11-month-old Louise weighed only 12.5lb at her death
Parents adopted lifestyle after watching TV programme about butchered cows
A vegan couple who solely fed mother’s milk to their baby daughter before she died because of vitamin deficiency were facing life prison sentences today.
Sergine and Joel Le Moaligou appeared before a judge and jury in Amiens, northern France, charged with neglect of Louise, their 11-month-old child.
Both are militant vegans whose diet forbids them eating any animal products whatsoever, and they only use alternative medicine.
They took up the lifestyle after watching a TV programme about cows being slaughtered, with Mr Le Moaligou setting up a biological food business which recently went bankrupt.
Mrs Le Moaligou, who is now 40, called an ambulance in March 2008 after her daughter started sweating profusely and crying, and appeared to have no energy.
By the time the emergency services arrived at the family home in Saint Maulvis, a village in the Somme region north of Paris, Louise was dead.
She only weighed 5.7 kilos (12.5 pounds), compared to an average eight kilos for children of the same age.
Ambulance staff pointed out that the baby was thin and pale, before Mrs Le Moaligou admitted that she had solely been feeding her on her own breast milk.
An autopsy then revealed that Louise had been suffering from a deficiency of vitamin A and B12 – both of which are essential to healthy growth in a child. Such deficiencies also increase a child’s sensitivity to infection.
Prosecutor Anne-Laure Sandretto told the court: ‘If the mother was not consuming enough vitamin B12, then the child would not be either.’
Stephane Daquo, for the couple, said they were originally inspired to become vegans after being upset by a TV programme about cows being killed in abattoirs.
He said they also have a 13-year-old daughter who has never suffered any serious health problems.
Mr Daquo said both Mr and Mrs Le Moaligou were also opposed to traditional medicines, and used alternative therapies instead.
Mr Daquo said: ‘The couple did not follow doctor’s advice to take their baby to hospital when she was suffering from bronchitis and was losing weight when they went for the nine-month check-up.
Shocking: The child died in the couple’s home near the town of Amiens, France
‘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.’
Mr Le Moaligou’s lawyer, Patrick Quenel, said the couple remained committed vegans and were ‘wholly aware of the mistake they made’, but pleaded not guilty.
The Le Moaligous were formally charged with ‘neglect and food deprivation followed by death’ which carries a maximum sentence of 30 years.
The Le Moaligou case is believed to be the first time that a couple have faced a prison sentence for a crime directly linked to a vegan lifestyle.
Dead cattle: The Moaligous turned vegan after watching a TV programme about cows being slaughtered
It will rekindle the fierce debate about the health benefits of veganism – a term first coined by Englishman Donald Watson, who founded the Vegan Society in 1944.
Vegans exclude all animal products from their lives, but this has led to claims that they suffer from deficiencies in a range of vitamins including D and B12, and from a lack of calcium, iodine and omega 3 fatty acids.
The case, at the Somme Assizes in Amiens, continues and is expected to last until Friday.