The trial of the vegan couple in France whose baby died highlights how difficult it is not to eat meat there.
Wednesday 30 March 2011 20.00 BST
The trial in France of two vegan parents charged with "neglect or food deprivation" after the death of their baby daughter has raised hackles on both sides of the Channel from those who feel their dietary choices are being questioned.
The fact that Sergine and Joel Le Moaligou fed the child only breast milk during her short 11-month life, and treated her bronchitis with cabbage and clay poultices, would suggest their parenting skills were more to blame than their eating habits.
But evidence presented to the court made a direct link between baby Louise's death and her parents' diet.
The child was underweight and suffering severe vitamin deficiencies, making her susceptible to the bronchial infection that killed her – deficiencies possibly linked to the mother's diet, according to the deputy state prosecutor.
Even without the opprobrium a case such as this provokes, it is not easy being vegetarian in France, the land of steak-frites, foie gras and other solidly carnivorous fare. Studies suggest four million Britons may be vegetarians, though others claim 10% of the population are "meat avoiders".
In France there are an estimated one million vegetarians.
A non-scientific survey of Facebook reveals that the British-based Vegan society has 60,978 fans, while the French Vegetarian Association has 1,518 and the Vegetarian and Vegan page 1,173. (By comparison the French "Slap a Vegetarian with an Escalope" page has 168,294 fans.)
If it is hard work being a Gallic vegetarian, it is nigh on impossible being a vegan.
The Le Moaligous were forced to educate their elder daughter Elodie, now 13, at home.
French school canteens are largely run on the premise that a child should eat everything on their plate.
In her blog, food writer Rosa Jackson recounts how when her son Sam became a vegetarian, a member of the school staff explained to her:
"Vegetarianism is not a recognised diet in France. We'll have to put everything on the plate even if he doesn't eat it."
One poster responding to the blog recounted how a chef in Normandy insisted the omelette he had served was still vegetarian even though it was covered in "just a foie gras sauce".