War of Press Releases Between CCF and PCRM

The Center for Consumer Freedom has been going after the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine lately as the animal rights group continues to try to reposition itself away from issues of medical research and instead concentrates on dietary and nutrition issues.

Neal Barnard is trying to insert himself into the ongoing national debate over whether obesity should be treated as a public health problem. Barnard has written a book claiming that certain foods are “addictive” and apparently is giving depositions as an expert in nutrition as part of ongoing lawsuits against fast food companies.

On June 4, the following CCF press release was posted to PNNOnline, a web site devoted to news about nonprofits,

‘Food Addiction Experts’ Censured by American Medical Association

Misnamed Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine

An animal-rights front group claiming to be a medical charity is promoting a dubious new book suggesting that certain foods are “physically addictive.” Before policymakers and judges give a second thought to the recommendations of author Neal Barnard and his misnamed Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), they should know more about them, says the Center for Consumer Freedom.

PCRM has received over $1.3 million in funding from extremist animal rights organizations, including People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), to promote research designed to influence or scare consumers into its strict vegetarian lifestyle. The opinion of the respected American Medical Association is unequivocal, saying that “the recommendations of PCRM [are] irresponsible and potentially dangerous to the health and welfare of Americans.” In a separate public censure, the AMA “continues to marvel at how effectively a fringe organization of questionable repute continues to hoodwink the media with a series of questionable research that fails to enhance public health.”

Surprisingly, PCRM President Neal Barnard has given depositions as a nutritional expert in the latest in a series of lawsuits against restaurants and the food industry by trial lawyers seeking to cash in on hysteria over the nation’s “obesity epidemic.” Not surprisingly, the only foods that are not labeled as addictive in Barnard’s book of “ammunition” against food companies are those that conform to a strict vegan diet offered in the book’s recipes.

“Barnard’s lawsuit ‘ammunition’ for the trial lawyers is a dud,” Richard Berman, Executive Director of The Center for Consumer Freedom, said. “When it comes to information on nutrition and health, consumers are better served by advice from the AMA than someone that fronts for PETA.”

The Center for Consumer Freedom is a non-profit coalition supported by restaurant operators, food and beverage companies, and concerned individuals, working together to promote personal responsibility and protect consumer choices.

A few days later, the site published a response from PCRM Communications Director Simon Chaitowitz (emphasis added),

We’d like to set the record straight regarding inflammatory and misleading comments made about our organization in a news release recently posted to your Web site and newsletter.

First, readers should realize that news release was written and distributed by the so-called “Center for Consumer Freedom,” a junk-food lobby group. Run by Rick Berman, a tobacco, alcohol, and fast-food lobbyist, Consumer Freedom was originally founded with more than three million dollars of Philip Morris money.

Over the past few years, the group has tried to discredit the work of many highly respected public health organizations including the Centers for Disease Control, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and Center for Science in the Public Interest. In a 1999 interview with Chain Leader magazine, a restaurant industry trade publication, Berman admitted that his strategy in attacking nutrition authorities was to “shoot the messenger” by trying to damage their credibility. His employees clearly cannot defend their positions with scientific arguments.

Berman’s group routinely antagonizes any nutrition advocates who dare to point out the health risks associated with the alcohol, meat, and junk food products they represent. They have even fought against school officials who are trying to keep soda machines out of elementary schools.

As to Consumer Freedom’s charges against PCRM, here’s the truth. PCRM is indeed a bonafide 501(c)(3) health charity, one that fully meets the guidelines of the Council of Better Business Bureaus. We both conduct clinical nutrition research and help educate the public about preventive medicine, especially the multitude of health benefits possible with a vegetarian diet. We also tackle controversies in both human and animal research.

Our physicians, dietitians, and scientists are leaders in their field. They publish their work in peer-reviewed academic journals, present their findings before scientific conferences, and sit on prestigious government panels. Regularly featured in major media outlets, from Newsweek to the Today Show, they are an influential force in the field of human health. Our president Neal D. Barnard, M.D., the popular author and nutrition researcher, has been called a “brilliant visionary” by renowned diet expert Dean Ornish for his work educating people about nutrition. His newest book, Breaking the Food Seduction, explains the science behind food cravings and takes a provocative look at the how the food industry — aided by the USDA — purposefully manipulates these cravings for their own financial gain.

