September 2 2000
McCartney backs animal rights group in school milk boycott
by Robert Winnett, Consumer Affairs Correspondent
A RADICAL animal-rights group backed by Sir Paul McCartney is set to picket
schools, telling children that milk will make them fat and spotty.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta), which is opposed to
dairy farming on moral grounds, intends to hand out 100,000 "Pokmon-style"
cards to young children after they return to school this week.
The cards will use cartoon characters such as Spotty Sue, Windy Wendy,
Phlegmy Phil and Chubby Charlie to suggest that if children drink milk they
can expect the same problems. One card says: "Milk might make people
intolerant of you because many people who drink it suffer from - pardon us
The campaign comes as some experts predict that Britain faces a shortfall
in milk production of 6m-12m pints a day because so many cows have been
killed in the foot and mouth epidemic.
The Peta campaign will put the American-based animal-rights organisation,
which is backed by celebrities such as Ringo Star, Oliver Stone and Pamela
Anderson - at loggerheads with the government and farmers. McCartney is to
host a party in New York on Saturday to raise funds for Peta, whose
objections to milk are based on opposition to any "exploitation" of animals
The government recommends children drink milk every day and spends 9m a
year on subsidies. Suzi Leather, deputy chairman of the Food Standards
Agency, said: "Milk is the most nutritionally complete food, containing
nearly all the constituents of nutritional importance to humans."
Peta attempted to launch a similar campaign earlier this year and was
reported to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) by farming
organisations. The group has reworded its literature to comply with the ASA
adjudication, which is to be published this week.
However, some head teachers have reacted angrily to the Peta strategy of
targeting children rather than parents. Tim Benson, head of Nelson primary
school, east London, said: "This sort of aggressive campaign is very
regrettable because children are innocent and believe what they are told.
The medical advice I am given is that milk is good for children's health."
If there is a milk shortage, as some warn, it could help highlight the Peta
campaign. Until now Britain's dairy farmers have produced almost all the
68m pints consumed each day.
Mansel Raymond, vice-chairman of the milk committee of the National
Farmers' Union, said the problem would soon become acute.
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