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Nancy Ahern

is a freelance writer and columnist in Arizona.

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    Got Truth?
    by Nancy Ahern

    October 30th, 2002

    She is a tiny woman. Standing 4'11", weighing a maximum of 101 pounds on a good day, my friend is, nonetheless, a force to be reckoned with.

    "I was born in Vietnam. We ate fish, and we ate soybeans." She beckoned to a younger man who was sitting with a crowd of her relatives -- we were at her house for a baby shower in her honor. "Tuan is my younger brother. He was born here, in the U.S." I gazed up into his face.

    "He's big." Tuan was easily 6'1", and well-muscled. Massive.

    "It's the milk. He had milk. All my younger brothers and sisters are big. My baby is going to be big, too, because I'm going to make sure she has plenty of milk. I don't understand why this organization is going around trying to tell us that milk is bad."

    Minh is referring to the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, an animal rights activist organization that has recently been linked with a group of eco-terrorists. PETA has been harassing students at elementary schools, trying to convince them to stop drinking cow's milk, and drink soy milk instead.

    "Soy milk doesn't make your bones grow. Look at me! Look at my brother! The difference, I tell you, is milk!"

    Minh is not alone. Approximately 100 students in Aberdeen, Scotland, agreed with Minh's viewpoint in a most vociferous and substantial fashion. When PETA spokesperson Sean Gifford and his partner, an unnamed be-costumed spokescow attempted to publicize what they claim are dangers in drinking milk, the students surrounded them and, for 10 minutes, drenched them in milk. The students shouted "Milk for the masses" and it was not until two police officers intervened that the PETA representatives could make their escape. They had planned on handing out cards with cartoon pictures of characters who fart, have zits and who suffer leaky obesity as a result of dairy products. Examples of the propaganda PETA has been trying to circulate among children may be found at this site: Keep these in mind as you read on.

    Other schools around the world have, of course, been targeted. PETA has hit up universities, trying to promote beer drinking in lieu of milk drinking, of all things, and they ran a scare campaign on school children in Winnipeg, Canada, last year, telling the children that drinking milk gives them zits, causes diabetes and makes their bones fragile.

    It gets even funnier, folks.

    Among PETA's many adversaries is the California Milk Advisory Board (CMAB). CMAB currently promotes the dairy farmers it represents through the use of a "Happy Cow" campaign. In advertisements, "Happy Cows" sing, dance and chat about the joy of being a dairy cow in California.

    Earlier this year, PETA filed a complaint against CMAB with the Federal Trade Commission for deceptive advertising -- cows don't really talk, sing or dance. This makes the ads deceptive to consumers.

    Remember those trading cards? Let's talk deceptive. Let's talk unrealistic. Let's talk "hypocrisy." PETA medical claims are backed by one flimsy "fact sheet" compiled by a "Dr." who admits he does not hold a medical degree. In this sheet, the claim is that milk is an "unnatural food" for humans. Considering humanity has thrived on myriad such "unnatural foods" for millennia, I'm somewhat at a loss to figure out how they've arrived at this conclusion.

    PETA would like to see the "unnatural" dairy milk replaced with "natural" soy-based milk products. The National Dairy Council, which actually does speak to the scientific and medical community, has this to say on their site

    Relying on soy beverages to boost daily calcium intake may not be a wise strategy, suggests a new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

    Researchers at Creighton University in Omaha examined the calcium absorption (how the body utilizes calcium) from cow's milk and calcium-fortified soy beverages. The results showed that the calcium from cow's milk was more efficiently absorbed by the adult men in the study than the calcium from the soy beverage.

    "Our findings show that calcium fortification of soy beverages usually fails to produce a calcium source comparable to cow's milk in terms of physical properties or absorbability," said co-author Robert P. Heaney, M.D., professor of medicine at Creighton University. "Even if a label indicates the two beverages have the same calcium per serving, the bioavailability, or the amount of calcium absorbed, from the soy beverage will be significantly less - typically 25 percent less absorbed compared to cow's milk."

    Unlike cow's milk, soy beverages naturally contain very little calcium (about 10 mg per serving). Manufacturers often fortify these soy beverages with calcium, yet the amount is not regulated and the levels can vary greatly (80 mg to 500 mg per serving).

    Natural. Realistic. Truthful. Riiiiight.

    I hope PETA comes to my kids' school. I'll be sure to let Minh and Tuan
    in on the fun.

    © 2002 Tocqevillian Magazine