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Not the Ducks! – PETA Flops on to the Autism Quackery Bandwagon

In a miraculous show of scientific rigour and common sense, PETA has begun to advocate for autism.

Except in typical PETA fashion, they have let a complete quack write a highly insulting and inaccurate take on autism.

Now the thing is autism is a problem because it is an idiopathic disease. In that we just don’t know what definitively causes it. Oh we know childhood and foetal infections can cause it. Rubella for example causes neurological developmental disorders that manifest as autism. The thing to remember is autism is a clinical behaviour diagnosis rather than a definitive one. It takes time and indeed some kids are false positives. Kids have behavioural issues and learning difficulties who are initially diagnosed as autistic but grow into appropriate developmental stages.

Now there are pro-autism people who decry such language but frankly? The developmental stages are a rough guide for us to detect neurological issues. Countless lives are improved thanks to these and many children have long and healthy lives due to the early detection of neurological depression and retardation and the correction of these. For example? Cretinism. Missed mileston, thyroid testing = Early thyroxine therapy = no more missed milestone and full and healthy development.

The Indigo Child attitude to autism harms children because it encourages the notion that children with a health issue are normal and so they don’t seek tried and tested methods of therapy. I think the neuroatypical child being portrayed as “Special” harms them by ignoring foibles. It is a lie parents tell themselves because no one wants to have a sick child. The fact is autism need not be a disease. Medication and therapy lets most lead a normal and healthy life. In fact the current theory is that we always had autistic kids. We just thought those kids were a bit weird growing up and grew up just fine when treated normally and their little foibles were adjusted for.

But PETA? PETA are now utilising the common autism fear to flog their own bullshit. Autism is caused by vaccines? Nah! Autism is caused by non-vegetarianism!

Ladies and Gentlemen? That sound you just heard was Ed Brayton fainting.

Autism is a brain disorder that causes sufferers to have extreme difficulty communicating and relating to others. It is often marked by anti-social behavior like screaming and obsessive repetition of actions, which takes an enormous emotional toll on sufferers and their families. PETA has created a billboard to alert the public to the connection between this devastating disease and dairy-product consumption.

Okay, sort of a depiction of autism at its most severe.

But that response? PETA has created a billboard to drum up fear and push for veganism through.

More research is needed, but scientific studies have shown that many autistic kids improve dramatically when put on a diet free of dairy foods. One study of 20 children found a major reduction in autistic behavior in kids who were put on a casein-free diet (casein is a component of cow’s milk). And another study done by researchers at the University of Rome showed a “marked improvement” in the behavior of autistic children who were taken off dairy products.

The research was done by ARI. Autism Research Institute, slick professional looking website.

That’s the thing. 50% of online information is by slick looking websites. ARI pretends to be legit, expensive website design makes the place look rather spiffy. By contrast? Natural News is designed to look like a small indie operation when it frankly puts out more hits per month than FTB combined.

The first statement about diets from here is to ignore naysayers. And it provides advice to ignore doctors because doctors knew nothing about diets.

Which is hilarious, doctors are taught nutrition. Part of my Social and Preventative Medicine and Paediatrics papers are about diets.

In their report, the AAP found that they could not recommend the use of special diets for children with autism spectrum disorder because of inadequate evidence. The report stated, “Although use of the gluten/casein-free diet for children with ASDs is popular, there is little evidence to support or refute this intervention, and reviewers have determined that meaningful conclusions cannot be drawn from the existing literature.” Similarily the Cochrane Library’s Gluten and Casein-free diets in autism spectrum disorder paper from 2008 indicates no effect on the behaviour or function of individuals on autism. When the parents were aware of allocation they claimed a benefit. When the trial was double blinded there were no significant differences indicating that any improvement due to a diet is entirely due to parents being aware and the placebo effect. As in the parents thinking the child has improved when the situation is the same.

Another systematic review shows that there is no support fro such diets in the treatment of autism spectrum disorder. And that the stigmatisation, diversion of resources and reduced bone thickness as a side effect is not great.

The ARI review in particular ignores that the negative results for a Gluten and indeed Casein free diet by ignoring papers. Every double blinded study has shown milk free diets to have no benefit and slight disadvantages to them.

There is absolutely no proper evidence for this bar extremely subjective research from non blinded studies.

The reason why dairy foods may worsen or even cause autism is being debated. Some suspect that casein harms the brain, while others suggest that the gastrointestinal problems so often caused by dairy products cause distress and thus worsen behavior in autistic children.

