The advertising watchdog has banned a TV ad for Vegan Friendly UK after receiving complaints about graphic violence against animals.
The ad, shown in March, was intended to highlight hypocrisy among meat-eaters who said they cared about animal welfare.
It showed two women and one man eating around a table juxtaposed with clips of a fish head still gasping for air, a live piglet alongside a pig with its eyes closed and a cow’s face that appeared to have tears coming from its eye. A further clip showed a cow’s skinned head with its eyes and teeth still present lying on its side.
As those at the table continued to eat, a caption said: “No animal was harmed, consumed, or purchased to make this advert,” followed by the text: “Make the connection.”
While the ad was given a restriction preventing it from being shown close to programs likely to be watched by children under 16, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) received 63 complaints, including that the ad contained gratuitous violence against animals, which caused unnecessary distress to viewers.
Vegan Friendly UK, which certifies restaurants and products as vegan-friendly, said the imagery was no different to displays seen in butchers ‘or fishmongers’ windows on the average high street, and that the clips “would not feel out of place in a cooking program or a nature documentary ”.
The organization said the ad was intended to highlight “an individual’s potential hypocrisy, and the contradictions between what people said and their actions”, to encourage meat-eaters who were against animal cruelty to reconsider eating meat.
It said the ad did not vilify meat-eaters but “promoted love and compassion for all beings and discouraged discrimination against other sentient beings”.
However, the ASA determined that several clips “were likely to cause distress to both younger and adult audiences”, while the way the ad was shot, in a “quick succession of clips” combined with the juxtaposition between adults eating and the animal imagery, would heighten the distress felt by viewers ”. The ASA noted that visiting a butcher or watching cookery shows was “an active choice which came with different expectations to those of TV ads”.
While some complaints from viewers were around the vilification of meat-eaters, the ASA did not uphold these, determining that it was clear “the ad was trying to highlight how people actions might not necessarily align with their beliefs” and was “not likely to cause widespread offence ”.
It ruled: “For those reasons, we concluded that the ad was likely to cause distress to both younger and adult audiences and therefore was not suitable for broadcast on TV regardless of scheduling restrictions.”
The ASA concluded that the ad must not appear again, adding: “We told Vegan Friendly UK to avoid using imagery which was likely to cause distress to both younger and adult audiences.”