It was 50 years ago this week that newspaper headlines blared "Polio routed!" This weekend the PETA-affiliated Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) will celebrate an anniversary of its own: 20 years of opposing medical research that requires the use of animals, just the kind of science used to beat polio. PCRM runs a campaign to cut off donations from nearly 100 of America’s most prominent health charities (including the Pediatric AIDS Foundation, the March of Dimes, and the American Red Cross), simply because those organizations support lifesaving research involving animals.
For this irresponsible position, the American Medical Association has rightly and repeatedly admonished the animal-rights group. In a December 25, 1991 letter to JAMA (the AMA’s official journal), AMA scientific affairs vice president Dr. Jerod M. Loeb wrote: "the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine has been formally censured by the AMA for purposefully misrepresenting the critical role animals play in medical research."
PCRM President Neal Barnard responded in an August 12, 1992 letter to JAMA, claiming that "censure is used by the AMA for specific purposes, and PCRM has never been the subject of any such proceeding." Replying on the following page, Dr. Loeb shot back:
The term "officially censured" refers to a resolution adopted by the AMA House of Delegates in June 1990 and noted in Dr. Barnard’s letter. Contrary to Barnard’s statement, this resolution was debated fully in a Reference Committee hearing at which Barnard was present and at which he was given several opportunities to present his views in full.
Loeb was writing about AMA Resolution H-460.963, which was re-affirmed in 2000, and is currently in force as official AMA policy. It reads:
Our AMA registers strong objections to the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine for implying that physicians who support the use of animals in biomedical research are irresponsible, for misrepresenting the critical role animals play in research and teaching, and for obscuring the overwhelming support for such research which exists among practicing physicians in the United States.
In a letter notifying Barnard of the resolution’s unanimous approval, the AMA wrote:
The general approach used by PCRM takes selective data and quotations, often out of context … In response to a Resolution passed unanimously at the recent AMA House of Delegates meeting, the American Medical Association calls upon the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine to immediately terminate the inappropriate and unethical tactics your organization uses to manipulate public opinion.
The AMA has issued several other criticisms of PCRM. AMA Resolution H-460.947 (1992, lapsed):
The AMA will … continue to aggressively counter fallacious claims about biomedical research being made by animal rights groups and especially those of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and the Medical Research Modernization Committee, two animal rights organizations that purport to speak for medicine.
AMA news release (April 11, 1991):
The AMA finds the recommendations of PCRM irresponsible and potentially dangerous to the health and welfare of Americans. [PRCM is] blatantly misleading Americans on a health matter and concealing its true purpose as an animal ‘rights’ organization.
A 1992 AMA press release blasting PCRM for starting a "milk panic":
The American Medical Association is alarmed by today’s allegation that milk is dangerous and should not be required or recommended in government guidelines. There is absolutely no scientific proof to support such a claim … The AMA 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. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is an animal "rights" organization, and, despite its title, represents less than 0.5 percent of the total U.S. physician population. Its founder, Dr. Neal Barnard, is also the scientific advisor to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), an organization that supports and speaks for the terrorist organization known as the Animal Liberation Front (ALF).
The AMA released a statement in 2004 acknowledging that it no longer has an official "policy specifically addressing vegetarian diets or the inclusion of milk in diet." However, the AMA has never disavowed its specific criticisms of PCRM’s unethical tactics or its animal-rights ties. More details can be found on our ActivistCash profile of PCRM.