Regardless of the cause, testimonials show that many people with this disease may be able to find relief with a simple dietary change—removing milk from their diet. The Internet contains numerous heart-wrenching stories from parents of kids who had suffered the worst effects of autism for years before dairy foods were eliminated from their children’s diets. Here is one mother’s story:

Unless your children are allergic to lactose or gluten it is advisable to maintain a normal diet and not force them into fads promoted by PETA. This is the official line of medicine and paediatrics. There are negative side effects to restricted diets in children and they are not advisable for fads.

PETA is incredibly intellectually dishonest here by claiming that “Some” suspect that casein harms the brain which is also a good reason not to drink breast milk then. Added to which vegetarian children generally have low calcium, Iron and Protein and eliminating milk from this is eliminating a cheap source of calcium and protein.

If your child is lactose or casein intolerant then your trained paediatrician will give you a better and more rounded diet that is easier to stick to than PETA’s scare mongering nonsense. ARI may not have its anti-vax ties on the surface but it’s emphasis on quackery certainly empowers it and a quick search leads to articles about mercury toxins which is a common enough argument against the anti-vax when dealing with vaccines.

Then I realized that Miles’ ear infections had begun when he was 11 months old, just after we had switched him from soy formula to cow’s milk. He’d been on soy formula because my family was prone to allergies, and I’d read that soy might be better for him. I had breast-fed until he was 3 months old, but he didn’t tolerate breast milk very well—possibly because I was drinking lots of milk. There was nothing to lose, so I decided to eliminate all the dairy products from his diet. What happened next was nothing short of miraculous. Miles stopped screaming, he didn’t spend as much time repeating actions, and by the end of the first week, he pulled on my hand when he wanted to go downstairs. For the first time in months, he let his sister hold his hands to sing “Ring Around a Rosy.”

Anecdotes, have they considered treating the ear infection? Otitis Media is common in young children because the eustachian tube is short and so ear infections are common. It has nothing to do with diet but due to simple anatomy and physics. Tube connects to throat, a sore throat can trigger an ear infection. That’s more common in babies because they cry a lot opening the eustachian tube and secondly because the tube is shorter.

It isn’t surprising that dairy products may worsen this disease, considering that milk has already been strongly linked to cancerCrohn’s disease, and other serious health problems. Anyone who wants to alleviate or avoid the devastating effects of autism should give cow’s milk the boot and switch to healthy vegan alternatives instead. To learn more about a diet free of dairy products, order our free “Vegetarian Starter Kit” today.

Cancer! Crohn’s! No I am afraid neither are linked to milk. Crohn’s precipitates lactose intolerance but lactose doesn’t precipitate Crohn’s.

This is shocking behaviour. PETA used to be on my shit list for being the front for Animal Liberation Extremists in particular the charming Camille Marino and her hypocrite brigade from NIO (Hah! Life saved by medical intervention at an ICU grade facility. Only reason she exists to harass students is the animal testing she hates.). This is the respectable face of their hate mail and attacks on anyone involved in medical research.

It is shocking that PETA would throw its hat in the arena on the side of autism quacks who make a quick buck by promising cures to desperate parents that don’t exist. or who push anti-vax ideas.

Eat a balanced diet and buy ethically. That’s more than PETA’s idiotic campaigns to reduce animal testing and meat eating by frankly ludicrous scare mongering. And they want us to take them seriously when they do things like this? Has PETA considered that every time they do something unscientific and silly they lose credibility?

You want to encourage people to be vegetarian? Don’t pretend to be a medical institution and don’t lie about research and don’t make claims that are frankly bullshit and above all? Don’t make claims that harm autistic people.

Comments

  1. UnknownEric the Apostate says

    My son is autistic. He doesn’t drink milk and only rarely eats cheese. PETA is full of… well, you said it better than I can.

  2. Holms says

    Amazing. Normally, a weak scientific claim is pushed with lousy statistics, the precautionary priniciple and all the rest of the usual obfuscation, and ends on ‘more research needed.’ PETA on the other hand open with it. It has been a very long fucking time since these idiots have had a shred of credibility, but this article just about debunks itself.

  3. anne mariehovgaard says

    Kids with ASD’s tend to be even more fussy when it comes to food than most kids. If they like milk/cheese etc. then taking that away seems mean – and also likely to make the parents’ lives more stressful.

