A provocative television commercial produced by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine has been denied access to Miami television stations, according to a press release by the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit.
The ad, which features a woman crying over a dead man lying on a gurney and clutching a half-eaten hamburger, seeks to draw attention to Miami’s escalating rates of heart disease-related deaths as well as the high concentration of fast food in the city. The commercial closes with the familiar golden arches of McDonald’s, along with a play on the company’s current slogan — “I was lovin’ it.” (Watch the ad, after the jump)
“When you see the Golden Arches, you could be on the road to the Pearly Gates,” says Neal Barnard, M.D., PCRM’s president. “Busy families and children eating meaty, cheesy burgers and nuggets pay the price in obesity, heart disease, and hypertension. A health warning is essential.”
Heart disease kills nearly 1,500 residents of Miami each year. According to the National Association of County and City Health Officials, the death rate from heart disease in Miami is the second highest of all large U.S. cities—only Las Vegas has a higher rate.
PCRM began running the ad two weeks ago in Washington, D.C., before expanding to South Florida. As expected McDonald’s has retaliated, accusing the group of a hidden, underlying animal rights agenda. Some have aligned the organization with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
“If PETA members are interested in plant-based diets as part of their advocacy for animal rights, good for them,” says Susan Levin, M.S., R.D. nutrition director of PCRM. “Our interest lies in plant-based diets for chronic disease prevention. We are not affiliated with PETA. We are an independent, nonprofit organization interested in nutrition for health.”
When asked why PCRM chose to promote a vegetarian diet instead of perhaps focusing on a healthy diet, Levin says, “Healthy is too vague. People don’t know what healthy means, but research shows plant-based vegan and vegetarian diets are healthiest for chronic disease prevention including heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some forms of cancer. Not only does research show you can prevent those diseases with plant-based diets but you can reverse symptoms of heart disease and diabetes.”
The New Times reports that while Miami’s two largest newspapers, the Sun-Sentinal and Miami Herald, ran stories yesterday noting the refusal of TV stations to run the ad, both reports neglected to provide a link to the video in question, implying that McDonald’s may simply purchase too much print and television advertising for papers and networks to take the risk.
A PCRM survey shows that Miami has four McDonald’s, Burger King, or KFC locations per square mile—more than five other cities with similar population sizes and than other cities in general. All other cities in PCRM’s survey, including Houston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Cleveland, had fewer than one per square mile.
McDonald’s, the world’s largest fast-food chain, serves a long list of high-fat, high-cholesterol items and offers almost no healthful choices, according to an analysis by PCRM dietitians.
“Maybe there’s just so many McDonald’s there, and they buy so much advertising, that nobody wants to risk it,” Levin said.