Monday, January 02, 2012

Harvard's New Food Guide: A Victory for Whom?


The Hype

Animal rights activists, welfarists, cookbook authors and bloggers have been sharing a link to a recent
Care2 article for the past couple of days with a sort of fervent jubilation. Maybe it lies in the hope so many animal advocates have that a new year will, ultimately, bring about real change. Maybe it's also a reflection of our willingness -- or eagerness -- to assume that information presented to us from familiar sources is accurate. The article ("Harvard Declares Milk NOT Part of Healthy Diet") by Michelle Schoffro Cook is the sort of thing I've come to expect over the years from the predominantly welfarist Care2 which, with very few exceptions, mostly features short and poorly-written opinion pieces. Schoffro Cook's piece, designed to do little more than to promote her own work and to obtain hits (Care2 has a pay-per-hit / comments policy for to compensate its writers), contains a very simple yet crucial bit of misinformation. This misinformation was published regardless of the string of letters following her name (i.e. MSc, RNCP, ROHP, DNM, PhD) and regardless of the rumoured existence of editors at Care2.

The Dirt


The title of the article hollers out Schoffro Cook's big news. In the short piece itself, she then proceeds to tout Harvard's release of its latest
"Healthy Eating Plate" food guide as a sort of nose-thumbing response to the USDA's not-so-long-ago release of its "MyPlate" guide, meant to replace the horribly outdated food pyramid previously used. Although she mentions Harvard's criticism of dairy products for their high levels of saturated fats and their link to cancer, Schoffro Cook's mistake is in elaborating that the "greatest evidence of [Harvard's] research focus is the absence of dairy products" from the guide. The diagram used for the guide states quite clearly that milk/dairy -- even if restricted to what I'm guessing she must think is the infinitesimally small amount of 1-2 servings a day -- is one of several beverage options provided by Harvard. Animal rights attorney and advocate Doris Lin pointed this out on Facebook today and it's raised in several of the comments left directly in response to the Care2 article, itself.

Less Muddy

It's a shame that so many vegan advocates have been misled into passing around a link to this article, calling this new guide some sort of victory for veganism -- a victory for cows and other animals enslaved and exploited for their milk. It is most certainly not. It is also confusing to me how some could think that even if dairy had been omitted, that this new Harvard "Healthy Eating Plate" is in any way all that significant when it comes to making serious changes to the lives of nonhuman animals, since although some non animal-based alternatives are listed in the Harvard poster's protein section, they're buried among the usual animal-based sources: "Choose fish, poultry, beans and nuts; limit red meat; avoid bacon, cold cuts, and other processed meats."

So I'm left asking amidst all of this, in response to assertions that it's somehow a victory: "A victory for whom?" Surely it's not for the animals who will continue to be raised for human consumption -- a good portion of it with Harvard's stamp of approval.

4 comments:

Ana said...

I got it from Harvard. Not Care2. Also, please see Msrk Hyman's post.

Patty H. said...

I looked at the info on Harvard's site and saw pretty much what you saw. Sad.

I don't care much for Care2 anyway because I get bombarded with a plethora of petitions and it freezes up my computer.

Vegan Poet said...

Thank-you, I commented on people who were sharing it as well... good article Mylene.

madeline said...

I think that people thought it was a victory because milk is off to the side, as an afterthought, rather than being pushed as one of the principle required foodstuffs. Meat is not on the plate, only included among a list of things vegans would choose in a section called healthy protein. This is progress, if not victory. We all need to keep up the good work, and more change will come

The first link I saw was this one:
http://www.care2.com/greenliving/harvard-declares-dairy-not-part-of-healthy-diet.html

Later I saw this one:
http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2011/09/harvard-serves-up-its-own-plate/
The second link to the news didn't seem like a victory, but it is still progress.