- The Washington Times - Monday, February 4, 2002

Got milk? Then you might get cancer, heart disease or a host of other medical ailments, according to one group of doctors.
The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) is leading an anti-milk campaign that says milk does a body bad. But critics say the organization is a front for radical animal-rights groups promoting an irresponsible and harmful diet.
"The committee does nothing to promote sound science," said Mike Burita, spokesman for the Center for Consumer Freedom.
"In reality, the committee is a forum for the animal-rights movement dedicated to scaring the public into a pro-vegan diet through misinformation, intimidation and links to violence," Mr. Burita said.
The American Medical Association (AMA) agrees. The 150-year-old organization of doctors has passed numerous resolutions criticizing the physicians' committee, calling it an "animal-rights organization that purports to speak for medicine."
In one public censure, the AMA said it "continues to marvel at how effectively a fringe organization of questionable repute continues to hoodwink the media with a series of questionable research that fails to enhance public health."
"Instead, it serves only to advance the agenda of activist groups interested in perverting medical science," it said.
Dr. Neal D. Barnard, who heads the PCRM, said his organization is "an advocate to alternatives to [using] animals in research.
"We are a medical group and what we do is promote preventative medicine and good nutruition," Dr. Barnard said.
Dr. Barnard has likened the effects of milk consumption to that of tobacco.
"We should think of drinking milk the way we think of smoking cigars," Dr. Barnard said in a Sept. 20 press release. "Some people like it, some hate it, but it is not necessary and in fact, carries health risks that people need to be aware of."
The committee began the anti-milk campaign Jan. 17, running print ads that state "Milk. It's not all it's cracked up to be."
"Evidence shows that dairy product consumption contributes to obesity, ear infection, constipation, respiratory problems, heart disease, and some cancer," the ad says. "For strong bones, kids need exercise, sunlight, and a diet rich in fruits and vegetables. And there's healthy calcium in fortified juices, soymilk, greens, beans, and many other foods that avoid milk's problems."
Dr. Elizabeth Whalen, president of the American Council on Science and Health, said the health claims are baseless.
"To discourage the use of an inherently nutritious product, I find highly irresponsible," Dr. Whalen said.
"Let's be upfront about this, about where their money comes from and what their agenda is they are animal-rights activists. These are not people interested in the health of children when they are encouraging parents against giving milk to children," Dr. Whalen said.
The PCRM has 100,000 members 5,000, or 5 percent, are physicians, according to the group's literature. The AMA has 300,000 members, all of whom are doctors, a spokeswoman there said.
According to the PCRM's 1999 tax filing, the largest contribution, more than $400,000 came from the Foundation to Support Animal Protection. The foundation's purpose is to help People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).
The PCRM has "butted heads" with the AMA on several occasions for accepting funding from tobacco and liquor companies and organizations that support beef consumption, Dr. Barnard said.
Critics say Dr. Barnard is associated with the leader of an extremist European animal-rights group linked to the Animal Liberation Front (ALF), a militant group labeled terrorists by the FBI.
Dr. Barnard co-signed a letter with Kevin Kjonaas, former spokesman for the ALF, who now leads an organization dedicated to shutting down Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS), a research facility that uses animals to study cures for epilepsy and Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases.
The letter was sent to customers of HLS, urging them to discontinue doing business with the facility.

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