PCRM 2010: The Year in Review
It’s been an amazing year at PCRM. We celebrated our 25th anniversary and kicked off our next quarter century with extraordinary accomplishments for people and animals. Here are a few highlights.
Improving School Lunches
PCRM experts worked all year to promote better nutrition in schools. In addition to helping individual districts introduce healthful plant-based meals, PCRM dietitians and legislative experts took to Capitol Hill to speak up for children in all of America’s schools. Everyone from Scarlett Johansson, Sean Penn, Ellen DeGeneres, and Tobey Maguire to Olympic gold medalists and parents and teachers everywhere wrote to Congress supporting PCRM’s initiatives. On Dec. 2, Congress finally passed the new bill to provide more money for healthful meals and remove some of the junk food that tempts children daily. There is a lot more to be done, but the new legislation is a step in the right direction. Meanwhile, PCRM nutrition experts met with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which has now launched a contest to elicit plant-based recipes to introduce into schools.
Kickstarting Healthy Lifestyles
PCRM’s innovative 21-Day Vegan Kickstart took off this year. Nearly 100,000 people have gotten a taste of a plant-based diet—and the vast majority stick with a healthier diet after the program ends. This year’s programs featured celebrity voicemails, conference calls with physicians, and many other activities to help participants stay on track.
Prescribing a Healthy Diet
PCRM ramped up its outreach to health care professionals to help them keep their patients healthy with good nutrition. PCRM created the Power Plate—a healthful improvement on the food pyramid—and sent out countless posters and Vegetarian Starter Kits to doctors’ offices across the country.
Taking Aim at Fast Food
PCRM’s television commercial linking McDonald’s high-fat menu with heart attacks ran in fast-food addicted cities and quickly racked up more than 1 million YouTube views.
PCRM also continued to call attention to the health risks of grilled chicken. A billboard sponsored by PCRM’s Cancer Project warned Louisville, Ky., residents of this danger, after samples bought at a local KFC tested positive for a dangerous carcinogen. In addition, PCRM released a report on fast-food kids meals, finding that many meals are too high in fat, cholesterol, and sodium.
We won a major battle in a lawsuit against McDonald’s and five other corporate defendants that continue to hide the fact that their grilled chicken products contain a carcinogen chemical identified in independent tests commissioned by PCRM. The next stage of the case takes place shortly in California court.
New Research Studies
In new research studies, our nutrition experts are testing the health benefits of vegan diets in the clinical setting and in the workplace.
Modernizing Medical Education
PCRM has worked for years to replace animal use in medical school courses. This year, PCRM won a years-long campaign when the Medical College of Wisconsin finally announced it has stopped using pigs in its first-year physiology course. Instead, students will observe human patients and use computer simulation. PCRM experienced another Wisconsin victory in July when the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health stopped using live pigs in a first-year physiology course. And 2010 marked the end of live animal use in education at all medical schools in Canada, thanks to PCRM’s continued efforts.
PCRM has been equally effective at ending animal use in Advanced Trauma Life Support (ATLS) programs. Largely due to PCRM’s work to educate ATLS programs on alternatives, 95 percent of U.S. and Canadian facilities have ended their use of animals.
In January, Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, stopped using pigs for trauma training and will instead use the TraumaMan System simulator. In June, the University of Tennessee Health Science Center also replaced the use of animals in trauma training with simulators.
Looking overseas, PCRM co-sponsored the first ever pan-Africa conference on animal welfare, where PCRM’s Hope Ferdowsian, M.D., M.P.H., and Debra Durham, Ph.D., spoke. Drs. Ferdowsian and Durham also presented their findings on how chimpanzees previously used in laboratory experiments develop depression and post-traumatic stress disorder at the International Primatological Society meeting in Japan, pushing the envelope for how scientists consider suffering in animals.
Promoting Effective Research and Testing
In August, PCRM hosted the Animals, Research, and Alternatives Conference in Washington, D.C., co-sponsored by Georgetown, George Washington, and Johns Hopkins universities. Fifty years after the development of the key model for the refinement, reduction, and replacement of animals in research, key experts from around the world met to discuss the scientific and ethical imperatives associated with animal research.
PCRM also advanced the Great Ape Protection Act, which was introduced in the Senate this year with bipartisan support, and the House version of the bill now has more than 160 co-sponsors. The bill will gain new support in the new Congress.
This year, PCRM also campaigned against NASA’s plan to irradiate squirrel monkeys in an attempt to study the effects of deep space travel on human astronauts. PCRM experts teamed up with April Evans, a former NASA engineer who resigned in protest over the cruel experiments. The federal government refused to budge for months but announced in December that the monkey radiation experiments would be canceled.
In addition, PCRM made major strides in modernizing chemical testing. PCRM helped create the American Society for Cellular and Computational Toxicology, dedicated to reducing and replacing animal use in toxicology. PCRM experts are also working to ensure that new cosmetics and chemical testing legislation includes provisions to support effective nonanimal test methods.
At year’s end, our battle to prevent the transfer of approximately 200 chimpanzees from Alamogordo, N.M., to a Texas facility where they would be used in experiments remains at fever pitch, and will not be resolved until sometime in the new year. We are joined in our effort by New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson and New Mexico’s attorney general.
IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Newspapers around the country printed hundreds of opinion pieces by PCRM experts. In an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, PCRM’s director of research policy, Hope Ferdowsian, M.D., M.P.H., explained why we need to move away from animal research toward human-centered alternatives.
“Decades of observational and experimental research have provided evidence that animals experience physical pain,” wrote Dr. Ferdowsian. “Psychological suffering—chronic fear, anxiety, and distress—is another major issue, possibly the most neglected one in animal research.”
In September, The Wall Street Journal printed a major article on PCRM’s anti-McDonald’s ad, explaining that PCRM aired the commercial “to draw attention to heart-disease-related deaths in Washington.” In November, The New York Times quoted PCRM president Neal Barnard, M.D., in a front-page exposé on a government-created organization that partners with fast-food chains to market cheese-laden items, citing documents PCRM recovered through the Freedom of Information Act.
“If you want to look at why people are fat today, it’s pretty hard to identify a contributor more significant than this meteoric rise in cheese consumption,” PCRM president Neal Barnard, M.D., told The New York Times.
The Washington Post also covered PCRM’s work this year. In May, The Post printed a piece profiling school lunch activist Nina Gonzalez, a high school student who has helped PCRM push for stronger child nutrition legislation.
In August, The Post published an article on celebrity support for PCRM’s campaign against the Alamogordo chimpanzee transfer. The Los Angeles Times and many other papers also covered this campaign.
PCRM president Neal Barnard, M.D., informed millions of Public Broadcasting Service viewers about a new approach to controlling diabetes this March. In a program that aired more than 4,000 times in PBS stations across the country, Dr. Barnard showed how a low-fat vegan diet can help manage and even reverse type 2 diabetes.
PCRM’s Facebook page now has nearly 30,000 supporters. We post breaking campaign updates, nutrition news, and opportunities to get involved. If you aren’t already a fan, ‘Like’ us at Facebook.com/Doctors.Care.
We also tweeted up a storm. We have close to 6,000 Twitter followers and have sent almost 3,000 tweets. If you have a question or want to share a news item with us, you can tweet it @PCRM.
This year, PCRM launched our first iPhone app. It complements the 21-Day Vegan Kickstart online program. The app includes 21 days of recipes and tips with vibrant photographs. It launched in September and already has been downloaded more than 100,000 times.