The National Dairy Council (NDC) has rubbished the science behind a resurfaced People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) campaign linking dairy consumption to autism.
PETA’s Got Autism? campaign reemerged last week - years after a short-lived poster campaign in New Jersey in 2008 that ended when the billboard firm hosting the advert cancelled its agreement with PETA following complaints.
The Got Autism? campaign is based on the findings of two scientific studies that, according to PETA, indicate “many autistic kids improve dramatically when put on a diet free of dairy foods.”
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a range of neurodevelopment disorders, characterized by social impairments, communication difficulties, and restricted, repetitive, and stereotyped patterns of behavior.
Speaking with DairyReporter.com, Barbara Baron, spokesperson, National Dairy Council (NDC), dismissed the link made by PETA.
“Although there is no known cause of autism, PETA is supporting its message with two studies, a 1995 study by the University of Rome and a 2002 study that only looked at 20 children. Both studies are over ten years old and the conclusions have not held up in a recent scientific research review on this topic,” said Baron.
“Autism is a complex developmental disorder. There is no medical consensus at this time to indicate that eliminating any particular food is effective in treating autism. All dietary recommendations should be based on sound science, endorsed by recognized health organizations and recommend for each individual by his/her physician or registered dietitian.”
No billboard plans
Despite the reemergence of Got Autism?, PETA currently has no plans to repeat its ill-fated 2008 poster campaign.
“PETA US has not launched a new campaign to erect this billboard and does not have current plans to do so,” a PETA spokesperson told DairyReporter.com.
“However, it will continue to spread the message that dairy consumption can lead to major health problems,” the spokesperson added.
This news will likely be welcomed by the many consumers, academics and media outlets, who over the last week have slated the PETA campaign on Twitter.
Scottish politician Mark McDonald said:
Comedian Dean Burnett joked:
Cows produce milk. Dairy causes autism. Autism means poor social skills. Cows have poor social skills. COWS ARE AUTISTIC! #PETAscience— Dean Burnett (@garwboy) May 28, 2014
News outlet Time.com said:
PETA's latest anti-milk campaign plays the autism card http://t.co/Zeg4uqOcrZ— TIME.com (@TIME) May 30, 2014
"No need to...consume it"
The reemergence of Got Autism? is PETA’s latest effort to steer consumers away from dairy.
In 2013, PETA unveiled Got Zits? - its latest anti-dairy campaign. It erected two posters in Kansas City featuring an image of a teenage girl sporting a milk mustache and several blemishes alongside the slogan: “Got Zits? Studies show: Milk and cheese trigger acne. Ditch dairy.”
The claim was made on the back of a single scientific study that reported evidence of a connection between diet and acne – particularly consumption of high glycaemic load foods and dairy.
Parents “who want to raise healthy and kind kids should steer clear of the dairy aisle," the PETA spokesperson added.
“It is entirely unnatural for humans to consume the milk of another species. Like all animals, human mothers produce milk to feed their babies, and beyond infancy, there’s no need to continue to consume it."
“Like people, cows produce milk for their babies who, instead of being allowed to nurse, are taken from their mothers – a traumatic separation for both mother and calf – when the are weeks old and crammed into veal crates or used for dairy production until their bodies are worn out and they are hauled to the abattoir.”