The Road Ahead
In this issue, we will take a look back at PCRM’s work over the past 25 years. And in these few paragraphs I would like to look forward. Where are we now, and where are we headed?
The campaign to eliminate the use of animals in medical education has been a long, hard battle. It took time to make these cruel labs optional, instead of mandatory, and even longer to pry one school after another away from this educational “tradition” altogether. But the battle has essentially been won. We have only the last few schools to go before we have an entirely clean slate.
The same is true for trauma training. It took effort and innovation to win, but soon the use of animals in trauma training will be nothing more than a footnote in medical history.
Chemical product testing consumes an enormous number of animals and was entrenched just a few years ago. But today, PCRM toxicologists are working with industry and government to bring in nonanimal methods, and the light at the end of the tunnel is starting to flicker into sight.
Meanwhile, pharmaceutical manufacturers are still doing whatever animal and human tests they imagine they need in order to gain government approval for new drugs. And “basic” research still uses an enormous number of animals. In both areas, it is essential to understand not only the range of alternatives that make animal use unnecessary, but also the now-abundant evidence of animals’ cognitive capacities. The suffering that is inherent in the laboratory environment is much more acute than many scientists have appreciated. PCRM will host a major symposium on the new scientific mandates later this year.
In the world of health and nutrition, doctors, writers, and the media are talking about vegan diets, and more and more people are eating vegan full-time or part-time. If you have any doubt, just step into any health-food store. Yes, that tiny corner health-food shop with dusty shelves, tie-dye, and folk music is gone; it has been replaced by big beautiful stores with an enormous array of everything you could ever imagine in fully veganized versions. Vegan diets have clearly arrived.
But here are the challenges we now face:
- If people are eating less beef, many are eating more chicken—more than one million birds are eaten every hour in the United States.
- In most schools, chicken nuggets and cheese pizza are still the order of the day, with no vegan options at all, so the next generation is condemned to the same health risks as its parents.
- Overseas, westernization is ushering in meat and dairy products like never before, particularly in Asia, with diabetes in its wake.
At PCRM, we do research studies to establish the benefits of healthful diets, and we work hard to help people understand how unhealthful foods can risk their health. But understanding is not enough. It is often essential to legislate, so that children have healthful choices in school and livestock operations do not gain an unfair advantage through out-of-date subsidies.
Our work is challenging, and I am grateful to have worked with many dedicated people, especially PCRM’s past Art of Compassion awardees, Nanci Alexander and Daran Haber, M.D., our Henry Heimlich Award winners, Chris Toly and Randal Charlton, and our Benjamin Spock awardees, Caldwell Esselstyn, M.D., and David Jenkins, M.D., Ph.D., and the countless other physicians and supporters who have made our work possible.
It took a long time for the problems we face to become as entrenched as they are. And it will take time for them to become dislodged. But PCRM is in business to win. I am especially grateful to you, our members, for your continued support, and I look forward to continued success.
Neal D. Barnard, M.D.
President of PCRM