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Artillery Row

The BBC feeds us bad science

We can’t even trust the Beeb to tell us about the basic facts of motherhood

“Transgender women’s milk is just as good for babies as breast milk,” reports the BBC. Wow! That’s a turn up for the books. But we should ask exactly what they mean. After all, even the BBC can be wrong.

The Beeb’s report is based on a letter from the then Medical Director of the Sussex NHS Foundation Trust in August 2023. (You can read it here, published by Policy Exchange.) Dr Rachael James argued that “human milk is the ideal food for infants” — not women’s milk, mind you, but human milk.

The letter drew on “World Health Organisation guidance”, the BBC informs us. Yes, it did — World Health Organisation guidance on breastfeeding that says nothing about breastfeeding from biological males. Dr James has used it to support her claim about human milk, but males have only been included in this category by virtue of rhetorical convenience. It’s comparable to this:

Person 1: The sky is green.

Person 2: No, it isn’t.

Person 3: I shall use the colour-neutral term “bleen”. The sky is bleen.

But that’s not all! The letter also referred to “studies”, and if you can’t trust “studies”, what can you trust? 

The one 2022 study Dr James cited on “lactation induction in a transgender woman” looked at one person. Yes, that’s it — one person. There you have it, folks! There’s nothing to worry about here. Case closed.

The BBC interviewed Kate Luxion, a lactation consultant trainee, to back up this letter. Why not get an actual lactation consultant? Luxion — “a non-binary/genderqueer postgraduate researcher studying at University College London with a focus on LGBTQ+ reproductive health and parenting” — has published on subjects like “a feminist parent’s thoughts on Halloween” and “how to be tech-savvy faculty ally” but not breastfeeding. What kind of expert perspective was she meant to provide?

Yet we cannot blame the Beeb alone for its uncritical reportage. “Trans-women’s milk as good as breast milk, says NHS trust” announce the Telegraph, in a piece that also refers to “trans women who were assigned male at birth”. We might as well let the UAE buy the thing if that’s the best we can expect from its reportage.

This embarrassing episode illustrates how far the media class will go to obscure the basics of good argumentation for the sake of ideological convenience. No one would uncritically report on isolated papers which suggest that the Twin Towers were destroyed by thermite or that humans can see into the future yet neither of those claims would be so flattering to the elite status quo.

But perhaps that is an unfair comparison. Say what you like about people who think that humans can see into the future but it is a pretty harmless belief. A misguided approach towards the health of babies, on the other hand, could be very dangerous indeed. To risk their health for the sake of keeping adults happy would be absolutely scandalous.

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