Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine
|This article may primarily relate to a different subject, or to only one aspect rather than the subject as a whole. (March 2015)|
|Founder||Neal D. Barnard|
|Focus||to promote non-animal methods in research and education (opposition to animal testing) and a plant-based diet (veganism) for disease prevention and survival.|
The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) is a non-profit organization based in Washington, D.C., which promotes a vegan diet, preventive medicine, alternatives to animal research, and encourages what it describes as "higher standards of ethics and effectiveness in research." Its primary activities include outreach and education about nutrition and compassionate choices to healthcare professionals and the public; ending the use of animals in medical school curricula; and advocating for legislative changes on the local and national levels.
Nutrition and exercise
PCRM argues for the health benefits of avoiding dairy products—Neal D. Barnard has called cheese "dairy crack"—and campaigns for vegetarian meals in schools. It also runs a website that collects reports of adverse health effects experienced by people on the Atkins diet. The New York Times writes that it was PCRM who in 2004 passed Dr Robert Atkins's medical report to the Wall Street Journal. The report, obtained by Dr. Richard Fleming of the Fleming Heart and Health Institute, showed that Atkins himself had experienced heart attack, congestive heart failure, and weight problems. Atkins supporters countered that there was no reason to think that his heart problem (cardiomyopathy) was diet related, and that his weight at death was higher due to fluids pumped into him in the hospital.
Action against fast food
The organization's nutrition director, Amy Lanou, Ph.D., has criticized the U.S. Department of Agriculture for promoting high-fat, high-calorie products, such as certain brands of cookies and fast-food products. Susan Levin, PCRM's staff dietitian, sent a letter in March 2009 to the minor league baseball team the West Michigan Whitecaps to complain about a 4-pound, 4,800-calorie hamburger on the team's concession stand menu, and to ask that the team put a label on the burger indicating that it was a "dietary disaster".
PCRM has also spoken out against the Las Vegas restaurant Heart Attack Grill, whose menu offers burgers with over 9,000 calories, after a customer was hospitalized and an unofficial spokesman died of a heart attack.
I was lovin' it
The PCRM advertising campaign "I was lovin' it" is a spoof of the McDonald's advertising slogan "I'm lovin' it" used in an advertising campaign launched in September 2010 that encourages consumers to adopt a vegetarian diet in order to avoid the increased health risks of hypertension, heart attacks, strokes and obesity associated with the consumption of the high levels of dietary fat, cholesterol and sodium in McDonald's menu offerings.
The campaign launched in the Washington, D.C. area shows a grieving woman in a morgue as the camera circles around a middle-aged man draped in a white sheet clutching a partially eaten hamburger in his right hand. As the camera reaches the man's feet protruding from underneath the sheet, the familiar Golden Arches logo is displayed and the screen fades to a red background with the catchphrase "I was lovin' it" as a narrator intones: "High cholesterol, high blood pressure, heart attacks. Tonight, make it vegetarian." In a press release associated with the ad, the PCRM stated that "McDonald's, the world's largest fast-food chain, serves a long list of high-fat, high-cholesterol items and offers almost no healthful choices."
The statement released by the PCRM announced that the advertisement would be broadcast on The Daily Show and local news broadcasts starting on September 16, 2010, in Washington, D.C., a city that the group says has a higher concentration of fast food outlets than other, similarly sized cities. The group highlighted the high levels of fat and sodium in products such as the Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese Extra Value Meal, which contains 61 grams of fat and 1,650 milligrams of sodium. The organization was considering plans to roll out the campaign to Chicago, Detroit, Houston and Los Angeles. PCRM chose Washington, D.C. as the first city for the campaign as it has the second-highest rate of deaths associated with heart disease, with 1,500 deaths annually attributed to cardiovascular conditions. PCRM plans to lobby Washington mayor Adrian Fenty to impose a ban on the construction of new fast-food dining establishments in the city.
McDonald's called the ad "outrageous, misleading and unfair" and encouraged "customers to put such outlandish propaganda in perspective, and to make food and lifestyle choices that are right for them." The National Restaurant Association, an industry business association representing more than 380,000 restaurant locations in the United States, called such ads misleading, saying that they unnecessarily focus on a single item to "distort the reality that the nation's restaurants are serving an increasing array of healthful menu choices."
Relationship with PETA
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and the foundation that manages it—the Foundation to Support Animal Protection, also known as the PETA Foundation—donated over $850,000 to PCRM between 1988 and 2000, and Barnard sat on the Foundation's board until 2005. Barnard also writes a medical column for Animal Times, PETA's magazine.
In 2004, Newsweek explained PCRM's ties to animal rights groups:
- Barnard has co-signed letters, on PCRM letterhead, with the leader of Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty, an animal-rights group the Department of Justice calls a "domestic terrorist threat." PCRM also has ties to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. An agency called the Foundation to Support Animal Protection has distributed money from PETA to PCRM in the past and, until very recently, did both groups' books. Barnard and PETA head Ingrid Newkirk are both on the foundation's board.
PCRM has responded to criticism about this from groups it says are funded by the meat, dairy, or chemical industries by stating it has no corporate affiliation with any animal protection group, and that PETA's contribution to PCRM was small.
PCRM—along with PETA and groups such as the Centers for Disease Control, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, and Mothers Against Drunk Driving—has been the subject of public criticism for several years by the Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF), a non-profit lobby group representing the food and beverage industry. The New York Times reported CCF's and PCRM's criticism of each other in 2004. CCF called PCRM a front for PETA, arguing that when PCRM offers health advice, they "do a very slick job of obscuring their real intentions," which is simply to oppose the use of meat, dairy products and alcohol. PCRM responded that, "If you are in the business of putting veal or beef on the tables of America, and slaughtering more than a million animals per hour, and making an awful lot of money at it, you are going to try to neutralize PETA or other animal-rights groups."