Yes, we have had past disagreements with the American Medical Association, particularly over AMA’s links with industry and its promotion of animal testing, but no, AMA’s censure process has never been applied to PCRM. And PCRM works with organizations promoting human rights and protection for animals, as well as with major universities, environmental organizations, consumer groups, and others on various campaign and research projects.

We invite your readers to visit our Web site to learn more about PCRM or to call our office at 202-686-2210, ext. 309. And anyone who would like the unsavory details about Consumer Freedom might want to visit the PR watchdog Web site.

From psychologist to “popular author and nutrition researcher”, eh? (I suspect here that Chaitowitz is using very loose definitions of “popular” and “researcher.”)

CCF fired of the latest round in late July with a press release criticizing PCRM’s latest anti-meat campaign,

Anti Atkins ‘Physicians’ Group Is A Front For Animal Rights

Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine Censured by the American Medical Association

Washington, DC — Today the Center for Consumer Freedom called on the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) to come clean about its animal-rights motive for attacking diets that feature any meat or dairy foods. PCRM, an animal rights front group claiming to be a medical charity, launched a media campaign this week featuring reckless charges about health risks supposedly connected with eating meat.

“This misnamed ‘physicians committee’ represents a tiny fraction of America’s doctors who place animal-rights ideology above their patients’ health,” said Center for Consumer Freedom research director David Martosko. “PCRM has asserted itself as a home for anti-meat, pro-vegan nutritionists who are committed to removing beef, dairy, poultry, and other animal products from the American diet for good.”

The established medical community has soundly rejected PCRM’s dietary advice in the past. The American Medical Association has written that it “finds the recommendations of PCRM irresponsible and potentially dangerous to the health and welfare of Americans.” In a separate public censure, the AMA marveled at “how effectively a fringe organization of questionable repute continues to hoodwink the media with a series of questionable research that fails to enhance public health.”

PCRM has long-standing ties with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), which has funneled over $850,000 to its medical front group. PCRM president Neal Barnard, a non-practicing psychiatrist, co-chairs the PETA Foundation with PETA co-founder Ingrid Newkirk.

Martosko added: “Most Americans are too smart to knowingly take dietary advice from PETA. But when animal rights activists put on the sheep’s clothing of the medical profession, it becomes harder to know who’s credible. Force-feeding animal rights propaganda to Americans doesn’t sound very ‘responsible’ to me.”

The Center for Consumer Freedom is a nonprofit coalition supported by restaurants, food companies, and consumers working together to promote personal responsibility and protect consumer choices. To learn more, visit www.ConsumerFreedom.com.

Martosko’s comments are especially germane given the lengths that PETA and PCRM go in order to hide the fact that the two are not only ideologically but also financially intertwined. It’s amusing to see PCRM and other groups complain that CCF receives money from and lobbies on behalf of companies that sell alcohol, fast food, etc.

Whatever else you may think of CCF, at least it is upfront about its ideological position and goals. It doesn’t try to distance itself from its core ideology as PCRM does, nor does it set up layers of nonprofit front groups to funnel money to it in order to hide its origins. Why is PCRM so afraid to stand up and say it is an animal rights group that receives funding from PETA?


‘Food Addiction Experts’ Censured by American Medical Association Press Release, Center for Consumer Freedom, June 3, 2003.

Anti Atkins ‘Physicians’ Group Is A Front For Animal Rights. Press Release, Center for Consumer Freedom, July 23, 2003.

PCRM Responds to Claims by Center for Consumer Freedom. Letter, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, June 6, 2003.

Bruce Friedrich Spins Support for Animal Rights Terrorism

The Associated Press ran a story in February about People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals’ support for animal rights terrorism. The story centered around the Center for Consumer Freedom’s excellent work documenting PETA’s financial support for terrorist groups, including its donation to the Earth Liberation Front.

It is interesting to look at how PETA presents itself to the public when talking to reporters for articles like this compared to what it says when the audience is mainly other animal rights activists.

The AP reports, for example, that Bruce Friedrich told its reporter that PETA always carries out its activities legally and says of PETA’s critics,

They’re good at coming up with the best smear tactics that (public relations) firms can devise. At the end of the day, what PETA is fighting for is kindness.

But it was Bruce Friedrich who said at Animal Rights 2001 that while he personally doesn’t “blow up stuff,”

. . . I do advocate it, and I think it’s a great way to bring about animal liberation.

It was Friedrich, not the CCF, who revealed his thuggish nature when telling a reporter that PETA would protest at a church pig roast and added that,

I wouldn’t rule out turning over tables.

