Is it ethical to take fat kids into care?

Why obese children are a heavy burden for Gaia to bear - and why they must be kept away from their resource-guzzling parents.

<I>Dear Ethan,

I am a social worker (I get ethical kudos for that, right?). However, I have an ethical dilemma. The council I work for is one of those which firmly believes that, alongside abuse, neglect, malnutrition, FGM, low educational attainment, overt bad language and regular post-watershed TV viewing, obesity in children should be a good enough reason to take them away from their parents and put them in care. As my boss says, if we can remove children because they’re not eating enough, why shouldn’t we remove them if they’re eating TOO MUCH? But, Ethan, I just want to be doubly sure that this is not an unethical thing to do. Gaia won’t mind, will She?

Raymond Purefoy,
Luton, England

Dear Raymond,

I have just this minute consulted Gaia, using a combination of chanting, soil analysis and naked star-jumping on my allotment, and I am happy to inform you that not only does she not mind but She thinks it is a wonderful idea to institutionalise extremely fat children, both for their own good and the good of the planet – her face, after all! – which they are denting and damaging with their 16-stone, thigh-scraping, lard-enabled, leather-encased, fat footprints.

She also says (I say ‘says’ – She actually communicated with me through subtle weather shifts and the howling of a demented fox) that the removal of unhealthy children sends an extremely Important and Powerful message to parentkind in general (that most foul, fecund, future-destroying wing of the human pox): ‘Be more health-aware, or else…’

Raymond, the thing people don’t understand – though you might, even if you are a ‘social’ worker, ‘social’ being a concept that me and every other eco-worker worth his or her salt despises with a passion – is that obese or overweight children (why don’t we just say ‘fat’?) are not only a threat to their own health and the health of their fellow feral kids who have the misfortune to find themselves on the opposite side of a sea-saw or the losing end of a rugby scrum with said fat kid: they are also a waddling, wobbling scud-missile attack on the planet itself. It is unethical in the extreme to be extremely overweight.

The simple fact is: fat people leave a heavier carbon footprint than slim people who eat rocket salads from Waitrose. As a professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine put it, in a timely, urgent and epoch-defining study of obese people and their habits of consumption: ‘An obese population leaves a significantly heavier footprint than a thin one.’

And do you know why, Raymond? Well first, because they are ginormous, and all that pressure bearing down on the Earth from their numerous chins to their bloated, fat-coated torso to their jelly-like, cellulite-littered, not ‘bootylicious’ bottom and thighs to their chunky calves inevitably leaves a literal footprint on Gaia’s pretty face, a Yeti-like, fat-footed scar where there could just as easily have been a fishy pond or a bunch of daffodils. And second, because it requires a hell of a lot of resources – food, fizzy drinks, denim, leather, computer games and TVs (all fat kids are sedentary TV addicts) – to sustain someone with a Body Mass Index greater than his IQ (ie, 25 or over).

Do you know how much cloth must be produced to cover the belly of a fat child with his favourite football strip? LOADS. And how is this cloth produced? By ripping cotton and other crops from Gaia’s guts, transporting them in a smog-farting van to a factory in Bangladesh, employing a three-year-old child to process, stitch, sew and dye said crops, stuffing them into massive metal crates, putting them on a huge freight aeroplane that emits enough CO2 to destroy a forest, flying them to the United Kingdom, and then transporting them to shops in Essex or Bermondsey where they are bought by unthinking mums and dads (who are probably on your files, Raymond!) who then stick the monstrous garments on their children’s fat backs. And, of course, it takes twice as much stuff to make clothes for kids twice as fat as normal children – which means these selfish brats are eating the planet as well as themselves into an early shallow grave.

On this basis, Raymond, it is simply not enough for schools to weigh children and send letters to parents letting them know if their kids are overweight, as will be done in many schools from September. No, schools must also inform parents of their children’s most important BMI – Biodiversity Mess Index. I have devised a system which can tell you how destructive a child will be to Gaia, wildlife, the ozone layer, greenery and biodiversity in general, simply by weighing them, measuring their height and asking them between 400 and 500 questions about their home life, whether they have been abused, how much their parents drink and/or smoke, whether they have seen An Inconvenient Truth and if not why not, who is their favourite celebrity chef, whether they would consider growing vegetables using ‘humanure’, and so on.

Multiplying the weight by the height and dividing it by the number of questions that the children answer correctly, one can work out if they have a Biodiversity Mess Index of 0-10 (You Are Eco-Friendly!), 10-20 (You Must Learn More About The Environment!), or over 20 (You Are An Extremely Dangerous Individual And Will Shortly Be Removed To A Care Home!). I am willing to promote my BMI in any school in Britain that can be reached by foot or by coracle from Kent.

Look Raymond, the state already interferes in the environmental affairs of big corporations and factories (though not nearly enough, in my opinion), so why should it not interfere in the environmental affairs of families, too? If a corporation emits really bizarre amounts of CO2, then greens like me call on the government to rap its knuckles or sack a few thousand of its workers in order to save the planet from the toxic toil of their brutal, unthinking manual labour. So if a child emits over and above his CO2 quota, why on Gaia’s good earth should the state not have the authority to rap his knuckles, too – literally, perhaps, with a good old-fashioned caning (but please don’t use bamboo; that belongs in the bellies of panda bears in China not across the arses of disobedient fat kids in Watford).

It seems glaringly obvious to me, Raymond, that social workers should have the right to remove any child who is overweight on the basis that a) his parents are probably a bit thick and b) the child is a flabby factory of toxins whose greed is a kick in the metaphorical balls to Gaia. I know one has to be sensitive about these things, and I have heard it said that sometimes social workers visit the homes of plump or chubby children and find it very difficult to work out if these kids really are being neglected and are neglecting the planet. Well, Raymond, there are some obvious tell-tale signs you can look out for.

Have a peep in the fridge. Is there anything from Iceland, or worse from Aldi? This is an immediate warning sign. Have a look in the larder. Is there brown pasta, brown rice or brown sugar from Waitrose? If not, why not? The lack of such products should set alarm bells ringing. Is there a PlayStation 3 in the house? If so, touch it… is it warm? If it is, that means they were playing it just before you arrived and must have switched it off when they saw you coming up the driveway! Note down this foul behaviour.

Check out the family’s laptop or PC. Look at their internet history. Have they visited the websites of Ryanair, easyJet or any of the other no-frills, no-thrills cheap airlines that are killing the planet as surely as Ted Bundy strangled his cheerleader victims? If so, that is all the evidence you need of a sedentary family that clearly eats horrible frozen foods promoted by Kerry Katona (no, I don’t know who she is, but my children tell me she is ‘eco-retarded’), and which whiles away its spare time playing super-violent video games or vomiting en masse in Faliraki or Magaluf. Raymond, you can be confident that any fat children who live in a house like this are both in danger and a danger to the planet.

Remove them at once and have them fostered, ideally with a family that has an organic allotment by the side of its house, a healthy-looking glossy-coated dog, a large back garden, a tandem bicycle perhaps, and other tell-tale signs of what we might call the Good Life. Placed there for a minimum of two years and a maximum of 10, our fat feral child may just lose weight and gain knowledge.

Ethan Greenhart’s book Can I Recycle my Granny? and 39 Other Eco-Dilemmas is published by Hodder & Stoughton in October (for more details, visit Amazon(UK)). Ethan is here to answer all your questions about ethical living in the twenty-first century. Email him .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Read his earlier columns here.

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