  4. resident_alien says

    There are blogs out there with names like vegansagainstpeta and such.That tells you all you need to know…

  5. Codi Johnson says

    My second attempt at reply since my first was lost in the sign in process. Essentially, I said this: lamenting about people who wish to improve their own or their child’s life by improving their diet is just plain stupid. There’s no way around that; it’s just stupid. Hating PETA is irrelevant to this whole discussion. People generally hate PETA because they make them feel uncomfortable (or guilty) and there’s a reason for that. People like to wear their leather/fur, eat their meat, dairy, and eggs, and use or abuse other species directly or indirectly, and PETA points this out–which makes people feel guilty. They would never cop to this, of course, they always have some “perfectly legitimate” reason for hating PETA.

    Doctor or not, anyone who thinks the modern processed food diet laced with pesticides, growth hormones, etc., and/or GMOs, is perfectly fine and healthy is…well, YOU figure out how ‘smart’ that is.

  6. Holms says

    On the other hand, they may simply be weary of the rank dishonesty employed by PETA, as was pointed out in the OP, and the scienceblogs link in the replies above. Many people are also beyond giving PETA credit for much, given that a large number of their initiatives have been for pure press exposure, rather than any constructive goal.

    In short, people are getting tired of the famewhoring and lying; hence, there is a growing feeling of resentment even amongst those that share some of PETA’s goals, because the stupid behaviour is making a mockery of the cause, eroding the efforts of those that should be treated as their allies.

    Which brings me to: “lamenting about people who wish to improve their own or their child’s life by improving their diet is just plain stupid. There’s no way around that; it’s just stupid.“. This idea – that people can decrease the odds of autistic children by eliminating dairy from their diet – is one such example of PETA’s dishonesty. Those people have been misled, this dairy-autism link is a lie. A person cannot be faulted for wanting to minimise autism odds, but PETA sure can be for lying.

    But hey, let’s assume for the moment that your next point is plausible, i.e. that I may simply be opposing PETA due to them making me feel guilty. Let’s have a look at that list of sources of discomfort:
    – I don’t have any leather or fur, so I cannot feel guilty about that.
    – I eat meat / dairy / eggs, but disagree that this is a bad thing, so I cannot feel guilty about that.
    – Using or abusing animals directly or indirectly is a bit vague. Do you mean having animals as pets? I sure as shit don’t feel guilty about that. I cherish my dogs past and present.
    As for “They would never cop to this, of course, they always have some “perfectly legitimate” reason for hating PETA“, I’m afraid that this is just a cop-out. You are claiming that I am opposed to PETA for one of your listed reasons, regardless of whether you have any grounds for that accusation. You are making a sweeping dismissal of any and all objections to the claim that others may have a grudge against PETA on the basis of goddamn nothing.

    Lastly: “Doctor or not, anyone who thinks the modern processed food diet laced with pesticides, growth hormones, etc., and/or GMOs, is perfectly fine and healthy is…well, YOU figure out how ‘smart’ that is.
    – Pesticides: wash your fucking veggies and this problem goes away.
    – Growth hormones: buy free range.
    – GM food: one of the biggest lies yet in the food industry. By bringing this up, you display only your ignorance of the science at play here… and don’t give me any wishy-washy shit along the lines of ‘scientists are playing god’ or whatever; go out and get actual evidence of your purported health risk before bleating it.

    Really, the biggest argument against modern livestock practices – the living conditions of the animal – was strangely absent from your little screed, but that too can be avoided in by your own shopping practices.

  7. TBruce says

    PETA is incredibly intellectually dishonest here…

    PETA is incredibly intellectually dishonest everywhere.

  8. says

    Codi

    Bullshit.

    I hate PETA because they kill pets, objectify and exploit women, and are known to fucking LIE about, well, everything.

    I feel ZERO guilt over wearing leather, eating meat, etc. And why should I? Meat is delicious, nutritious, and a necessary part of the omnivore diet.

  9. Codi Johnson says

    Ah Mr. Holms. I particularly liked your comment about GMOs, you know, the one in response to me making all these claims about what GMOs do–oh wait! I made ZERO claims about what GMOs do. Wait. Let’s do this like you did.

    “This idea – that people can decrease the odds of autistic children by eliminating dairy from their diet…”
    Again, I will point out that I never even mentioned autism. And you even quoted me before making this statement. I’ll remind you: “…lamenting about people who wish to improve their own or their child’s life by improving their diet is just plain stupid.” See any mention of autism in there? OK, next point.

    ” I don’t have any leather or fur, so I cannot feel guilty about that.”
    Wow! That’s impressive. There are very very few adamant vegans that can make that claim. No leather at all? No leather belts, shoes, knickknacks, nothing? Well, if that’s true, then I hereby concede: you do indeed have nothing to feel guilty about there.

