There is an organization called “Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine”. Using their naming style, I’m going to start a company called “Ragen Chastain Astrophysics Genius” because, based on the evidence, I know exactly as much about astrophysics as these people do about responsible medicine. Which is to say – precious little.
Interestingly, you don’t need to be a physician to be a member of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. You could be a veterinarian, a self-declared healthcare professional, or just someone willing to donate $20. Even better – membership doesn’t seem to require any understanding of, or commitment to, responsible medicine. How else can you explain creating an ad [Trigger warning – this ad is a fat shaming horrible idea, if you don’t want to give them traffic I’ll explain the ad below] that promotes veganism by shaming fat people, then shames vegans, with no evidentiary basis for the long-term efficacy of any of it.
In the ad, two thin men sit in aisle seats on a plane. A large man boards the plane and decides to take the window seat by stepping across the seated man, smashing him in the face with his stomach (I’ve been on 16 planes in the last month and I’ve NEVER seen this happen but why concern yourself with reality when you are busy shaming fatties.) Just as the other man is about to have to deal with the sheer, unadulterated horror (sarcasm meter 10 out of 10) of sitting next to another human being on a plane who happens to be fat, the seated man explains that he paid an extra $10 to sit next to a vegan. An announcer explains this option as his vegan seatmate enters the frame. Of course it’s not just any vegan – it’s a hot blonde vegan. (Because, as PETA has already taught us, going vegan gives you huge boobs). But then they throw in a negative stereotype of vegans, she starts listing off “benefits” of veganism in an annoying voice (some of which I’m pretty sure are not supported by good research) and the announcer says that for another $10 you can NOT sit next to a vegan – although one assumes that your new seat partner will be guaranteed to be thin.
First of all, I am not in any way intending to cast aspersions on vegans. Eat whatever you choose, I totally support you.
But let’s talk about PCRM a little more:
According to their website, “The PCRM family includes physicians, healthcare professionals, veterinarians, and compassionate laypersons, all of whom support our mission to:
- Advocate for ethical research
- End cruelty to animals in labs and education
- Promote life-saving nutrition policies and practices”
One of the headlines on their homepage proudly declares “Victory for Ferrets”. I’m all for happy ferrets but how can a group want to end cruelty to animals and simultaneously create cruelty to people?
What do they have to say for themselves?
The intention behind PCRM’s most recent ad, directed toward American Airlines, was to highlight a particularly positive benefit of the vegan diet – weight management. The video was not intended to offend those who are overweight.
First, responsible medicine is based on evidence, and there is no evidence that becoming a vegan will lead to long term weight loss. There are fat vegans (and, I have been told, they are often treated very poorly by the vegan community).
But the question that I’m dying to ask is this: What would the ad have looked like if they HAD intended to offend overweight people? And how can a bunch of people who are willing to stick up for the rights of ferrets not understand that this ad is offensive to fat people? It strains credulity at best.
Credulity is strained to the breaking point when one realizes that PCRM was responsible for the fat shaming billboards showing fat stomachs and thighs for which they, almost inexplicably, blamed cheese; and for which they’ve already been roundly criticized. At this point I think it’s safe to say that either they don’t care about shaming fat people, or they’re morons. Either way, it’s time to fix the problem. People who are actually proponents of Responsible Medicine suggest evidence-based health interventions that don’t shame anyone.
E-mail PCRM at firstname.lastname@example.org. You could suggest that they look into the research around negative implications of fat shaming, you could tell them how being shamed makes you feel and if it induces you personally to want to treat your body well, and you could ask them to please start practicing actual Responsible Medicine. Whatever you decide to write, I would personally suggest that you not just point out the problem, but offer solutions (like maybe focusing on evidence based health interventions that don’t shame anyone?), and let them know if you’re open to further dialog on the subject.
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