Malnourished Vegan Girl's Father Admits He Eats Meat
The father of a baby girl left desperately sick by an extreme vegan diet has revealed HE eats the meat and dairy his daughter was barred from touching.
Both he and the girl's mother are facing the possibility of jail, after pleading guilty to a charge of failing to provide for a child, causing serious injury.
The toddler was taken from her parents' care by authorities in March 2018, after she arrived at hospital suffering a seizure.
Doctors found she was grossly underweight, extremely malnourished and had rickets. Her bones so fragile they could easily break from "normal handling".
She had deficiencies in vitamin A, iron, zinc, calcium, and B12. Her levels of vitamin D were almost undetectable.
The child had been forced to eat an extreme vegan diet based on oats and rice milk, and was not given any meat or dairy.
During previous court appearances, the parents -- from Sydney's eastern suburbs -- arrived together, hand in hand.
On Thursday, they sat separately, and did not look at each other.
In court, the father's lawyer got to his feet and unloaded on the mother.
"He is not -- and was not -- a vegetarian or vegan," barrister Frank Coyne said.
He ate meat and dairy when he was outside the home.
"His then-partner was the primary carer of [the girl].
"[The father] was working to support his family as the sole financial provider."
NSW District Court Judge Sarah Huggett was not impressed.
"But she wasn't walking or talking," Her Honour said of the malnourished girl.
"Your client is an educated man. He must have realised she wasn't reaching the milestones she should have.
"He's a mature man. He could have picked up that child and gone to a doctor."
Earlier, in a victim’s impact statement read to the District Court, the little girl’s temporary foster carer described her shock when meeting the child in hospital for the first time.
“She looked like a three-month-old baby,” the statement said.
The carer said the girl had no teeth, was being fed through a tube in her nose, and must have been “terrified” with tubes coming out of her body.
The court also heard on Thursday that the parents did not officially register the girl’s birth, did not immunise her, did not list her on a Medicare card, or even name her for two weeks after she was born.
The carer said the girl was “defenceless and unable to protect herself” from her parents' criminality.
She said while other children the same age were able to run around, this girl “couldn’t sit up, couldn’t speak any words [and] couldn’t hold her bottle.”
She said while the girl is now two-and-a-half, she is still only the height of a standard one-year-old, and while she can now walk, communicate using gestures and speak about 20 words, “it has not come easy”.
“It has taken hours of persistence and hard work from [the child],” the carer said.
The child's height and weight are still not in proportion, because while she now eats a normal amount of food, she has not grown to an appropriate height, and is now classified as “obese”.
It’s like her body is storing calories, in case she needs them in the future.
The carer also told the court she remains worried about the physical consequences for the child’s future.
“People ask her age, and are shocked," she said.
“She stands out as different.”
The girl and her two older brothers now live with a relative in Queensland.
The Crown also called upon evidence from psychiatrist Dr Yvonne Skinner, who had interviewed the mother.
Skinner said in her opinion the mother was not suffering from post-natal depression, as she had expressed great enjoyment when the child was born, formed loving relationships with her children, had regular appointments to get her eye-lashes done, and had gone to great lengths to research appropriate schools for her oldest son.
The mother dabbed at her face using a tissue while the carer’s statement was read.
Judge Huggett is expected to sentence the pair on June 28.