Opinion

Autism: How PETA got it all wrong

One mom is upset with PETA's Got Autism? ad campaign.

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As the parent of a child with autism, I found the most recent PETA campaign disturbing. In all its medical and scientific wisdom, the animal rights organization claims in their latest ad that dairy products can lead to a child developing autism.

Parents have long wondered—and questioned—why their child has been affected by autism. There is still a lot of mystery around its cause and why cases have increased so dramatically in recent years.

Read more: Tips for parents of kids with autism>

As a member of the autism community, I have seen many children on the autism spectrum benefit from removing certain foods from their diet, including dairy. But, it’s a pretty long draw of the bow to make the claims that PETA is making. In a community that has been riddled with controversy, debate and outrage around the causation debate, we really didn’t need more fuel being added to the autism fire.

The imagery on the ad is equally disturbing. The text imitates the old dairy advertisements that coined the phrase “got milk?” In an attempt to be playful with that ad campaign, they used the words “got autism?” The picture accompanying these words is a sad face made out of cereal in a bowl of milk.

Raising a child with autism is no easy task. When your child is diagnosed with autism, it can be devastating. But here’s the thing—we love these kids and having their diagnosis portrayed in such a negative manner is completely disrespectful. Certainly families living with autism have challenges and there are days that are not all smiles, but really PETA, do you have to feed into the stereotype that autism is a curse on families and the individuals living with it?

Speaking of the individuals living with autism, did PETA ever consider what it’s like for my 14-year-old son with autism to see their latest ad campaign? How do you think it makes him feel to see a poster telling him his life sucks and he’s a burden on his family? Yeah, not so great.

But PETA isn’t thinking about my son. They’re thinking about how they can exploit other communities to further their own agenda. This most recent PETA ad campaign has not been the organization’s finest moment, but in my opinion the animal rights activist group has a long history of these types of moments. Such blatant in-your-face type of tactics, going for shock value only, distract from the organization’s original message and do nothing for their credibility. It has alienated many activists, causing them to refuse to be associated with the organization.

Well, their tactics have not worked for this autism mama. In fact, I think for the first time in my life, I’m actually craving a steak.

Julie Cole is the co-founder of Mabel’s Labels Inc. and the proud mom of six. Follow her on Twitter @juliecole and @mabelhood.