Farms.com May 30, 2014
In what can only be described as a shocking display of audacity, the animal rights group PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) has launched a campaign aimed at the dairy industry which uses the slogan “Got Autism” – an obvious take on the popular “Got Milk” slogan used for years by the dairy industry, in an attempt to link the consumption of cow’s milk with autism.
The ad features an image of a bowl of milk with cereal making a frowning face, along with the words “Studies have shown a link between cow’s milk and autism”. This isn’t the first time the group has run this campaign; in fact it caused such outrage in the U.S when they ran it several years ago that the billboard company that hosted the posters broke off their relationship.
The basis of their claim comes from two studies conducted many years ago – one in 2002 and the other in 1995. The 1995 study was a single-blind study (most respected scientists would do double-blind), where the researchers show a link between improvements in symptoms of autistic children when they removed milk and glutens and gliadin and casein from the children’s diets. The study did not in any way show milk caused autism. The study only involved 20 children – hardly definitive.
The second study is even older from 1995 and it found that children with autism had antibodies to milk proteins in their blood. But it absolutely did not find a cause or effect, or even explain why this may be.
No studies have shown a link since these two were first reported. One would think that if autism researchers honestly felt that there was a relationship between autism and milk, after more than 10 years of research this case would have been made by now. Indeed, a number of studies since then have stated that ``evidence on this topic is currently limited and weak.`` http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/special-diets-do-not-work-for-autism/
A more recent 2014 double-blind study (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24564346), with placebo controls, showed absolutely no link.
Autism is a complicated condition. Many suggested causes for autism have been controversial, this one is no exception, but PETA does seem to have gone too far this time. We can only hope that the general public is discerning enough to understand the lack of credible evidence in this case, and to find fault with PETA’s tactics, not with dairy farmers. Is it ethical for PETA to mislead and give false information to promote their cause?