Mom Faces Criminal Charges Because Officials Think Being a Vegan Endangers Her Baby

Seminole County, Fla., resident Sarah Markham has been put through the ringer since she refused to give her infant son formula that may have contained animal by-products.

(Photo: Jaunty Junto/Getty Images)

Nov 12, 2014· 1 MIN READ
Culture and education editor Liz Dwyer has written about race, parenting, and social justice for several national publications. She was previously education editor at Good.

Eating less meat can be good for your health and the environment. But for Sarah Markham, a mother in Seminole County, Fla., refusing to feed her baby formula that she believed contained animal by-products has had dire consequences. She was arrested, lost custody of her son for several months, and faces charges of child neglect.

Markham’s ordeal began in June when she took her son, Caleb, to a pediatrician for a checkup. The new mother was breast-feeding, but the baby, who was 12 days old, had lost 10 percent of his birth weight. The doctor told Markham to take the infant to the hospital. He also prescribed formula as a supplement.

Markham ignored those instructions and instead chose to buy organic soy formula and head home. Once the doctor discovered that she hadn’t taken Caleb to the hospital, the police were sent to Markham’s house. She was arrested and charged, and Caleb was taken into protective custody. He was later placed with his grandparents, who live outside the county, which meant that the vegan mother was only able to see her son during supervised visits once or twice a week.

To prove that she wasn’t a danger to her child, Markham has had to have a mental health evaluation, take parenting classes, and undergo drug testing—which seems like a pretty drastic response to a mom wanting to ensure that her baby was fed a vegan formula. Will we soon see parents in Seminole County being arrested if their kids are overweight or obese?

On Wednesday a local judge reunited Caleb and his mom and dismissed the Seminole County Child Protective Services’ claim that Markham is an unfit mother. However, the criminal charges haven’t been thrown out.

“There’s no case, there’s no abuse, there’s no neglect. There’s simply a doctor who has been challenged by a mother, and he didn’t like it,” Bo Markham, Caleb’s grandfather, told WFTV.com.

Caleb now weighs a healthy 17 pounds, and despite not having lived with his vegan mom all these months, he’s still not eating the animal by-product–containing formula the pediatrician prescribed.

“He’s still on a soy formula,” Markham told WFTV.com. “He’s been on it, he likes it, he’s doing well. He’s growing healthy, and I can’t ask for anything more.”