Recently, an advocacy group that touts vegan diets and rails against using animals for medical research announced they were suing California schools for serving processed meats to students, hoping to force them to stop.
The group calls itself the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM).
I was walking the golf course on a sunny day when the smart phone announced a new email’s arrival. It was from an electronic journal that was writing about the lawsuit in an article titled “Doctors sue Calif. schools for serving processed meats.”
I had a pretty good idea this was not my American Medical Assn. (AMA) “doctors”, or even the California Medical Assn. Opening up the link confirmed my thinking that the “doctors” were not really “doctors”, but instead it was PCRM.
The article started out with this opening sentence; “A national physicians group filed a lawsuit Wednesday…….seeking to stop them from serving processed meats to students because of research linking the foods to colorectal cancer.”
The headline has since changed to “Activist group sues……..”
PCRM cited the World Health Organization’s 2015 report that concluded that processed meats are linked to colorectal cancer, a report that was highly controversial and critiquing the source, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, revealed that the decision by the committee was far from unanimous.
Janet Riley, spokesperson for the North American Meat Institute, issued a statement that included the following; “While PCRM links its latest lawsuits in California to a widely critiqued International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) report, they conveniently choose not to cite clarifying follow-up statements from IARC’s parent organization, the World Health Organization (WHO), which said, in part, ‘The latest IARC review does not ask people to stop eating processed meats.’
While using the name Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, chosen in 1985 when the committee was founded, to make the group appear to John Q Public to be a reputable, science-based entity, it appears, upon further research, to be anything but that.
PCRM boasts a 150,000 strong membership. Closer review reveals that only 12,000 members are actually physicians, less than 10%.
The organization’s website invites membership for just a $20 donation, no need to have even attended, much less graduated from, a U.S. medical school.
This most definitely is NOT a “national physicians group.”
The same site reveals an income last year of $21.8 million, and working assets of over $24 million. That does not come from $20 memberships.
Only 0.26% came from grants. It seems to me that any organization with the financial clout of PCRM would be getting lots of grants to do good work, if its work was really good and science-based.
Records do show that PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) has contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars, some directly from PETA but some through third-party organizations. There are other links to PETA such as shared titles, addresses, letterheads and even bookkeepers that I won’t go into.
Just suffice it to say that PCRM probably cares less about your health than it does the health of animals.
Here is a quote from PCRM’s president, Neal Barnard, which appeared in the Buffalo News. “The beef industry has contributed to more American deaths than all the wars of this century, all natural disasters, and all automobile accidents combined.”
Barnard has also written a book, Breaking the Food Seduction, in which he claims that meat, cheese and chocolate are addictive based on “recently conducted but previously unpublicized studies.” He also refers to cheese as “morphine on a cracker.”
There is also a statement on the web page equates deaths from eating meat to deaths from smoking.
In 2004 PCRM ran the following ad in a commuter freebie distributed by the Washington Post:
“Have you had serious problems on the Atkins-style, high protein, low carbohydrate diet? Were you advised by a doctor to go on the diet or did you consult with a doctor about the diet? If so, you may be able to file a lawsuit to recover damages. If you believe you are injured contact attorney Daniel Kinburn at…..”
Seriously, a “Physicians Committee” soliciting lawsuits against hard-working, practicing physicians?
So what are the facts on colorectal cancer that makes it a top priority for PCRM?
First of all, not counting skin cancers, it is the third largest cause of cancer in both men and women. For the most part, it is not related to family history or genetics.
This cancer will occur in approximately 1 in every 22 adults, or 4.2%
The incidence is rising in younger patients, but overall is declining significantly. In adults over 55 years of age, the pace of decline from 2003-2013 was 3% annually, attributable for the most part to colorectal cancer screening, most notably the wonderful colonoscopy experience.
Colonoscopy can identify and remove adenomas, benign little polyps, before they morph into cancer, thus completely preventing what was surely going to happen and turn you into a statistic.
Why is it increasing in the young adult population? Lifestyle.
The National Cancer Society lists the following as some of the risk factors increasing the possibility of developing colorectal cancer:
- Physically Inactive
- Red and processed meats
- Low fiber, low vegetable diets’
- Excessive alcohol intake
- Getting older (beats the alternative, I guess)
- History of colon polyps, adenomas
- Inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis)
- Being of African American descent
By the way, the WHO report’s definition of a high processed meat containing diet is consuming 50 grams or more of that product daily, or the equivalent of one hot dog per day.
My guess is that anyone consuming one hot dog each day has bigger life issues to worry about than developing colorectal cancer.