State representative calls for legal action against PETA
by John Buchel, State Editor
April 29, 2003
A state legislator is pushing an investigation into and possible legal action against a worldwide animal-rights group for its campaign touting the negative aspects of dairy consumption.
Rep. Scott Suder, R-Abbotsford, has contacted Wisconsin's Consumer Protection Legal Division and asked it to examine the legality of an ad campaign run by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals that casts doubt on the health benefits of milk. Suder said he might ask Attorney General Peggy Lautenschlager to investigate the organization's practices in the near future.
As part of the campaign, PETA sent a letter to Gov. Jim Doyle asking him to permanently change the official state beverage from milk to beer. The group claims humans who consume cows' milk support an industry that treats animals poorly and are more susceptible to a wide range of health problems.
"They've crossed the line this time," Suder said. "They state in their letter that milk causes breast cancer, osteoporosis and a whole host of other diseases."
It is these claims, Suder says, that are potentially in violation of Wisconsin's false advertising laws, which prohibit any person or organization from making claims in the media that contain untrue or deceptive messages.
Suder said the PETA argument bases itself on quack medical science that has linked milk to everything from heart disease to acne.
"Beer in moderation is good for you, while even one glass of milk supports animal abuse and harms your health," said Bruce Friedrich, PETA director of vegan outreach, in a release. Friedrich sent Doyle the letter.
PETA's "Got Beer?" campaign first started in 2000, when it advertised the health benefits of beer as greater than those of milk. The advertisement initially enraged the group Mothers Against Drunk Driving for promoting the use of alcohol. As part of the campaign, PETA distributed bottle openers and drink cozies on college campuses.
The campaign continued to draw criticism from a broadening range of groups, and PETA ceased its efforts before reintroducing the ad campaign with new information from Harvard studies showing negative impacts of dairy consumption.
"They're on college campuses, and they don't just pick out students who are of legal drinking age. I'm not certain that it's necessarily illegal, but that type of behavior is definitely suspect," Suder said.
PETA member Andrew Butler organized a "Got Beer?" event April 24 at Madison's Angelic Brewing Company. According to Angelic manager Steve Keviel, around 30 people attended and were photographed by Butler with beer mustaches in exchange for a beer and a bowl of vegetarian chili, all put on PETA's tab. PETA's reason for increased presence in Madison was threefold, according to regional officials: the city is the capital of Wisconsin, which calls itself "America's Dairyland;" is home to one of the largest dairy-science departments of any university; and has often been ranked as one of the hardest-partying college towns.
Suder said he felt the group has a history of absurd claims. PETA had suggested in the past to former Gov. Tommy Thompson that milk be ousted as official state beverage because certain minority populations are usually more lactose-intolerant and therefore making a dairy drink the state's beverage was racist.
"I consider the group to be fringe. I usually ignore PETA because I think they're a bunch of idiots," Suder said.
Suder said he could not ignore the current situation, which he called an assault on Wisconsin's farm families.http://www.badgerherald.com/vnews/di.../3eade4aecee89