PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment for Animals) launched a new ad campaign three weeks ago in their fight against cow milk:
I’m not entirely sure where to start here, PETA. First of all, though I realize that ads meant for billboards and quick web visits are meant to be image-heavy and textually sparse, you’ve provided a whole lot of misinformation in your few measly independent clauses. In asking the lovely “Got autism?” question, are you trying to be sardonic and rhetorical, or are you in fact addressing the 20 million autistics who currently occupy planet earth? Because, sure, I’ve got autism, and no, I had no idea that studies linked cow’s milk to autism. But perhaps your “study” is actually synonymous with what I would call “total crap.” Just a thought. Although, since I’m autistic, it might be that my inner thesaurus is operating on some totally whacked out, casein-induced frenzy. Or how about not?
Anecdotally, some autistics note amelioration of their “symptoms” — e.g., isolation, meltdowns, sensory overload — when they’ve removed dairy and wheat from their diet. (Of course, PETA, you would never crusade against wheat.) However, this “improvement” is anecdotal and not scientific. It could be that some autistics experience food intolerances or digestive problems. But, see, there’s a big problem with this “link” word, PETA, because any protective parent who reads this will assume that milk has been shown to have a causative impact on autism, which it simply doesn’t. There are plenty of vegan autistics who are just as autistic as ever. I suppose, on the positive side, if people were to assume that milk does cause autism, then maybe they’d get their kids vaccinated and stop with the mercury-poisoning mantras.
And then there’s that frowny face, PETA. The Cheerios are a nice touch, really. I’m glad you didn’t use Fruit Loops, because then that might play into the assumption that only autistic children are worth giving a crap about. But the frown — oh, the frown. I may have difficulty with nonverbals and facial expressions, but I think I’m accurate in concluding that Mr. Cheerio Face is quite weepy and pathetic. Basically, PETA, you and Mr. Cheerio Face are making the assumption that autism is a sad, sad thing. And, quite honestly, it’s not. Autism is a way of life, much like veganism, minus the liking of food-with-freaky-textures thing.
On another page, you write:
Autism is a brain disorder that causes sufferers to have extreme difficulty communicating and relating to others. It is often marked by anti-social behavior like screaming and obsessive repetition of actions, which takes an enormous emotional toll on sufferers and their families. PETA has created a billboard to alert the public to the connection between this devastating disease and dairy-product consumption. …
Anyone who wants to alleviate or avoid the devastating effects of autism should give cow’s milk the boot and switch to healthy vegan alternatives instead.
Again, PETA, you’ve mixed up some pretty important facts. Autism isn’t a disease. It isn’t something that you wake up with one morning; it isn’t something that you catch on the subway; it isn’t something that goes away. Autism is a neurological condition, a condition that affects how one’s brain is wired. Autistic brains and autistic existence aren’t devastatingly anything, unless you’re claiming that they’re devastatingly awesome.
You ask, “Got autism?” I say, “Yes, I do.” Somehow, though, I don’t think you were ever asking me anything in the first place.