The ad above is found on the PETA web site and is, according to Newsday, featured on a billboard running in Newark New Jersey. Although not in agreement with all their positions or tactics I have always been sympathetic to PETA's alleged goal of seeking ethical treatment of animals. With the above campaign though PETA is not applying high ethical standards to autistic children. PETA is exploiting fear of autism to promote their goals concerning treatment of animals by pushing a connection between cow's milk and autism.
The PETA web site refers to a study in Rome in which "researchers noticed a "marked improvement" in the behavior of autistic children who were taken off dairy products". The study is a 1995 study. The site also refers to testimonial evidence that suggests that removing dairy from diets of autistic children provides relief. The testimony in question is a 2000 article by Karyn Seroussi "We Cured Our Son's Autism".
Although I personally am not persuaded that the evidence, at this time, supports dietary theories concerning autism I am not dismissive of them either. I previously commented in Milk and Autism Connection Claimed on the milk autism connection taking a wait and see approach to such claims. I have also refused to join those who attack parents for their testimonial evidence concerning Gluten Free and Casein Free diets even though I personally am not persuaded by their testimony.
There is already much public discussion of possible dietary influences as causes of autism. But it is a big stretch to say that "studies have shown a link between cow's milk and autism". Particularly when such a claim is linked to a dramatic image of a child's cereal bowl with cereal arranged to show a sad face.
PETA advocates for the ethical treatment of animals. In advancing that goal, it should apply the same ethical standards to its discussion of autism issues and autistic children. PETA officials could start a new branch of their organization - PETAC - People for the Ethical Treatment of Autistic Children.