Vegan Babies and Toddlers
Veganism and Circumcision
This article has been pulled for review of information accuracy.
A baby, human or not, is a perfect example of a helpless, vulnerable being that requires a huge amount of care and protection. So often as parents we do not question routine procedures. We assume that a doctor knows what is best for our child, and a tradition or cultural practice must be safe and necessary because it is widespread and rarely questioned. Such is the case with infant circumcision.
Routine infant circumcision began in the United States around 1820, during the Victorian Era. It was started by Puritans as a method to prevent masturbation, which was wrongly viewed as an immoral act. Soon it became a medical cure-all, claiming to alleviate such diseases as epilepsy, tuberculosis and insanity, just to name a few. With the turn of the century, all of these claims have been proven to be untrue, and a bit ridiculous. In more recent decades, circumcision has been sited to protect against HIV, STDs, urinary tract infections, penile cancer and it is thought to be "cleaner" than the natural penis. However, we now know that these claims are also inaccurate and highly flawed. Circumcising 100,000 newborns so that one of them may not get penile cancer, a cancer that is usually only seen in men over 80, is certainly not sensible. The same is true with UTIs. One percent of intact boys may develop a urinary tract infection, as opposed to 3% of girls. No one would ever suggest that we circumcise our infant girls, and there are even laws in the United States to ensure they are protected from circumcision! The American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend routine infant circumcision. This has been their policy for over 30 years. The American Medical Association, the American Cancer Society and all other medical association in the world do not recommend infant circumcision. The medical reasons for circumcision are truly on their way to becoming a thing of the past.
Let's look at the religious and cultural reasons for this practice. In many Jewish and Muslim families, circumcision is a deep-felt belief. This continues to be a part of childhood for many Muslim boys, and often girls, although the Islamic religion does not call for it, and the Koran has no mention of circumcision. Ideas in the Jewish faith are changing rapidly regarding bris milah, or circumcision. Many parents are opting for a similar ritual called a bris shalom. This is the same naming ceremony, performed on the eighth day by a rabbi. Instead of the baby having his foreskin removed, the blanket he is wrapped in is cut instead, to symbolize the covenant between Abraham and God. It is a beautiful event, and everyone feels good when it is over, including the infant.
Another reason given for circumcision is the desire for the baby to look like his father, brothers or peers. There is no evidence that a boy suffers any type of trauma because his penis is whole and the males in his family or social groups are not. No one would insist that a boy's hair be colored to look like his father, or face be altered in any way to resemble his dad, and these are parts of the body that are seen much more often than the penis. The rate of circumcision in the United States is dropping so dramatically that it will soon be the circumcised boys who look "different." The rate of circumcision is currently 56% nationwide, and only 35% on the West Coast.
There are many reasons circumcision is being done less and less. Aside from the medical myths being debunked, and religious and social ideas changing, there is the growing knowledge of the procedure itself. During a circumcision, the newborn is placed on a hard, plastic mold called a circumstraint. His arms are strapped down with Velcro bounds, as well as his "spread-eagle" legs. The penis is scrubbed, and then a scalpel is used to tear the foreskin away from the glans, or head of the penis. This is an extremely painful part of the procedure, since the foreskin is tightly adhered to the glans, much like a fingernail is attached to the finger. Once this is complete, a clamp is inserted, and the foreskin is crushed and then cut off. Many babies cry but some do not, instead, they go into shock. This semi-coma like state can last hours. Pain medications are not always used during circumcision, and none are 100% effective. Breastfeeding deteriorates after a baby is circumcised, and many boys refuse to urinate for long periods of time because it is just too painful. Healing can take weeks, months or more depending on complications.
The complication rate of circumcision is an area of controversy. Many believe that it is about 1 in 50, while others believe it to be much higher. The list of complications is very long, and includes things such as; permanent curvature of the penis, blood clots, minor and major infections, hemorrhage, cysts, loss of the entire penis and death. During the first few days of a baby's life mothers and fathers should be spending time bonding with their child. Instead, they often find that their baby boys cry inconsolably, and sleep abnormally long amounts of hours as the body tries to cope with the trauma and loss from circumcision. Bathing and diaper changing is quite an ordeal, since both irritate the open wound and cause much stress on the infant. Certainly, this is no way to welcome a new being into the world.
The foreskin is much more than a piece of skin. It has specific jobs and functions. It is a part of the whole body, and has a purpose. The foreskin is tightly wrapped around the glans, protecting the penis from urine and feces in the diapered years. As it covers the glans, it keeps the penis safe, maintains pH balance and proper moisture. The self-cleaning functions of the intact penis are analogous to the self-cleaning properties of the eyelid. The foreskin also enhances sexual pleasure for both man and woman. It is rich in nerve receptors, and is the most sensitive part of the penis. The foreskin is a multi-functional, integral part of the whole penis.
The normal, natural penis requires no special care. Cleaning during childhood simply involves washing the visible area of the penis with water. When the foreskin is retractable, the boy can slip the skin back, rinse the glans and slip it back in place at each cleaning. Most importantly, never, ever allow anyone to retract an intact child's foreskin. This would be very painful for him, and could cause swelling, infection and other problems. The only person who should ever retract the foreskin is the boy himself, and only when he is ready. At some point between age three and eighteen, the foreskin will begin to loosen and become retractable. This often happens during puberty.
In conclusion, as vegans and parents we must question everything. Research, read and look "behind the curtain" if you will, in areas where we do not have full knowledge. Circumcision is so often done thoughtlessly, and it is a painful, unnecessary act performed on vulnerable creatures that do not have a choice. Just as each species on this planet deserves respect and has a purpose, so is the body of our species, including every piece and part.
The following web sites and books are just a few of the excellent sources for more circumcision information:
A Doctor Re-examines Circumcision by Thomas J. Ritter, M.D. and George C. Denniston, M.D.
What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Circumcision by Paul Fleiss, M.D. and Frederick M. Hodges, D.Phil
Questioning Circumcision - A Jewish Perspective by Ronald Goldman, Ph.D.
Sex As Nature Intended It by Kristen O'Hara with Jeffery O'Hara