And, of course, it was Friedrich who wrote an essay several years ago defending the importance of “direct action” activities such as those carried about by the Animal Liberation Front saying,

I have found that Animal Liberation Front activities speak to people, regardless of their belief in animal rights. They “get it.”

. . .

Considering the power of our opposition, can you imagine where we would be without surprise direct actions and the secrecy required for so much of what we do?

Of course if I had repeatedly defended and advocated violence and thuggery, I’d probably not want to mention that to a reporter either and pretend that all PETA does is “fight for kindness” (gee, why didn’t he just throw in a line about defending Mom and apple pie while he was at it?)


Food industry questions PETA’s backing of violent activists. Associated Press, February 16, 2003.

Center for Consumer Freedom on SHAC

The Center for Consumer Freedom published an excellent report this month on Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty’s recent protests against Huntingdon Life Sciences designed to coincide with the company’s 50th year in business (though, the activists got it wrong and it was, in fact, Huntingdon’s 51st anniversary).

The report included the following “unedited quotes, taken directly from videotapes of the recent SHAC protests,”

“Animal liberation is not a campaign. It is not a struggle. It is a war! It is an all-out bloody war!”
-Robin Webb

“As long as we emptied the labs of animals, they are still easily replaced. So that’s when the ALF in this country, and my cell, started engaging in arson.”
-Rodney Coronado

“We’re a new breed of activism. We’re not your parents’ Humane Society. We’re not Friends of Animals. We’re not Earthsave. We’re not Greenpeace. We come with a new philosophy. We hold the radical line. We will not compromise! We will not apologize, and we will not relent! Vivisection is not an abstract concept. It’s a deed, done by individuals, who have weaknesses, who have breaking points, and who have home addresses!”
-Kevin Jonas

“We’ll sweep the police aside. We’ll sweep the government aside. We’ll sweep Huntingdon Life Sciences aside, and we’ll raze this evil place right to the ground.”
-Robin Webb


Special Report: The New ‘Nonviolence’. The Center for Consumer Freedom, December 5, 2002.

Farm Sanctuary Charged With Elections Law Violations in Florida

Kudos to the Center for Consumer Freedom for publicizing an August decision by the Florida Elections Commission to charge Farm Sanctuary and its co-founder Gene Bauston with 210 counts of violating Florida election laws.

The Florida Elections Commission web site doesn’t have much in the way of details on the case, but a Center for Consumer Freedom press release said the commission voted 9-0 to bring the charges alleging that,

. . . [Farm Sanctuary] illegally acted as the ballot committee’s cashier, accepting donations from Floridians on behalf of the “Amendment 10” campaign’s PAC, and unlawfully promising those donors a federal tax deduction for their campaign contributions.

Farm Sanctuary co-founder Gene Bauston was also personally named as a defendant by the Commission, which found probable cause that Farm Sanctuary’s actions were “willfull.” This distinction indicates that Mr. Bauston and Farm Sanctuary were fully aware that their actions were illegal.

Amendment 10 is the Florida ballot proposal to amend the state constitution to ban pig “gestation crates.”

The Center for Consumer Freedom noted in its press release that while the Florida Elections Commission decision only pertains to actions involving Florida voters, that Farm Sanctuary has apparently been playing a shell game with donations that likely violate election and tax laws.

Basically, Farm Sanctuary appears to have been actively taking in tax free donations using its nonprofit status, and then turning around and donating large sums of money to Floridians for Human Farms which is a political action committee to whom donations are not tax deductible. According to the Center for Consumer Freedom, Farm Sanctuary has donated more than $465,000 to Floridians for Humane Farms since September 2000. That makes Farm Sanctuary the single largest source of funds for Floridians for Humane Farms.

The Center for Consumer Freedom has an excellent dossier (PDF file) of documents pertaining to this case.


Biggest Financer of “Amendment 10” Campaign Charged With Election Finance Abuses. Center for Consumer Freedom, October 2002.

Alex Hershaft: No Room for Feminist Protesters, But Open Arms for Terrorists

Alex Hershaft had a problem — the discussion board set up on VegSource.Com to serve as a place for activists to talk about their memories of Animal Rights 2002 was being dominated by a debate by remarks made by Howard Lyman and the appropriateness of campaigns by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals which use sex to sell the animal rights message.

