You wouldn’t hire an accountant to fix your pipes, and you wouldn’t hire a plumber to audit your financial records. When doctors start prescribing huge doses of corporate welfare, it’s clear that they’ve strayed rather far from their calling.
April Washington’s October 3 article for the Rocky Mountain News reports, “[A] commercial was created by the Physician Committee For Responsible Medicine [that] seeks to spotlight contributions from the agricultural industry’s political action committees.”
According to the article, Neal Barnard, president of the group, said, “Senators take millions from corporations that produce bacon, burgers, and other fatty foods. Then Congress buys up these unhealthy products and dumps them on our school lunch programs.” (See the group’s news release.)
The travesty! The injustice! The solution, then, is to roll back federal intrusion in our diet, right? Of course not.
Washington continues, “Between 1995 and 2004, more than $51 billion in federal agricultural subsidies went to producers of sugar, oil, meat, dairy, alcohol and feed crops to be used to fatten cows and other farm animals, according to the physicians group based in Washington, D.C. … The watchdog organization is urging Congress to overhaul the Farm Bill and shift more funding to producers of healthy foods such as fruits and vegetables to help combat childhood obesity.”
In other words, these doctors don’t have any problem with federal elites determining people’s diets; they just want to be the ones in control of the purse strings.
The group details the subsidies it doesn’t like on its web page. However, the federal government should not be in the business of subsidizing any agricultural crop or of buying food (excepting military use). The problem is not that the wrong elites are in charge; the problem is that elites are in charge. The money in question rightfully belongs to the people who earn it, and they have the right to decide what food to buy on a free market.
An “Animal Rights” Agenda
I began to suspect that the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine has a broader agenda when I noticed that the group’s web page states, “We promote alternatives to animal research.” The group’s archive of news releases includes the following entries:
The Secret to Long-Term Weight Loss Might Be a Vegan Diet, Research Finds: New Study in Obesity Shows a Vegan Diet with Social Support Helps People Lose More Weight Over Two-Year Period than Conventional Low-Fat Diet
(Sept. 10, 2007)
Prostate Cancer Survival Improves with a Low-Fat Vegan Diet, New Study Shows: Levels of Hormones that Feed Tumors Are Lower in Men Who Consume Less Fat and More Fiber
(Sept. 4, 2007)
Nesquik Commercial Voted Most Deceptive Ad in Online “Badvertisements” Poll: Voters Weight In on Dairy Commercials’ Faulty Health and Beauty Claims
(Aug. 16, 2007) …
Doctors Sue University of California Over Animal Welfare Act Violations: Dog and Monkey Experiments at U.C., San Francisco, Under Fire
(July 31, 2007) …
Residents Sue City of Chandler Over Covance Animal-Testing Facility: Seven Local Plaintiffs and Physicians Group Accuse City Officials of Improper Collaboration with Covance, Violating State Open Meetings Act, Failing to Give Proper Notice of Hearings, and Violating City Zoning Ordinance
(July 3, 2007)
Are you seeing any patterns here? PCRM is not exclusively an “animal rights” group, but it certainly is an “animal rights” group.
A quick Google of the group came up with Wikipedia’s entry, which in turn pointed me to an article published August 1, 2004, by The Observer. That publication states:
Beauty and the beasts
Jamie Doward and Mark Townsend
Sunday August 1, 2004
Kevin Jonas understands the media. As well he should. Over the years the president of Shac USA, the American wing of the militant group campaigning to close down Britain’s Huntingdon Life Sciences, has had a good tutor.
As Jonas, 26, himself pointed out at an animal rights conference in Washington recently: ‘I come from the school of thought and from essentially the school of training of Peta – People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.’ …
With such deep pockets Peta is able to disburse millions of dollars every year across a global network of interest groups, including the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), which opposes animal experiments on scientific grounds and whose members (95 per cent of whom do not have medical degrees) have well documented links with Shac and other militant animal rights groups.
Over the years Peta has given more than $1.3m to the organisation whose research is regularly cited by Shac supporters as scientific proof that animal testing does not work. In 2001 Neil Barnard, the group’s president, joined Shac’s Jonas to co-sign hundreds of letters sent to the bosses of companies involved with Huntingdon, urging them to break their links with the firm.
(The Observer apparently misspells the name “Neil Barnard,” while April Washington spells it “Neal Bernard.” According to PCRM’s web page, the correct spelling is “Neal Barnard.”)
The left-wing SourceWatch also notes the relationship between PETA and PCRM, though SourceWatch downplays the connection:
PCRM does partner with PETA on some issues of common interest, including a campaign to reduce animal use in toxicity testing. However, PCRM has not received any monies from PETA or the PETA Foundation since 2001, and such funding has never been a significant part of PCRM’s budget.
When Fat is Good
As an aside, the PCRM doctors ought not bash “fatty foods.” Okay, they obviously mean foods with high levels of saturated fat. However, the amount of saturated fat in a burger depends on the quality of meat and the method of preparation. Besides, eating even bacon and burgers in moderation can be consistent with a basically healthy diet. And, as I learned, it’s unhealthy to eat too little fat, though unsaturated fat generally is better. For example, almonds are half fat by weight, and they’re listed among WebMD’s “25 Heart-Healthy Foods.” If you eat too little fat, you may suffer severe health problems or death.
Here’s what the Mayo Clinic has to say about fat:
Your body needs fat to function properly. Besides being an energy source, fat is a nutrient used in the production of cell membranes, as well as in several hormone-like compounds called eicosanoids. These compounds help regulate blood pressure, heart rate, blood vessel constriction, blood clotting and the nervous system. In addition, dietary fat carries fat-soluble vitamins — vitamins A, D, E and K — from your food into your body. Fat also helps maintain healthy hair and skin, protects vital organs, keeps your body insulated, and provides a sense of fullness after meals.
But too much fat can be harmful. Eating large amounts of high-fat foods adds excess calories, which can lead to weight gain and obesity. Obesity is a risk factor for several diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, cancer, gallstones, sleep apnea and osteoarthritis. And too much of certain types of fats — such as saturated fat or trans fat — can increase your blood cholesterol levels and your risk of coronary artery disease.