Vegans fail in bid to ban British meat and dairy ads

James Nason, 19/08/2021

Vegan and animal rights groups have failed in a bid to ban an advertising campaign promoting meat and dairy consumption as part of a balanced diet in Britain.

The £1.5m “We Eat Balanced” campaign launched in January by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board promoted eating meat and dairy as part of a “varied and balanced diet alongside a healthy lifestyle”.

It included television, online  and newspaper advertisements, YouTube videos and a Facebook ad.

Advertisements in the campaign stated that red meat and dairy are a source of B12 and protein, adding that B12 helps reduce tiredness and fatigue and protein contributes to the maintenance of normal bones.

Some advertisements in the campaign included the message that beef, pork, lamb and milk contain vitamin B12, “an essential nutrient not naturally present in the vegan diet”.

Britain’s Advertising Standards Authority received 487 complaints from groups including Humane League UK, The Vegan Society, Compassion in World Farming UK, Four Paws, PETA, Surge Campaigning CIC, Brinsley Animal Rescue and Viva!, which branded the advertisements “misleading”.

The ASA said complaints related to three issues which it investigated.

Its finding was that none of the advertisements were misleading and therefore the complaints were not upheld.

The ASA report said complainants claimed the ads were misleading because:

* “they implied that consumption of meat and dairy was required in order to eat a healthy, balanced diet when there was evidence to suggest that was not the case”;

* “implied that consumption of meat and dairy was required in order to obtain vitamin B12”; and

* “implied that livestock used for meat in the UK were typically outdoor grazed and had a minimal environmental impact when that was not the case”.

In its response, the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board said the campaign was designed to address common consumer misconceptions about the sustainability of red meat and dairy produced in Britain when compared to global livestock production and other sectors in the UK and to highlight the role red meat and dairy played in a balanced diet.

It said red meat and dairy was included in the Government’s Eatwell Guide, and noted that the intention was to raise awareness that foods of plant origin “were not natural sources of vitamin B12 and this was substantiated by the NHS website and the Vegan Society’s website”.

AHDB said it was factually correct that UK livestock was typically grazed outdoors.

It maintained that the imagery and wording used in the ads, namely that UK livestock production was land-based, and used foods humans could not eat and rainwater, to produce meat and milk, reflected typical UK production systems in beef, lamb and dairy and typical commercial outdoor pig units.

The AHA dismissed the complaints, concluding that the ads were not misleading.

Important ruling for British farming

AHDB’s Chief Communications and Market Development Officer, Christine Watts (right), said the decision was an “important ruling for British farming”.

“We are delighted with the ASA’s ruling and are grateful for the careful consideration they gave to all the points which were raised.

“For British farming this is an important day as we can continue to communicate the benefits around consuming red meat and dairy as part of a balanced diet.  We work hard to ensure our campaigns are robust and evidence-based.

“We are now focused on preparing for the next stage of our campaign, which will launch later this year, tapping into consumer trends around diet, health and environmental sustainability.”

She said the campaign had reached up to 18.5 million people.

The ‘We Eat Balanced’ campaign was also nominated for the UK Food and Drink Federation’s ‘Campaign of the Year’ award.

Vegans ‘disheartened and frustrated’ by the ruling

Louise Davies, Head of Campaigns at The Vegan Society, told UK’s Daily Mail the group was “disheartened and frustrated” by the ruling.

“We are disheartened and frustrated by the ASA’s final ruling over these adverts,” she said.

“We still strongly believe by running these adverts the AHDB set out to purposely mislead the public at a time when a record-breaking number of people were trying veganism through the Veganuary campaign.”

“Despite the outcome we hope the huge number of complaints submitted to the ASA will encourage the ADHB and similar bodies to think twice before resorting to such scare tactics again in future.”




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