Public money used to conceal meat cancer risk

Posted on the 1st November 2007

A major new scientific report has produced ‘convincing’ evidence that eating red meat increases the risk of bowel cancer. But instead of alerting consumers to the risks, the government is helping to fund propaganda offensives by meat industry bodies aimed at concealing the bad news.

The Meat and Livestock Commission (MLC) and the red meat promotional body north of the border – Quality Meat Scotland (QMS) – both expressed alarm ahead of the publication of the World Cancer Research Fund’s new report.

In June, the Meat and Livestock Commission revealed that it was involved in a propaganda offensive aimed at doctors to discourage them from giving out advice based on the new scientific evidence.

Richard Lowe, chief executive of the MLC, told a conference of meat processors:

‘Our guess is that meat and meat products will be presented [in the WCRF report] as having convincing evidence of links to cancer. Meat bodies now are lobbying on a combined response and targeting the healthcare profession because the danger is from doctors giving advice based on this.’

More recently, the QMS declared:

‘There are considerable industry fears that a report from the World Cancer Research Fund due out in November 07 will again use epidemiological research to raise concerns over the role of red meat and may go so far as to move it into a category of “probably linked with bowel cancer” from its current position with the charity of “possibly linked with bowel cancer”.’

The admission came in what turned out to be a successful application by QMS to Scottish Enterprise for a grant to promote the consumption of red meat.

The WCRF report is a follow-up to its highly influential 600-page dossier published 10 years ago. The 1997 report was itself bad news for the public image of meat, eggs and milk.

Says Animal Aid Director Andrew Tyler: 

‘The tobacco industry fought for years to suppress the evidence that smoking causes cancer. They put their profits before public health and, as a result, are responsible for the sickness and deaths of millions of people. And now, the meat industry – when faced with accumulating evidence of serious human disease caused by their products – is resorting to the same dirty tricks. It seems that their strategy is to bombard not just consumers but doctors and health workers with misleading information about the cancer risks associated with animal products. Even more extraordinary is that public money is being used to fund this propaganda.’

Notes to Editors

  • For more information, call Andrew Tyler on 01732 364 546
  • We have an ISDN line for broadcast-quality interviews.
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