So Hershaft did what most people in groups try to do when faced with internal dissent — try to focus that anger back at a common foe. So on Monday, July 15, Hershaft posted the text of an op-ed by David Martosko, who is director of research at the Center for Consumer Freedom. But that article and Hershaft’s ensuing comments raised more problems and questions than they answered.

That was an odd choice because Martosko’s main point was that animal rights violence and terrorism is a mainstream part of the movement, and there was no better example of the truth of this than that advocates of violence were given prominent platforms at AR 2002. Martosko wrote, for example,

One such miscreant is actually a fugitive from justice. Paul Watson, who runs the misleadingly-named Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, made over a half-dozen speeches at AR2002, despite his continued defiance of a warrant for his arrest in Costa Rica. Watson, whose own ship has a bow filled with cement (for ramming and sinking other boats), openly advocated the baseball-bat approach to conflict resolution, telling the audience: “The fact is that we live in an extremely violent culture, and we all justify violence if itÂ’s for what we believe in.” In another session, ominously titled “Direct Tactics,” Watson advised the assembled activists that “ThereÂ’s nothing wrong with being a terrorist, as long as you win.”

Other memorable moments from AR2002 included former Animal Liberation Front (ALF) “spokesperson” Kevin Jonas embracing the T-word (“TodayÂ’s terrorist is tomorrowÂ’s freedom fighter”) and encouraging more activists to cross the line into lawbreaking: “Why should any one of us feel that ‘it shouldn’t be me taking that brick and chucking it through that window?Â’” he implored. “Why shouldnÂ’t I be going to that fur farm down the road and opening up those cages? ItÂ’s not hard; it doesn’t take a rocket scientist. You don’t need a 4-year degree to call in a bomb hoax.” Jonas (sometimes spelled “Kjonaas”) was profiled in yesterdayÂ’s Philadelphia Inquirer, defending his group and its violent actions. “I don’t feel any sympathy for people in England or America who have had their cars tipped or torched,” he offered, “because those cars were paid for out of blood money.”

To Hershaft, apparently, Martosko’s highlighting of the advocates of violence at AR2002 is representative of the real adversaries the animal rights movement faces.

This post by Hershaft brought a quick response by animal rights activist Dean Smith who was also one of the speakers at AR 2002. In a post titled, “Our “adversary” has a point”, Smith wrote,

Like it or not, the comments at AR2002 encouraging the use of violence as a means for achieving animal liberation could very well have been the impetus for the actions referenced in this article. The main point of the panel was to encourage this type of action, violent and otherwise. Why do we run away when violent acts occur and act as if they weren’t encouraged by movement leaders (tacitly and otherwise).

. . .

Both Dan Murphy in his recent column and the columnist referenced here are right to criticize our movement for violent actions. I personally wish that more leaders in this movement would have the fortitude to do so as well.

A couple others chimed in with agreement, and one, identified only as “Ali M”, put the question about terrorism and animal rights to Hershaft directly,

Alex, I’m confused about the message behind your post. What are you saying about animal rights activists who break the law? What are you saying about animal rights terrorists? There is a very clear distinction between breaking the law & being a terrorist. I hope you are not suggesting otherwise. Who are you saying is “our real adversaries?” Please respond.

Hershaft replied with a curt, chilling message,

From: AlexH. (pool-138-88-95-208.res.east.verizon.net)

Subject: Our real adversaries are consumerfreedom.com …

Date: July 15, 2002 at 3:26 pm PST

In Reply to: Re: Lest we forget our real adversaries posted by Ali M on July 15, 2002 at 2:26 pm:

… and their fellow shills for the meat, dairy, research, and animal oppressing industries. Since the people attacked in the editorial were my plenary speakers, I didn’t realize my post required clarification.

For Hershaft, then, the real adversaries of the animal rights movement are those outside of it who dare criticize activists like Paul Watson and Kevin Jonas for their endorsement of violence. To Hershaft, people like Jonas are not dangerous advocates of violence but rather “my plenary speakers.”

In Hershaft’s vision of the animal rights movement, feminists who go up on stage to read a statement in protest of an award given to a beauty pageant winner are divisive and may be banned from future animal rights conferences. Those who openly advocate violence, however, are not only welcome, but the real adversaries to the movement are those, like Martosko, who simply report about how the animal rights movement tolerates and encourages violent extremism.

This is the same Hershaft who earlier this year complained that people ignored instructions at Animal Rights 2001 and brought their dogs, complaining that the Hilton was angry about this and he needed to keep the event at the Hilton because “we are trying to project a middle class image.” It’s hard to tell where he thinks bomb hoaxes, property discussion and arson fit into a “middle class image.”


