Believe it or not, throughout history, there have been numerous times when beer was considered something of a health drink. For example, historians debate the degree to which ancient people turned to beer instead of water for energy. In the eighteenth century, beer was the equivalent of a cold-pressed green juice compared to the evils of gin.
But now PETA's here with a hot take targeted to higher academia's hardest drinkers. Their claim: Beer is better for you than milk.
An advertisement from PETA planned for bus stops near the University of Wisconsin-Madison, purportedly the nation's hardest-partying school, apes the "Got milk?" campaign to ask, "Got beer?" Not exactly your typical tactic for recruiting vegans, but one that PETA has tried before.
The ad continues, "It's official: Beer is better for you than milk. Studies show that beer can strengthen bones and extend life, while milk is linked to obesity, diabetes, and cancer. Drink responsibly: Don't drink milk." With an asterisk, it cites none other than Harvard's School of Public Health and three prestigious medical journals as proof of its assertion.
In a press release, PETA's executive vice president Tracy Reiman said, "The verdict is in, and even beer beats milk hands down. Alcohol in moderation can be good for you, but there's no way to consume dairy foods responsibly when they harm our health and cause billions of cows to suffer." Interestingly, the bit about drinking moderately isn't included on the planned advertisements.
"As a scientist and a parent, I find their claims really irresponsible, particularly when we have such a problem with overconsumption of alcohol on many university campuses," Greg Miller, chief science officer at the National Dairy Council told MUNCHIES. Miller serves or has served on the editorial boards of a number of nutrition journals and is also a past symposium editor of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, which PETA cites to make its claim. "I work for the industry so don't take my word for it, go look at the Dietary Guidelines for Americans."
There's plenty of research about the benefits and risks of drinking alcohol, and the findings are often conflicting. One study found that drinking moderately can make you age slower and promote heart health, while another concluded that moderate drinking doesn't make you any healthier and can actually cause seven types of cancer.
Harvard's School of Public Health has a website that helps people weigh the health benefits and risks of drinking. Generally, experts agree on one thing—getting totally blasted isn't good for you. Another thing we can probably all agree upon is that students at University of Wisconsin-Madison don't need any more encouragement to drink beer.
"It's just unfortunate that they would go to such low tactics to turn people into vegans. There is certainly some science showing that moderate alcohol consumption may have health benefits," Miller told MUNCHIES. "But one of the problems we have on university campuses is there's too much binge drinking. I think they're going to exacerbate what's already a problem on campus."
The health benefits of milk have also been thrown into question at times. While milk has long been considered a good source of calcium and vitamins, it's also high in fat, and has been accused of causing inflammation. Some studies have even linked milk intake with higher mortality rates and questioned whether milk strengthens bones at all. Harvard's official recommendations advise limiting dairy intake to one or two servings a day, and to seek alternative sources of calcium.
Harvard's School of Public Health declined to comment for this story, as did the American Journal of Epidemiology. Other journals didn't respond to requests for comment by press time.
The effects of the ads in dairy- and booze-mad Wisconsin remain to be seen, but it seems safe to assume that beer is more popular than milk among students at a school known for a 100,000-person-strong drunken Halloween parade dubbed "Freakfest" that has ended in riots more than a few times. If PETA really wants to change some minds, they might want to head to Brigham Young.