NFU condemns 'wrong and perverse' ASA ruling on anti-meat campaign

UK - The NFU has said the Advertising Standards Authority made a wrong and perverse decision in failing to uphold complaints about the animal rights activist group PETA’s advertising campaign in which it claimed feeding meat to children was tantamount to child abuse.
calendar icon 25 January 2007
clock icon 3 minute read

The NFU was one of a number of organisations and members of the public who complained to the ASA about the PETA campaign when it was launched last year. The complaint was based on the facts:

  • There is no evidence that meat is a contributory factor to childhood obesity,
  • the advertisement trivialised child abuse and would be deeply offensive to child abuse victims and their families, and
  • the campaign was insulting and offensive to the meat-eating majority of parents.

The NFU put in a detailed argument to the ASA, setting out how the PETA advert breached 13 clauses of the code governing such adverts, including arguments that the advert:

  • was misleading,
  • was intended to shock consumers, and
  • was irresponsible in that it encouraged parents to make drastic changes in their children’s diets without first taking talking to a doctor or nutritionist.

However despite all of the evidence the ASA decided not to uphold the complaints, on the grounds that PETA was an overtly vegetarian organisation that was to be expected to say that meat was bad for children and that, because of this, the information in the ads would be either discounted or not taken seriously by consumers.

A spokesman for the NFU said: “The ASA decision is wrong and perverse. The implication of this ruling is that any extremist organisation can say what it likes because the fact that it is extremist means its material will not be taken seriously.

“The implication is that there is one rule for responsible organisations and another for the lunatic fringe, who can basically say what they like.

“The fact of the matter is there is no ground for arguing that eating meat does, of itself, contribute to childhood obesity and for PETA to claim otherwise is both wrong and potentially damaging to health.

“We cannot accept this ruling, both because it is plainly perverse and mistaken and also because of the precedent it could set for other fringe organisations who might want to frighten the public into supporting their cause by publishing false and malicious information.

"For all of these reasons, we will be lodging a request for an Independent Review at the earliest opportunity."

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