French vegans in dock over baby's death
Two vegans who fed their 11-month-old daughter only mother's milk went on trial in northern France on Tuesday charged with neglect after their baby died suffering from vitamin deficiency.
Sergine and Joel Le Moaligou, whose vegan diet forbids consuming any animal product including eggs and cow's milk, called the emergency services in March 2008 after becoming worried about their baby Louise's listlessness.
When the ambulance arrived at their home in Saint-Maulvis, a small village 150 kilometres (90 miles) north of Paris, the baby was already dead.
The ambulance workers called the police because the child was pale and thin, weighing 5.7 kilos (12.5 pounds) compared to an average eight kilos for her age.
The baby had only been fed on the milk of her mother, who was aged 37 at the time.
An autopsy showed that Louise was suffering from a vitamin A and B12 deficiency which experts say increases a child's sensitivity to infection and can be due to an unbalanced diet.
"The problem of vitamin B12 deficiency could be linked to the mother's diet," said Anne-Laure Sandretto, deputy prosecutor in the city of Amiens where the trial is taking place.
The parents, who also have a 13-year-old daughter who did not suffer vitamin deficiencies, became vegan after seeing "a television programme about how cattle were taken to abattoirs," said the mother's lawyer, Stephane Daquo.
They distrust traditional medicine and prefer to treat their children using their own methods, in accordance with advice from books.
"The couple did not follow the doctor's advice to hospitalise the baby who was suffering from bronchitis and was losing weight when they went for the nine-month check-up," Daquo said.
"They preferred applying clay or cabbage poultices whose recipes they found in their books. These are people who read the wrong thing at the wrong time," said Daquo.
The parents are still vegan and "are completely aware of the mistake they made," said the father's lawyer, Patrick Quenel.
The couple has been charged with "neglect or food deprivation followed by death" and face up to 30 years in prison if convicted.
© 2011 AFP