Animal-rights fanatics: Doctor Dolittle gone bad. David Martosko, Seattle Times, July 15, 2002.

Lest we forget our real adversaries. Alex Hershaft, VegSource.Com, July 15, 2002.

Our “adversary” has a point. Dean Smith, VegSource.Com, July 15, 2002.

Yes. “Sydney”, VegSource.Com, July 15, 2002.

Re: Lest we forget our real adversaries. “Ali M.”, VegSource.Com, July 15, 2002.

Our real adversaries are consumerfreedom.com …. Alex Hershaft, VegSource.Com, July 15, 2002.

The Chronic Wasting Disease Controversy

ConsumerFreedom.Com published a review of concerns about chronic wasting disease in deer and elk (often referred to as “mad deer disease.”) Like Mad Cow Disease and Cruetzefeld-Jakobs, CWD involves prions that cause lesions to form in the brain of deer and elk. The current debate is centered around what, if any, risk the disease poses to human beings.

In deer and elk, the disease was first identified in the late 1970s in deer that were held in captivity. The perception, however, is that the disease has spread rapidly with some studies suggesting that as many as 3 percent of deer in some areas may be suffer from CWD.

A major problem in assessing the extent of the risk to human beings is that no one knows how CWD is transmitted. The Mad Cow epidemic was caused when tissues from the central nervous system and brains from cows were fed back to other cows after the rending process. But CWD is clearly infectious in the wild without requiring such an elaborate transmission method, and has also jumped to elk.

As The Center for Consumer Freedom noted, groups such as the Organic Consumers Association and people like John Stauber, author of Mad Cow USA, are claiming that CWD has already killed humans. They point to four cases of young people who died from CJD.

CJD generally kills people in their 60s and 70s, so several cases of the disease among young adults certainly calls for investigation. The Center for Disease Control ruled out Mad Cow Disease as a possible culprit, at which point Stauber and others pointed out that two of the men who died were hunters and a third victim was the daughter of a hunter.

Stauber told The Wall Street Journal back in May that, “I think that we have to assume the worst of CWD — that it could be even more dangerous and costly than mad cow because of its unique ability to spread through the environment and animal to animal.”

This ignores a couple of salient points. First, Stauber never bothers to mention that the CDC also investigated whether or not exposure to CWD might have caused these individuals’ disease, and concluded that there was “no strong evidence for a causal link” between CWD and the deaths of the four people from CJD.

Moreover, Stauber’s claim that CWD can spread quickly from “animal to animal” is a distortion. Obviously it spreads among deer and elk, but there is apparently a species barrier that keeps it from jumping to other mammals. Cows penned in with deer suffering from CWD, for example, do not contract any sort of prion disease from the deer. Besides, the important issue for human beings is whether or not the disease can spread easily from deer/elk to human beings. So far the answer is no.

Even with Mad Cow Disease there is clearly a high species barrier that makes transmission to humans very difficult. Despite all of the claims that potentially tens of thousands of people would die in Great Britain, the number of actual cases of vCJD in the UK has been very small. Traditional food poisoning is a far higher risk to human beings than Mad Cow Disease.

Second, although researchers at the National Institutes of Health’s Rocky Mountain Laboratory were able to use CWD prions to transform healthy human prions into a deadly diseased form, this transformation turned out to be surprisingly difficult to do even under laboratory conditions.

Rather than the sort of hysteria that Stauber and his ilk promote, a better course is that already adopted by state and federal authorities who are proceeding on numerous fronts to find out once and for all how CWD is spread among deer and elk and what, if any, risk of infection it poses to human beings.

Of course, don’t look for animal rights activists to line up behind such research since it largely involves laboratory research with mice and other animals. In fact, it is fascinating to look at animal rights sites that mention Nobel Prize winner Stanley Prusiner’s ongoing research into prions without even a hint that Prusiner is working with laboratory animals.


‘Mad deer’ plague baffles scientists. Antonio Regalado, Wall Street Journal, May 24, 2002.

“Mad Cow”: A Review. Center for Consumer Freedom, July 10, 2002.

Study adds to ‘mad cow’ worries. Lou Kilzer, Rocky Mountain News, March 19, 2002.

Study: Deer with CWD considered edible. Larry Porter, The Omaha World-Herald, April 8, 2002.

The Prion Diseases. Stanley B. Prusiner.