A Pennsylvania vegan mother whose family said her diet had become a dangerous obsession has been charged with child endangerment after her estranged husband reported her to the Children & Youth Services agency for feeding their 11-month-old child a sparse diet of fruit and nuts. According to the Washington Post, a doctor assessing the baby indicated that the child was suffering from malnourishment and had developed a skin condition which could have led to septic shock.
Elizabeth Hawk, 33, had turned her identity as a vegan into a source of pride, and she wanted her baby to live the same lifestyle, according to family members. Her sister-in-law, Brandy Hawk, said that Elizabeth was “obsessed.”
“She was going to live on water and sunlight.”
According to CBS Pittsburgh, Elizabeth brushed off Brandy’s concerns with the child’s health.
“He had a severe rash. It was his motor skills; he couldn’t use his hands at all.”
Elizabeth allegedly blamed the rash on “allergies.”
Estranged husband Jerry Hawk wasn’t convinced either, and after removing the baby from his wife’s care, he went to a Children & Youth Services agency in nearby Fayette County. From there, the child was promptly rushed to a West Virginia hospital, where doctors deemed the child to be suffering from malnourishment. According to The Inquirer, the baby has since recovered and is being raised by the father. Brandy said that the baby was “doing great” and had “completely turned around.”
As the Washington Post also noted, while it is hardly impossible to raise a child on a vegan diet, special recommendations are in effect. The Journal of the American Dietetic Association lists very strict recommendations. The ADA advocates feeding young children vegan foods which are very high in protein, along with several vital nutrient supplements which may be lacking.
“For the first 4 to 6 months, breast milk should be the sole food with soy-based infant formula as an alternative. Commercial soymilk should not be the primary beverage until after age 1 year. Breastfed vegan infants may need supplements of vitamin B-12 if maternal diet is inadequate; older infants may need zinc supplements and reliable sources of iron and vitamins D and B-12. Timing of solid food introduction is similar to that recommended for non-vegetarians. Tofu, dried beans, and meat analogs are introduced as protein sources around 7-8 months. Vegan diets can be planned to be nutritionally adequate and support growth for infants.”
This is not, by a long shot, the first time that a vegan parent has been charged with malnourishing their child. Just this year, in July, as also reported by the Washington Post, vegan parents in Italy lost custodial rights to their 14-month-old after the child was taken to the hospital by the baby’s grandparents for severe malnutrition. The baby had to undergo an operation for a congenital heart condition, and doctors said that they were shocked by the baby’s condition. Sadly, Italy has seen a rash of similar cases. In June, a 2-year-old and an 11-month-old were also treated for malnutrition due to improperly managed enforced vegan diets.
Many vegan parents are up in arms, particularly blaming the media, while pushing the notion that “ill-informed journalists [are] claiming that vegan diets harm/kill babies.” The truth is that, while children can absolutely survive and thrive on vegan diets, it requires a lot of work, a lot of management, and a lot of knowledge. Without the proper information and strict attention to the details, kids keep on ending up in the hospital thanks to parents who fail to meet those standards.
As for Elizabeth Hawk, she is currently facing charges of child endangerment for her fruit-and-nut diet, and she has been released on her own recognizance. A preliminary hearing in her case has been scheduled for November 14.
[Featured Image by David Silverman/Getty Images]