Editorial: Strong Together: Advances on All Fronts
This past year was marked by major battles occurring simultaneously. As the year began, we were confronted with the massive animal testing program proposed by Vice President Al Gore and the Environmental Protection Agency. It took a tremendous and coordinated effort, endless meetings, mailings, and work with other organizations and with Congress to elicit partial concessions from the Vice President. On the heels of this ill-conceived program, Gore has now begun pushing a second program that aims to use animal tests to estimate the doses of industrial toxins children should be expected to tolerate.
While this conflict was raging, we also succeeded in eliminating animal laboratories from the curricula of Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Brunswick, N.J., the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine, the University of Missouri at Columbia, and Technion University in Haifa, Israel.
At the same time, we were embroiled in a conflict over the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the federal policy that keeps meat and milk in school lunches and all other federal food programs. In the last revision, in 1995, we managed to gain the first official recognition of the value of vegetarian diets. Now we are working to make meat and milk strictly optional and have gained support from a broad range of groups, particularly those advocating for better health for African Americans and others who bear a disproportionate toll of prostate cancer, hypertension, diabetes, and other serious illnesses.
After learning that more than half the members of the federal committee drawing up the new guidelines had financial links to the meat, egg, and dairy industries, we filed suit against the federal government to force it to comply with federal regulations that forbid such conflicts of interest.
Meanwhile, our staff was in the thick of clinical research trials investigating the health power of vegetarian diets. Our diabetes study was published in August, our studies on diet and hormone function were accepted for publication for February and April 2000, we completed a pilot study on the health effects of cow's milk compared to soymilk, and we drew up plans for new studies on diet's effect on cancer, obesity, and other critical issues.
At the same time, we launched an advertising campaign, kept up a constant stream of op-eds and letters to the editor, and maintained a busy media schedule leading to major reports in the New York Times, the Boston Globe, ABC World New Tonight, and many other venues.
As you'll see in our annual report in this issue, our battles with the government, the animal testing industries, and others assaulted our financial strength, but we bounced back vigorously. PCRM has no endowment and gets no industry support. But we cannot retreat from any of these efforts. To keep up our extraordinary and vital work, let me ask you to join with us again in this new year and help us be stronger than ever. Thank you for being there with us.
Neal D. Barnard, M.D.
President of PCRM