    “I eat meat / dairy / eggs, but disagree that this is a bad thing, so I cannot feel guilty about that.”
    First, I would point out that YOU actually brought up the point about factory farming and how it’s a bad thing. You know, the thing that produces most of the meat/dairy/eggs that you don’t think is a bad thing. Your answer? Buy free range. Something that can make a bit of difference, that is, if you can actually find it and afford it–which the overwhelming majority of people cannot. There are numerous studies showing the damage that producing and consuming meat, dairy, and eggs do (to personal health, environmental health, water consumption, etc.). Yes, there are contradictory studies, but since ALL of those contradictory studies were financed by the groups with vested financial interests in the matter, I think they can be ignored. The fact that the Beef Council says eating beef is just fine for you is just a bit disingenuous, don’t you think?

    ” Using or abusing animals…” To which you go on to vehemently disagree with the keeping of pets being a bad thing. Conveniently omitting raising animals in fur farms to skin them alive for their fur; the animals in cages until their killed for their meat; the chickens in their cages kept alive with drugs to produce eggs; etc. Yes, there are some who say even keeping pets is a misuse of animals. They may be right.

    ” Pesticides: wash your fucking veggies and this problem goes away.”
    Yeah, that’s not really true. Some things are improved by scrubbing, but reducing the amount of pesticide is not the same thing as there being no pesticides, which by the way, is getting very difficult to do. Even organic produce contains pesticides (at much smaller levels) because it’s pretty hard to grow something without any pesticides when all the neighboring farms are spraying the hell out of everything. I once spent a summer working on an organic peach orchard watching the owner constantly enraged at the careless spraying the neighboring orchards did, resulting in drift. Sometimes he would lose whole rows of trees that got dosed from the neighbors. Yes, there are some sleazy farmers out there who would harvest and sell it as ‘organic’ anyway, but he wasn’t one of them.

    “Growth hormones: buy free range.”
    This remark makes me think you don’t really understand the whole farming practice at all. First, free range does NOT mean no growth hormones are used. Free range simply means that for most of their lives, the animals are not penned up in cages. Second, there is no established delineation of what ‘free range’ actually means (as opposed to the term ‘organic’, which has some actual meaning). Fact is, one of the biggest uses of growth hormones is for dairy cows, to keep them producing prodigious quantities of milk; and whether or not they are free range cows is irrelevant to it.

    “GM food: one of the biggest lies yet in the food industry.”
    Couldn’t have said it better myself. Yes, I know you mean the opposite of how this looks. Facts? Well, the only actual semi long term studies done so far have been done by…wait, let me check…Monsanto? Huh! Well, obviously they can be completely trusted at their word. At this point, some would say, but hey, the FDA has to do studies and approve this, right? To which the answer is… NO. The FDA takes Monsanto’s studies and makes their determination. And of course, Monsanto would have absolutely no conflict of interest in the matter. I’m sure that any program they spent billions of dollars developing (to create a patented captured market for seeds–eventually making it so that you buy seeds from them or starve), that evenso, they would drop it in a minute if it was harmful in the least. Doesn’t that sound just like Monsanto to you?

    Finally, PETA. I stand by what I said. PETA, love ‘em or hate ‘em, is doing what they do through donated money. Myself, I’m just more likely to side with an organization that is doing what it’s doing, claiming what it’s claiming, if they are financed with donations from the general public, than with an organization whose entire existence is financially tied to the success of its product, all other factors being equal. Now, if it comes to a question like say, ARI claiming that vaccines cause autism (I personally don’t know if they’ve made that claim, but plenty have), that’s different. Because they are plenty of independent valid scientific studies done to show that there is NO link between vaccines and autism. But rest assured, if the only studies showing no link were done by big pharmaceutical corporations, I would be just as skeptical as I am with Monsanto and gmos.

    Rule for life: when deciding the truth of something, be highly skeptical of any claim made by the people with huge financial interests in the matter. So when Exxon tells you that global warming is “questionable”, the American Dairy Council tells that milk is good for you, and Monsanto tells you that GMOs are perfectly safe, well, you figure it out.

  10. David Wei says

    Why does PETA sounds a lot like Scientology? Perhaps there’s some kind of hidden like between them? Pirated Scientology’s SOP for FUD?

  11. Erick Nichols says

    I’m a vegan animal rights activist, and I hate PETA. Most of us do in fact. There are ways to discuss ethics without being a bunch of lying, insulting douchebags.

