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Consumer freedom?, July 4, 2005

I believe I mentioned here a while back about a representative from the Center for Consumer Freedom calling me. He was wanting to use a photo that appeared on our Web site (suffolknewsherald.com, 75,000 visitors in May, up 100 percent since March) of Ahoskie, N.C. officials picking up dog carcasses from a dumpster.

They had been dumped there, as everyone now knows, by employees of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), who had picked the animals up from rural North Carolina shelters and euthanized in the back of a van.

This is not about that. PETA was wrong to do what it had done and has apologized. ‘Nuff said.

The representative from the Center for Consumer Freedom said his organization detested PETA and they wanted to get the word out that PETA kills animals.

The reason his organization hates PETA is because PETA is opposed to killing animals for consumption. Not so much for the consumption part, but for the way the animals are treated in giant factory farms, never seeing the sunshine, no room to move, etc.

But the Center for Consumer Choice is not interested in that. They want to make people think that PETA and the Centers for Disease Control and other groups want to dictate what adults consume. They want to scare you into thinking that if these whackos get their way, you can say good-bye to your hot dog and ice cream.

This, of course, is nonsense, meant to whip up hysteria against these groups and any sensible regulation of the food industry.

The Center for Consumer Freedom is a lobbying group funded by Coca-Cola, Tyson Foods and Wendy's, among others, as Paul Krugman points out in today's New York Times. It's much like the Partnership for a Drug Free America n nice sounding name to be sure, but it's actually the fully funded lobbying arm of the liquor and prescription drug industries who don't want any competition when it comes to getting Americans high.

What these groups really want is to stop any laws from being passed that would dictate that schools serve healthier meals, or that soft drink and junk food vending machines be banned from schools.

Like the tobacco industry, these corporations know that life-long habits are established in childhood. That if people start smoking as teens, or eathing high-sodium, high-sugar and high-fat foods as children, they are likely to continue to do so their entire lives.

That's why McDonalds is the biggest operator of playgrounds in the world. They are marketing to children because they know that's where their future lies.

So, what's the harm? Much has been made of late over the CDC's errant study that obesity would fast become the number one cause of preventable death in America. It turned out that instead of 300,000 plus deaths a year, Obesity was directly linked to only 26,000. That doesn't mean obesity is OK.

It still has a big impact on quality of life, worker productivity and health care costs. Krugman points out today that in 1987, obesity was responsible for just about 2 percent of health costs. It's now responsible for nearly 12 percent. It's a big cause of the higher health costs we all pay n so what you eat does impact other people.

I'm not here trying to defend PETA or other food Nazis. Adults have a right to eat what they want. That's fine. Nonetheless, in America, we've determined that children are not responsible enough to make such choices n whether it comes to drinking, voting, having sex etc. It's our responsibility to protect them.