PETA, formally People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, is well known for its shocking and often controversial advertisements. Throughout the years the organization has promoted ads featuring nude women and the Holocaust. The internet has recently dug up a 2008 PETA campaign stemming from PETA’s evidence that drinking milk is linked to autism. “Got Autism?” cites a study published in the journal Nutritional Neuroscience. In the study, a group of twenty autistic children were split into two groups of ten. One group was put on a casein (a protein in cow’s milk)-free diet, while the other group had an unchanged diet. After one year, the two groups were retested for autism. The casein-free group exhibited less characteristics of autism than they had at the beginning of the year, while the control group did not have an significant improvement in their autism.

Is this study legit?

Many would contest it. First of all, it was published in 2002, so it may no longer be relevant. Second, the sample size is remarkably small—how can twenty children determine if milk leads to autism? There is also the possibility that the campaign is just riding on the popularity of restrictive diets. For example, gluten-free diets are all the rage because we were apparently never supposed to be eating gluten, dairy-free diets are popular because they can clear up your skin, etc. etc.

PETA first launched the campaign in 2008, but took down many of the advertisements due to complaints of portraying autism in an offensive and insensitive manner. Now, they’re facing outrage from dairy farmers and autism groups alike. While this theory is more valid than many of the autism theories out there, there would have to be more evidence for anyone to act upon it.

What do you think? Are these claims completely bogus? Post your comments below.