Last week, we published a story revealing a shocking display of intellectual dishonesty and consumer fraud by the Sustainable Food Trust, whose recent study falsely comparing grass-fed cow’s milk to soy milk led to a slew of online news sites inaccurately reporting that soy milk is driving rainforest deforestation. We are asking readers to help us email some of these news sites and demand that they publish a retraction, or at the very least issue a correction, to their story incorrectly implicating soy milk in rainforest destruction.
Below, please find a list of some of these news outlets with links to their stories, the email address you should use to contact them, and the text of a letter which you can copy and paste into the body of your email. In the first sentence of your email, please link the word “story” to their article.
Yahoo News, Vegans Urged to Switch to Cow Milk Instead of Soya Milk to Save the Planet
email: Chris Parsons, Yahoo News UK, News Editor: firstname.lastname@example.org
Daily Mail, Milk From Grass-Fed Cows ‘More Environmental Than Soya Milk’
The Times, Milk From Cows Fed On Grass Is Greener Than Soya Substitutes, Say Scientists
The Telegraph, Vegans Should Abandon Soya Milk If They Want to Save the Planet
Submit your letter via the Complaints form.
This past August, you published a story [link to their article] based on a fraudulent claim of a study that has since been revealed to be consumer disinformation. The Sustainable Food Trust’s claim that grass-fed cow’s milk is better for the environment than soy milk was based on incorrect information deliberately intended to mislead consumers.
The SFT’s claim centers on the false premise that soy milk contributes to rainforest deforestation. While soy production is a major driver of deforestation in the Amazon rainforest, the report deliberately omits, and worse, exploits consumer ignorance of, the fact that the soy grown in the Amazon is almost exclusively used for livestock feed, and that the soy used in soy milk in the UK (as well as in the U.S.) is overwhelmingly sourced domestically (within the EU) or from the U.S., Canada, or China. Popular UK soy milk brands like Alpro, Provamel, Sojade and Plamilk, for example, source their soy from France. (See full list).
Compounding their dishonesty, the study authors use a brazenly false comparison to support their sustainability claim, stating that grass-fed cow’s milk is more efficient than soy milk because it takes less soy to produce a glass of grass-fed cow’s milk than it does to produce a glass of soy milk. So grass-fed cow’s milk is being compared to soy milk on the basis of which beverage uses less soy to produce milk, when grass-fed cows by definition eat mostly grass. If you wanted to honestly evaluate how cow’s milk compares to soy milk in terms of the efficiency with which each converts soy into milk, you’d need to use soy-fed cows, not grass-fed cows. If we do that, the numbers suddenly tell a much different story, with every 1 kilogram of soy beans fed to cows yielding a mere 1.38 liters of cow’s milk, compared to 7.5 liters of soy milk produced per kilogram of whole soy beans. In that case, in an honest comparison, soy milk is nearly 5 and 1/2 times more efficient than cow’s milk in the use of soy beans.
The professional journalism code of ethics dictates that your news outlet should issue a retraction, or at the very least a correction. According to the Committee on Publication Ethics, among the reasons editors should issue a retraction is:
- They have clear evidence that the findings are unreliable, either as a result of major error (eg, miscalculation or experimental error), or as a result of fabrication (eg, of data) or falsification (eg, image manipulation)
- The author(s) failed to disclose a major competing interest (a.k.a. conflict of interest) that, in the view of the editor, would have unduly affected interpretations of the work or recommendations by editors and peer reviewers.
In addition to knowingly wrongfully implicating soy milk in rainforest deforestation in order to make the claim that grass-fed cow’s milk is more sustainable than soy milk, the authors declared “no conflict of interest” at the end of the study. However, both the founder of the Sustainable Food trust, Patrick Holden, and their policy director and co-author of the study, Richard Young, are grass-fed meat and dairy farmers who profit from these industries. It is a clear conflict of interest for them to release a study claiming that grass-fed dairy is better for the environment than soy milk; even more so when that claim depends on lying to consumers about the nature of soy milk production.
Please adhere to the code of ethics in journalism and issue a retraction or a correction accompanying your recent story that was based on the SFT’s dishonest claims. And/or please consider publishing a follow-up story on soy milk and sustainability that includes critical commentary on the misleading claims and methodology of the Sustainable Food Trust study. See a full analysis of the SFT’s consumer deception, here.