Bruce Friedrich, PETA's vegetarian campaign coordinator, said the "Got Beer?" gimmick is intended to be "amusing, fun and titillating." Milk, he said, "is not the wonder product the dairy industry says it is."
PETA cites research blaming dairy products for osteoporosis and a number of other health problems.
Beer is much the healthier drink, PETA insists, because it has no fat and no cholesterol, while milk is loaded with both; beer has fiber and milk has none, beer is low in sodium while milk is high, and the high animal protein in milk actually leaches calcium from the bones, causing osteoporosis.
The dairy industry says that PETA doesn't have its facts straight, that other medical research debunked the claims against dairy years ago.
Laura Wilford, a registered dietitian and vice president of the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board, said she thought she had seen it all. Two years ago, PETA wanted Wisconsin, "America's Dairyland," to adopt soy as its official beverage.
"I have to say, I've worked for the dairy industry for 15 years and this has got to be the most amusing because it's incredibly irresponsible," Wilford said.
"First of all, they're targeting college students, who cannot legally drink until age 21," Wilford said. "Second, they're comparing beer's nutritional value, and it's negligible. Most college students, particularly women, don't get enough calcium. Why would you consider beer a nutritionally comparable product to something like milk?"
But consider the poor cows, says PETA. Corporate-owned milk factories keep dairy cows chained up, induce phony pregnancy to keep them producing, forcing them to produce 10 times more milk than they would naturally.
In addition, PETA notes, one dairy cow produces 120 pounds of waste every day - "equal to that of two dozen people, but with no toilets, sewers or treatment plants."
"In Lancaster County, Pa., manure from dairy cows is destroying the Chesapeake Bay," PETA says, "and in California, which produces one-fifth of the country's total supply of milk, the manure from dairy farms has poisoned vast expanses of underground water, rivers and streams."
The production of beer has nothing to do with animals - unless you count the Budweiser Clydesdales. It's made from grain, PETA notes.
On its Web site, www.milksucks.com, PETA quotes Dr. Frank A. Oski, former director of pediatrics for Johns Hopkins University, as saying, "There's no reason to drink cow's milk at any time in your life. It was designed for calves, not humans, and we should all stop drinking it today."