PETA’s cheese billboard stirred up controversy recently, as did their shark attack-themed, “Payback is Hell. Go Vegan” campaign last year. Numerous other PETA campaigns geared toward children and obesity also raised some eyebrows, choosing shock value as their method of promotion.
This time, though not for the first time, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) is in the hot seat for their latest 45 foot messaging strategy. “Hot Dogs Cause Butt Cancer” can be seen by passersby along the Eisenhower Expressway to warn Chicagoans about the consequences of meat-eating.
Luckily, this newest billboard doesn’t resort to fat-shaming, or targeting children. And PCRM does a lot of great work for animal rights and overall health. But some people still have a problem with its message.
Naturally, The National Hot Dog & Sausage Council has taken issue with the “outrageous, inflammatory” billboard. They even have the audacity to claim that “hot dogs are part of a healthy, balanced diet.” Even most meat-eaters know that hot dogs are kind of the bottom of the barrel in the meat world.
The Council goes on to say hot dogs “come in a variety of nutrition and taste formulas and they are an excellent source of protein, vitamins and minerals,” said National Hot Dog & Sausage Council President Janet M. Riley in a statement to MSNBC Chicago.
Obviously, the billboards are an effort to gain attention for the animal rights and meat-free movements. And if they’ve gotten the attention of the Hot Dog Council (which would be quite funny on a resume), their tactics are working.
Others say, sure, they can use whatever tactics they want, as long as their statements are factual.
The American Cancer Society recommends limiting red and processed meats. It’s no secret that eating those items in excess can be dangerous. So, PCRM’s point is “why risk it?”
PCRM’s billboard was prompted by a recent survey stating that “39 percent of Americans do not know what the colon is,” particularly that “colon” is another name for the large intestine. One in three Americans does not know what part of the body is more likely to get cancer as a result of eating processed meats in the first place.
“Colon cancer is a killer, and processed meats get much of the blame,” says Susan Levin, M.S., R.D., nutrition education director for PCRM. “Many Americans have no idea that eating hot dogs and bacon raises their risk of this deadly disease. Even a few servings of processed meat a week can increase cancer danger.”
The totals are sort of stunning. “Americans eat 20 billion hot dogs a year,” said PCRM. The reason Chicago was targeted is because the city is “one of the largest consumers of hot dogs nationwide, and hot dog restaurants here are said to outnumber all fast-food restaurants combined.”
Some might say, okay, so what?
“Illinois also has one of the nation’s highest rates of colorectal cancer. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Illinois ranks sixth in the nation for colorectal cancer incidence rates. Illinois men are also among the most likely in the nation to get colorectal cancer. Every year, more than 140,000 Americans are diagnosed with colorectal cancer and more than 50,000 die of it.”
By using stock images, and a “cartoon” aesthetic, perhaps with this formula, PCRM gets it right. Nobody gets shamed or targeted by physical attributes, but people still stop and think about the impacts of their diets, a topic largely ignored in the greater discourse on health. Knowledge is power, and with that information, informed decisions are possible.
Image credit: Flickr Creative Commons, dinnercraft