FoodPolitik: The food grinches who want to steal Thanksgiving

Richard Berman President, Berman and Company
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It’s Thanksgiving time again, so we can count on a few things: Bad traffic, awful airports, the vast majority of Americans enjoying the holiday and stuffing themselves, and a small but vocal cabal of malcontents trying to ruin it for everyone else.

Let’s start with everybody’s least favorite: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). Once again PETA is pushing an outrageous message for Turkey Day, targeting children with billboards that imply gobbling up turkey is like eating a pet dog. Apparently, these clowns haven’t figured out that animals are bred for different purposes — turkeys to be eaten and dogs to be companions. (Maybe there’s a new “apples and oranges” phrase worth coining.)

If targeting kids seems tasteless, it’s practically the modus operandi at PETA. Most adults (who know better) don’t pay attention to PETA. So PETA targets kids with its propaganda — including at schools, where an activist dressed up as an elephant donning bloody bandages delivers anti-circus messages. PETA has handed out comic-book-style literature to children called “Your Mommy Kills Animals” and “Your Daddy Kills Animals.” PETA has even handed bloody “unhappy meals” to kids near fast-food restaurants.

(If I had a PETA member in my family, I’m confident they’d be banned from Thanksgiving gatherings.)

And what of PETA’s rich uncle in the animal rights movement, the Humane Society of the United States? Here’s a group that ostensibly supports “humane” meat (unlike PETA) — yet, the only food product that HSUS puts its logo on is fake-meat “Tofurky.”

Like PETA, HSUS also targets children, but in a much more subtle way. Its “KIND News” magazine infiltrates grade-school classrooms with softer, but still misleading, information that serves HSUS’s anti-meat agenda. This year HSUS gave a “kind teacher” award to a woman whose lesson plan included turkeys being invited to Thanksgiving dinner “rather than becoming dinner.” Right. Most of us have enough trouble with the in-laws at the table.

And as if animal-rights activists weren’t a plateful already, we also have to contend with a contingent of food finger-waggers who think that things like cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, and even turkey could be addictive.

It shouldn’t surprise you to learn that the meat-is-like-morphine mania stems from an animal-rights group, this one called the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM). Consider PCRM the lab-coated part of the animal rights trifecta, along with PETA (the wackos) and HSUS (the “moderates”). PCRM’s president used to run The PETA Foundation and has compared meat to cigarettes.

Most reasonable people wouldn’t put much credence in a fellow who claims that cheese is “morphine on a cracker.” And reasonable medical professionals haven’t either: The American Medical Association has called PCRM a “fringe organization” that uses “unethical tactics” and is “interested in perverting medical science.” No kidding.

But we shouldn’t rest on our laurels: The food addiction theory is getting some serious play in academia. Yale’s Rudd Center, which is a brain trust of “food police,” recently proposed a food addiction scale, singling out a broad swath of foods that are starchy (rice, pasta), sugary (chocolate, soda), salty (chips), and fatty (bacon, pizza). You could be forgiven if you confused this list of potentially “addictive” foods for a list of delicious snacks and sides.

Their main gripe is that scrumptious foods stimulate brain activity in ways that are similar to what hard drugs do. This may be true, but it’s not the whole story. After all, lots of things affect the brain and trigger the “reward” pathway, such as listening to your favorite music or playing video games. But it’d be difficult to claim that playing Wii Tennis or listening to Vivaldi is akin to smoking dope.

What’s at stake here is a further cheapening of the word “addiction.” Enjoying something is not grounds for addiction claims. But it’s an end-around toward removing personal responsibility from the national obesity debate. If they can say food is “addictive,” then trial lawyers can turn around and sue those who are the “dealers” — namely, food companies.

Two things will result: Trial lawyers fattening their pockets, and food companies refusing to make anything remotely tasty.

Sound like fun? I didn’t think so.

So chow down with your family this Thursday. Stuff your face as a way of telling these activists to stuff it. And be thankful that you have the choice to eat what you want.