The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine
(PCRM) is a non-profit organization
based in Washington, D.C.
, founded in 1985 by physician Neal D. Barnard
. It is an "association of doctors and laypersons" whose stated purposes are to promote preventive medicine and encourage higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in research.
The organization's advisory board includes T. Colin Campbell
, Ph.D., of Cornell University
, Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr.
, M.D., of The Cleveland Clinic, Henry J. Heimlich
, M.D., and John McDougall, M.D among others.
PCRM has a paid staff of 40, and claim a membership of approximately 5,000 physicians and 100,000 lay members.
The PCRM advocates for a vegan
diet, which it argues helps combat a multitude of physical ailments, such as diabetes and high blood pressure among many others. PCRM goes further and claims that certain vegan products, which are "naturally low in saturated fat, high in fiber, and replete with cancer-protective phytochemicals," can help to prevent cancer.
PCRM runs a website that collects reports of adverse health effects experienced by people on the Atkins diet. PCRM also argues that consuming dairy products is unhealthful and advocates for improving the food served in school lunchrooms. In addition, PCRM runs The Cancer Project, a program for cancer prevention, research, and nutritional assistance to cancer patients.
The organization's nutrition director, Amy Lanou, Ph.D., has criticized the U.S. Department of Agriculture for promoting high-fat, high-calorie product, such as some cookies and fast-food products linked to child obesity.
PCRM's founder, Dr. Neal Barnard, is a psychiatrist by training. However, Dr. Barnard has published dozens of peer-reviewed scientific papers on nutritional topics in such leading journals as The American Journal of Cardiology and the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.
The American Council on Science and Health is critical of PCRM's nutritional policies, saying that the group emphasize and exaggerate the reliability of certain research, to further an animal rights agenda..
Its research department promotes alternatives to the use of animals in education and research. The organization's official position paper on animal experimentation argues that the scientific and medical communities must move decisively to replace animals: "The exploration and implementation of non-animal methods should be a priority for investigators and research institutions and should take advantage of a wide variety of viewpoints to ensure progress toward scientific, human health, and animal protection goals." In 2007, the American Medical Association debated a resolution to specifically "condemn [the] ongoing activities of the PCRM that impede humane and responsible animal research." The resolution was not accepted, instead the AMA chose to reaffirm its support for "continued efforts to defend and promote the use of animals in meaningful research, product safety testing, and teaching programs."
Relationship with PETA
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals
has donated more than $1.3m to PCRM.
PETA is based in Norfolk, Va.
, and PCRM in Washington, D.C. There is a third organization called Foundation to Support Animal Protection
housed out of the same address as PETA. This organization's board consists in part of PCRM founder and president Neal Barnard and PETA president Ingrid Newkirk
The IRS form 990s filed for FSAP confirm that from 1999 through 2000 PCRM was a supported organization. Since 2000, FSAP has declined to itemize its supported organizations.
The ties between PCRM, PETA, and FSAP have been criticized by the American Council on Science and Health
and The American Physiological Society
PCRM has been accused of having links with militant animal rights activists. Jerry Vlasak
, a former spokesman for the PCRM, caused controversy in 2004 when he said, "I don't think you'd have to kill too many researchers. I think for five lives, 10 lives, 15 human lives, we could save a million, 2 million, 10 million non-human lives." PCRM subsequently distanced themselves from Vlasak, who acknowledged he was working independently of the group.
The Observer reports that, in 2001, PCRM president Neil Barnard joined Kevin Jonas, a former leader of Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC), to co-sign hundreds of letters sent to the bosses of companies involved with Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS), a contract animal-testing company, asking them to sever their relationships with HLS. Jonas was later jailed under the Animal Enterprise Protection Act for running the SHAC USA campaign's website, which aims to close HLS down.