  12. says

    Me, my vegetarian wife and every vegan and animal rights/welfare activist I know loathe PETA. They give the entire topic of animal rights/welfare a bad name. The meat industry couldn’t ask for a better adversary to poison the well of animal rights activism. If you can win make your point or win people over with the truth, then you’re doing it wrong. Please do not conflate PETA with the rest of us who values animal rights and empiricism.

  13. Holms says

    I particularly liked your comment about GMOs, you know, the one in response to me making all these claims about what GMOs do–oh wait! I made ZERO claims about what GMOs do.

    Then why did you raise the subject at all, especially in a manner that quite clearly implied a health risk?

    Again, I will point out that I never even mentioned autism. And you even quoted me before making this statement. I’ll remind you: “…lamenting about people who wish to improve their own or their child’s life by improving their diet is just plain stupid.” See any mention of autism in there? OK, next point.

    You appear to have forgotten that you made that reply to a post that is explicitly about a purported dairy-autism link. As I said before, no one is berating parents for wanting the best for their child, we are berating PETA, who seek to misinform those parents about autism.

    Wow! That’s impressive. There are very very few adamant vegans that can make that claim. No leather at all? No leather belts, shoes, knickknacks, nothing? Well, if that’s true, then I hereby concede: you do indeed have nothing to feel guilty about there.

    Firstly, yes I truly don’t have leather or fur.

    Secondly, my main criticism of your post stands: that it is nothing but an attempt to dismiss the objections against PETA by pretending that they are the result of some bias against PETA, regardless of the legitimacy of the criticisms raised.

    First, I would point out that YOU actually brought up the point about factory farming and how it’s a bad thing…

    Yes, I found it curious that the only real point that might have been raised with any real weight was completely ignored by you.

    Yes, there are contradictory studies, but since ALL of those contradictory studies were financed by the groups with vested financial interests in the matter, I think they can be ignored.

    Incorrect. The fact that the people doing a study have a vested interest in the findings does not invalidate the study. It gives us a reason to look at their work with perhaps increased scrutiny, but that’s where the real test of their work is judged – by looking at it, not dismissing it out of reflex. If the data and analysis put forth is sound, then the findings are sound.

    Conveniently omitting raising animals in fur farms to skin them alive for their fur; the animals in cages until their killed for their meat; the chickens in their cages kept alive with drugs to produce eggs; etc.

    These are reasons to make anti-cruelty laws, and reasons for oversight and transparency, so that we can be assured that the process of farming and raising livestock is done in a harm-minimising way. They are not reasons to abandon the practice of raising livestock altogether, any more than ‘some people misuse cars therefore we need to abandon cars’ is a valid argument.

    Some things are improved by scrubbing, but reducing the amount of pesticide is not the same thing as there being no pesticides, which by the way, is getting very difficult to do. Even organic produce contains pesticides (at much smaller levels) because it’s pretty hard to grow something without any pesticides when all the neighboring farms are spraying the hell out of everything.

    So… wash them.

    Interestingly, one of the major thrusts of genetic research in agriculture is the development of strains that are pest resistent, which would greatly reduce the pesticides used. Naturally, PETA and other groups are completely opposed to beneficial research for no good reason.

    This remark makes me think you don’t really understand the whole farming practice at all.

    I grew up on a smallholding actually. Not dairy, but sheep and chickens, which we raised and then sent off to a local butcher for slaughter and such. Anyway, this is getting fairly far removed from the original article. Reminder: this is about PETA choosing to blatantly lie about autism and dairy. The dislike they garner for themselves is due to precicely this dishonest shit they keep pushing, and they will use any bullshit claim to get what they want, regardless of veracity.

    Well, the only actual semi long term studies done so far have been done by…wait, let me check…Monsanto? Huh! Well, obviously they can be completely trusted at their word.

    Again, you are making the mistake of assuming that anyone with a vested interest is automatically lying. Sometimes you will be right, but the only way to check is to actually dig through their work.

    Strangely enough, the consensus of a large number of government and private research groups disagrees with you. Do you claim to know better than all of them combined? Or is it just a coincidence that those opposing the GMO work happen to be ignorant of genetics?

    Because they are plenty of independent valid scientific studies done to show that there is NO link between vaccines and autism.

    The same can be said of the purported risks of GMOs.

  14. Holms says

    If me berating people gets your motor running, then strap yourself in for a wild ride.

  15. trina says

    PETA is a generally terrible organisation and of course dairy probably doesn’t cause autism- but that doesn’t mean interspecies breast-feeding should be encouraged as part of a ‘normal’ diet.

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