Nieuws - 19 oktober 2011

Milk statement won't stop Animal Rights campaign

Dutch animal rights organization Wakker Dier is calling for independent research on the influence of external funding on research at Wageningen UR. This is a negative response to a statement by Wageningen researchers.

Joris Three-pints: still causing a stir
The animal rights foundation does not base its demands on new facts but points to a statements published by Wageningen UR yesterday. According to Wakker Dier spokesman Sjoerd van der Wouw, the university implicitly admits that an earlier press release on milk contained unsubstantiated health claims.
Wageningen UR spokesman Simon Vink dismisses the resolution categorically: 'I don't know what Wakker Dier  is talking about. They have no case, no evidence, just allegations.' Externally funded research at Wageningen UR is independent and high-quality, according to Vink. Internal monitoring systems such as the code for external funding ensure this, in combination with visitations and the peer review process.

The controversial press release was about a scientific study that found a positive relation between milk consumption and the risk of cardiovascular disease. By drawing a parallel with the dairy industry's advertisement character Joris Driepinter (Joris Three-pints), the university had turned itself into an advertising agency, says Van der Wouw.
In the statement  published yesterday, the researchers reiterate their conclusions. There is no significant link between milk and overall mortality, whether from heart attacks or from strokes. There is however a positive relation between milk consumption and cardiovascular disease in general. They add two distinctions to the findings, though. Firstly, they say that the effects of dairy consumption vary according to the products it replaces. Secondly, they state that the results of this study alone do not provide sufficient basis for health guidelines.

According to Van der Wouw, the press release is not the only statement by Wageningen researchers that suggest that commercial interests influence the research climate. He mentions the inaugural lecture given by extraordinary professor  Toon van Hooijdonk, who also works for dairy company FrieslandCampina. 'There are several things that we think are strange and we now demand an investigation.'

Next week the Advertising Code Commission will meet to discuss Wakker Dier's case against Wageningen UR.