Part One: Shoddy Writing
You wouldn’t believe my surprise on Wednesday morning when I woke up to see that my child had, overnight, become the poster boy for malnourished children on a “worrying” vegan diet.
Despite never having met Ames, Stuff.co.nz writer Shabnam Dastgheib took it upon herself to put a picture of him on the internet, with the title “Worry over vegan babies”. Keep in mind, that being only three years old, Ames is incapable of reading this article, and totally unable to defend himself. This is not journalism, this is bullying – plain and simple.
Shabnam, as a parent, I must ask; what has prompted you to target a child in your desperate attempt to get people to click on your headline? Ames is a lovely, friendly young boy, and the last thing he needs is to have you writing baseless articles framing him in a negative light. Unlike you or I, growing up in the internet age, through his childhood and teenage years, Ames will have the unfortunately reality of having everything he posts to social media recorded for the rest of human history. This is the worst introduction to this world you could have provided him. Isn’t there some sort of ethical code that journalists are meant to follow?
I ask you to apologise. Not to me, and not to Jessie, but to Ames – the child you have placed in harm’s way. I don’t mean a formal, editorial apology. No, I want you to come to Ames’ home, met him, and tell him you are sorry. Maybe bring him a Hot Wheels car to make up for it.
To be completely honest though, what is worse than seeing such a hurtful article, is simply having my child associated with such a poorly written article. It’s straight up embarrassing.
Despite starting with a headline proclaiming that vegan and gluten free children worry experts, Shabnam then reports on a perfectly healthy (not gluten free!) child who has never worried any expert. This is followed up by discussing the rise of vegan, vegetarian, and gluten free diets with a nutritionist who doesn’t really sound worried about vegan babies at all, but does mention that eating gluten free can be expensive, and fat free diets aren’t good for diets. This is our first clue that the author doesn’t really have any purpose, or idea of where this article is going.
She then gets distracted by baby-led weaning, which is wholly irrelevant to the story I thought she was telling. This is backed up with her discussion with a Ministry of Health spokesperson, who tells us that baby-led weaning isn’t recommended as there is a lack of research into it, but then also admits that the Ministry’s guidelines are outdated. Then something is mentioned about feeding a seven month old a piece of broccoli. This is where I feel things start to get awkward for the author. At this age, most children only have one or two teeth, and no one would ever try to feed them a piece of broccoli. Also, did they forget that Ames is three? This reads like a school student rushing an essay the night before it’s due – there are plenty of words, but no real story. Not to mention that they didn’t even get Ames’ name correct!
So Stuff editors, this is where I ask you, why did you even let such a terrible article be published? You’ve let one of your writers bully a child, and you’ve simply published a terrible piece of ‘journalism’. This isn’t a rhetorical question. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org and I look forward to hearing your explanation on this chain of events. I’ll give you a hint though – the answer is “this article never should have been published, we have retracted it and offer an apology to Ames, and Shabnam will be undertaking some training to learn how to actually write proper articles”.
Part Two: The Truth
Now that that is all out of the way, shall we address the issue that Shabnam was originally trying to discuss? I’m not really sure what that was though, so I’ll just cover everything.
A survey I did earlier this year revealed around one quarter of vegans have children, and one thirds of these children are being raised vegans. Vegans number around 1-2% of our population, and if you do the maths, that works out to be a really small number of vegan babies.
So what else may ‘experts’ be worried about, besides this small handful of kids? A quick Google search for the terms “expert children worried” enlightens us. Here are some of the things that seem to worry the experts:
- The increasing number of children being diagnosed with anxiety
- Child abuse and domestic violence
Compared to these issues, I don’t think Shabnam is too worried about vegan and gluten free babies, but is perhaps more worried about getting people to click on her articles.
Here’s another interesting point to consider. Imagine you were worried about your child’s nutrition. Being a responsible parent, you may take them to a doctor, Plunket nurse, nutritionist or other expert for advice. They’d kindly discuss everything with you, then hand you some brochures on iron and other such things to take home with you. Turn these over though, and you’ll see on the back that these were kindly printed by Beef + Lamb. While you may think you have some professional information in your hand, in reality all you have is an advertising brochure.
I admit that I’m no expert, but what worries me is that Beef + Lamb can masquerade their advertising material as nutritional advice, and many parents would be none the wiser. We wouldn’t trust McDonalds to provide nutritional advice, and nor should we trust any other business to provide nutritional advice when they have a vested interest in us consuming their products.
Part Three: An Introduction
After Shabnam’s terrible introduction of Ames, let me introduce you to him properly. This is Ames Hitchcock-Hume. This photo was taken a couple of weeks ago when he had the opportunity to meet some rescued bobby calves. He will be celebrating his fourth birthday next month. Recently he suffered his first heart break, when his best friend at daycare decided they no longer wanted to be his friend. His favourite Pokemon is Eeevee, and he loves playing with Hot Wheels cars. He likes cashews and pineapple, but not onion or capsicum.