A ceremonial Bottle of Milk has been part of the Indianapolis 500’s Victory Lane for decades — a celebration that got its start when legendary racer Louis Meyer requested a cold glass of buttermilk following his victory in 1933. Yet this year, a medical nonprofit that advocates for plant-based diets has erected billboards around Indianapolis with the phrase, “Winners DON’T Drink Milk.”
The Indy 500 takes place on Sunday, which explains the timing of the billboard advertisements near the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The organization behind the ads is called the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a nonprofit that claims dairy poses increased risks of breast, prostate, and ovarian cancer as well as heart disease. The organization has said in the past that only about 5 percent of its members are doctors, and the group has long history of inflating health claims of foods — at one point, it equated the effects of meat consumption to be equal to tobacco use.
According to the Indianapolis Star newspaper, in addition to the billboard campaign, a member of the physicians committee sent a letter urging the speedway to give the winner a plant-based milk alternative or water instead. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway has no plans to change the current milk tradition, communications director Amanda Stanley said in response to the letter.
Around Indiana, media outlets have been publishing articles about the billboards.
This kind of sensational campaign isn’t new, and even the use of billboards in high-traffic areas is becoming commonplace among anti-dairy factions. In April, for example, an activist organization known as Switch4Good erected billboards in Hollywood that stated, “9 out of 10 serial killers grew up drinking milk,” and including images of Jeffrey Dahmer and other of history’s monsters.
Dr. Victoria Othersen, a family physician who espouses a plant-based diet, was reportedly the one who wrote the letter to the speedway. She told local media that she hopes that by challenging “big dairy,” it will inspire people to consider a plant-based diet.
The milk presented in Victory Circle is produced by Indiana dairy farmers through the American Dairy Association Indiana. It’s likely the attack on “big dairy” primarily impacts the state’s family dairy farmers.
Indy 500 winners drinking milk became a formal tradition in 1956, and now every year, drivers are asked for their milk preferences before the race: skim, 2%, or whole milk. Whole milk is the most popular choice by the drivers.
For this year’s race, of the 33 drivers who qualified, 28 selected whole milk. Three drivers selected 2% milk, and two drivers selected skim milk.
The Indy 500’s 2023 Milk Man is Kerry Estes of Estes Dairy Farm in Fountaintown, who will deliver the milk to the winner and crew.
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Author: Ryan Tipps
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