Criticism from the American Medical Association
The American Medical Association (AMA) has criticized PCRM’s positions. In 1990, the AMA adopted a resolution condemning PCRM’s activism against the use of animals in research, objecting to PCRM "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." PCRM notes that the AMA rescinded their resolution in 2006.
Neal Barnard objected in the Journal of the American Medical Association to the use of the term "censure" to describe the resolution, clarifying, “Censure is used by the American Medical Association (AMA) for specific purposes, and PCRM has never been the subject of any such proceeding.” AMA vice president Jarod Loeb replied to Barnard by stating that "[t]he term 'officially censured' refers to a resolution adopted by the AMA House of Delegates in June 1990" and that the resolution "was passed without dissenting vote."
In a 1991 news release, the AMA called PCRM a "pseudo-physicians group" and said that PCRM’s dietary advice promoting vegetarianism "could be dangerous to the health and well-being of Americans." Dr. Roy Schwartz, then a senior vice president of the AMA, told ABC News, "I think they're neither physician nor responsible." Schwartz later responded to PCRM criticism of consuming cow’s milk by asserting that the group was "made up of vegetarians with a vegetarian agenda."
PCRM has responded by acknowledging that it had disagreements with the AMA in the early 1990s over animal testing and vegetarian diets, but that the AMA stated in 2004 that its criticisms of PCRM's stance on vegetarianism did not reflect current AMA opinion.
- Healthy Eating for Life to Prevent and Treat Cancer (2002)
- Healthy Eating for Life to Prevent and Treat Diabetes (2002)
- Healthy Eating for Life for Children (2002)
- Healthy Eating for Life for Women (2002)
- "About PCRM", accessed January 11, 2011.
- "Vegetarian Foods: Powerful for Health", PCRM, accessed January 16, 2011.
- "About us", the Cancer Project, PCRM, accessed January 16, 2011.
- Wadman, Meredith. "Profile: Neal Barnard", Nature, 12, 602 (2006): "The foundation gave Barnard's group $592,000 in 1999 and 2000. PETA also directly donated another $265,000 between 1988 and 1999."
- "Healthy School Lunches / a Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) site". Healthyschoollunches.org. Retrieved 2009-09-16.
- Kleinfield, N.R. "Just What Killed the Diet Doctor, And What Keeps the Issue Alive?", The New York Times, February 11, 2004.
- Also see "A resource for physicians and laypeople with questions and concerns about high-protein diets", PCRM, accessed January 16, 2011.
- "Cookie Monsters Oreo promotion puts USDA on wrong side of obesity fight", Tallahassee Democrat, July 11, 2004, accessed January 16, 2011.
- "Warning sought for monster burger", Associated Press, March 31, 2009.
-  O’Reiley, Tim. "Physicians panel lambastes Heart Attack Grill," Las Vegas Review-Journal, Feb. 13, 2013.
-  "D.C. group calls for closure of Heart Attack Grill," The Associated Press, Feb. 17 2012.
- Wilson, Duff. "Doctors’ Group Attacks McDonald’s in TV Ad", The New York Times, September 16, 2010.
- Wilson, Duff. "Doctors’ Group Attacks McDonald’s in TV Ad", The New York Times, September 16, 2010. Accessed September 16, 2010.
- Staff. "'I was lovin' it' television ad enrages McDonald's", AFP, September 15, 2010. Accessed September 16, 2010.
- Honawar, Vaishali. "Provocative Commercial Targets McDonald’s High-Fat Fare: Doctors Link Washington’s Heart Disease Rates to High Concentration of Golden Arches, Other Fast-Food Outlets", Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine press release dated September 14, 2010. Accessed September 16, 2010.
- Jargon, Julie. "New Ad Targets McDonald's: Physicians' Group Seeks to Link Fast Food Consumption to Heart-Disease Rate", The Wall Street Journal, September 14, 2010. Accessed September 16, 2010.
- Carmichael, Mary. "Atkins Under Attack," Newsweek, Feb. 23, 2004.
- McVey, Jeanne McVey. "A Response to Food/Tobacco Industry Attacks", PCRM, November 6, 2009.
- Mayer, Caroline E. and Joyce, Amy. "The Escalating Obesity Wars Nonprofit's Tactics, Funding Sources Spark Controversy", The Washington Post, April 27, 2005.
- Sharkey, Joe. "Perennial Foes Meet Again in a Battle of the Snack Bar", The New York Times, November 23, 2004.
- Guither, Harold D. Animal Rights: History and Scope of a Radical Social Movement, Southern Illinois University, 1998.
- "A Response to Food/Tobacco Industry Attacks," PCRM, Nov. 6, 2009.
- Barnard, Neal D. "The AMA and the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine," JAMA, Aug. 12, 1992.
- Loeb, Jarod M. “The AMA and the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine-Reply,” JAMA, Aug. 12, 1992.
- PRIMETIME LIVE, ABC News, July 30, 1992
- "Cow’s Milk: American Medical Assoc. Disputes Dr. Spock," Daily Report Card, October 1, 1992.
- "Physicians' Group Responds to Smear Tactics by Tobacco/Meat Industry Front Group," PCRM news release, Nov. 7, 2005.
- Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine
- Wikiversity: Ethical medical research/Alternatives to animal testing