:

Fact: The most healthy and appropriate food for a baby is breastmilk.

Fact: The idea that sufficient levels of certain nutrients are unattainable through a vegan diet is erroneous. Getting adequate amounts of calcium, protein, vitamins A and D and B12 may be a bit more of a challenge than it is for non-vegans, but it is certainly possible and achieved every day by vegans and vegan children, around the world.

Fact: For those who cannot breastfeed, veganism does not advocate giving soy milk or fruit juices as a substitute for breastmilk. Farley's Soya Infant Formula is approved by the Vegan Society in the UK and is a possible vegan formula option for infants who are not breastfed. However, the importance of breastmilk for optimal growth and general health of an infant cannot be overemphasized.

Fact: Docosahexaenoic, or DHA, is an omega-3 fat is an essential nutrient. Planck emphasizes DHA from fish in her article. However, the study "Growth and development of preterm infants fed infant formulas containing docosahexaenoic acid and arachidonic acid" in the Journal of Pediatrics (146 (4): 461-8) found that preterm infants fed baby formulas fortified with DHA from algae gained weight more quickly than infants fed formula fortified with DHA from fish oil, concluding that "Feeding formulas with DHA and ARA from algal and fungal oils resulted in enhanced growth." In addition, concerns regarding harmful contaminants such as methyl mercury or dioxins in fish and fish oils are an argument against fish and fish oil consumption for pregnant and nursing women and their children. Infants can make DHA from another fatty acid called linolenic acid. They obtain this from their mother's breastmilk if the mother's diet includes good sources of linolenic acid such as canola, flaxseed, and soy oil and fresh, ground flaxseed.

Fact: "Well-planned vegan and lacto-ovo-vegetarian diets are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including during pregnancy and lactation. Appropriately planned vegan and lacto-ovo-vegetarian diets satisfy nutrient needs of infants, children, and adolescents and promote normal growth." --Position Paper, J Am Diet Assoc.

We've received several inquiries about the NYT article. We invite you to read the excellent responses already put forth by some prominent members of the vegan community:

Alex Hershaft National Chair of the Great American Meatout

Death by veganism--or propoganda? by The Urban Vegan

Meat Eating Parents Starve Baby! by Isa Chandra Moskowitzz

Anti-vegan hysteria by The Ethical Society of St. Louis

Vegan Parents: Please Write to Nina Plank by Mary Martin

Emergency Podcast: Death By Veganism from Erik's Diner at - though I don't condone his approach to response using insults and profanity

Death By Misinformation by Susie Cale at

Certainly, people who eat a diet filled with meat and dairy have been found guilty of starving their children to death, and certainly the typical Standard American Diet cannnot be upheld as the ideal. One thing stands out in all of this as truth and personal and parenting commonsense: you must be responsible in meeting the nutritional needs of yourself and your child.

Do you have questions or concerns about a vegan parent's ability to conceive, carry, birth, lactate and raise a healthy infant and child? If so, please arm yourself with the knowledge and support in the numerous articles we carry here at VegFamily:

Vegetarian Diets -- Position of ADA by The American Dietetic Association
Courage and the Vegan Pregnancy by Kerrie Saunders, PhD
Dealing With Doctors During Your Vegan Pregnancy by Erin Pavlina
Have Confidence in Your Wholesome Vegan Pregnancy by Melanie Wilson
Daily Servings Guide by Erin Pavlina
Super Foods for Pregnancy and Lactation by Cathe Olson
My Healthy Vegan Pregnancy by April Lee Coburn
Getting Your Vitamins by Erin Pavlina
Breastfeeding Your Vegan Baby by Erin Pavlina
Introducing Solids: Feeding vegan babies by Erin Pavlina
Weight Gain in Vegetarian Toddlers -- Practical Pointers by Crenda Davis, R.D>
Vegan Toddler Food Guide by Brenda Davis, R.D. and Vesanto Melina, M.S., R.D.

Some of the best information out there regarding vegan diet, pregnancy and infant nutrition:
Super Baby Food by Ruth Yaron
Pregnancy, Children, and the Vegan Diet by Michael Klaper, M.D.
Becoming Vegan by Brenda Davis, R.D. and Vesanto Melina, M.S., R.D.