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Diabetic Amputee Barbie? Billboard Is Animal Rights Activists' Latest Media Tactic

Earlier this week, crews posted a billboard on I-95 in Hallandale, near Hallandale Beach Boulevard. "Don't Let Diabetes Cut You Off at the Knees," the billboard warns. The image used to drive home the message? A Barbie-type doll (naked, of course!) with her leg chopped off.

The signage is attention-grabbing, no doubt, but it seemed misleading to have a pretty-young-thing doll with a severed leg represent the Type 2 diabetic Everyman (an estimated 23.6 million people -- 7.8 percent of the population -- have diabetes) when in fact obesity is a leading cause of the disease, and age and race are factors. (Blacks, Hispanics, American Indians, and Asian-Americans are at a higher risk than the Caucasian featured in the ad.)

The billboard reminded me of those intense anti-smoking ads that made us question every unhealthy decision we've made since the day we were born.  Maybe the diabetes awareness folks are drinking the same fear-mongering Kool-Aid. (Not that people should drink that stuff in any form; it will sky-rocket blood sugar levels!)

Although loss of limbs is certainly an alarming effect of diabetes, amputation happens in only about 3.9 individuals of every thousand people under 65 afflicted with the disease. (The number jumps to 7.9 of every thousand age 75 or older.) In a press release, the group behind the billboard, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, seemed to acknowledge it was using an extreme example to shock people into changing their ways: "The billboard spotlights one of the worst diabetes complications in order to promote a major shift in diet."

A-ha. Now we see where this is going. The major shift in diet the PCRM is talking about? Vegetarianism. In fact, the PCRM has a strong animal-rights focus (see its video against primate research here) and promotes a vegan diet ("Doctors Urge USDA to STOP PUSHING CHEESE" they declare on their website, where they also offer a vegetarian starter kit.) In past posts, we've explored how the PCRM used cancer fears to urge people toward a vegetarian diet, and how the organization in is funded in large part by local animal-rights activist / vegan restaurant owner Nanci Alexander. 

It's true that diabetes awareness and prevention is a worthy cause deserving attention, that it's awful to electrocute monkeys, and that eating vegetables is good for you. But there has to be a better method. I wonder... how many car accidents are caused by distracting and misleading billboards?

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Leslie Minora

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