In today’s Los Angeles Times, guest contributor Chris Woolston examines the science behind dietary milk recommendations. The U.S. Department of Agriculture advises drinking three glasses per day; a Harvard scientist recommends one or two. And in the moo-juice abstinence corner, Woolston quotes the radicals at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) as the animal rights point of view, but then follows with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) without informing readers that it’s essentially the lab-coated arm of PETA. For these two hand-in-hand animal rights groups, nutritional advice is primarily driven by ideology, not science.
PCRM, you might remember, has a long history of anti-milk crusading, which includes being blasted by the American Medical Association for starting a “milk panic” and having a spokesman wildly claim that milk marketing has “institutional racial bias.” Naturally, Woolston found plenty of hyperbolic quotes from the animal rights activists to season his piece with. But interestingly, PCRM’s scaremongering about the supposed milk-cancer “link” isn’t convincing everybody—including PCRM’s founder, Neal Barnard:
The PCRM website says that milk raises the risk of breast cancer, but even Barnard isn't convinced. "Breast cancer is unclear," he says, adding that he doesn't often look at the organization's website.
It would certainly be saying a lot to claim that PCRM’s web content is more scientifically unreliable than Barnard, who has called cheese “dairy crack … the purest form of the [milk] drug.” But that seems to be the case. And if Barnard doesn’t even review his own group’s website from time to time, we have to wonder who does. (If we had to guess, most of PCRM’s web traffic probably comes from the headquarters of PETA and the Humane Society of the United States.)
In the end, Woolston concludes, proper milk recommendations “may be somewhere between two extremes.” Fancy that: moderation. It certainly beats abolition.