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The advertising watchdog has banned a vegan advert following complaints from farmers who claimed it is ‘misleading’.
The cinema ad by Viva! – which was produced by Plant Based News – was shown to around two million people when it aired to audiences before screenings of Jumanji: Welcome To The Jungle and Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
It shows grim conditions in Britain’s factory farms – and compares the lives of pigs trapped in these facilities to a rescue pig named Hope, who is shown frolicking outside with her piglets.
As a result of the ASA’s ruling, the ad may no longer be shown ‘in the form complained of’. The ASA added: “We told Viva! to ensure their ads did not mislead about, for example, how animals would be accommodated in intensive farming environments.”
The ad cites a statistic saying 90 percent of pigs will never see the outdoors because they are factory farmed. The National Pig Association (NPA) along with seven members of the public contacted the Advertising Standard’s Agency (ASA) to question this figure.
The ASA upheld this complaint, saying: “We considered the information supplied by Viva! did not demonstrate that pigs that were intensively or factory farmed in the UK would be kept in the indoor conditions shown in the ad or similar most of the time. We therefore concluded that the ad was misleading.”
But in a statement sent to Plant Based News, Viva! said: “The NPA claimed that our advert was misleading because we implied that the ‘vast majority of pigs farmed in the UK are restricted to the indoors and never experience the outdoors’.
“We know that around 40 percent of sows give birth outdoors (roughly 166,000 of the total pig population in Britain at any one time), but when combining this figure with the pig industry’s top number of pigs reared for meat outside (five percent) that still only equates to eight per cent of pigs being outside for at least the first part of their lives. If anything, the 90 per cent figure we used in the advert to indicate the number of pigs reared inside is vastly underestimated.”
Viva! added: “Despite Viva! supplying sufficient evidence, which included all the calculations on which we based our 90 percent figure, the ASA has ruled in favour of the NPA.
“While the ASA did acknowledge that 96 per cent of piglets are, in fact farmed intensively, moving indoors after weaning, they considered it untrue to say that they would never experience life outside, although none of those piglets would experience the type of freedom shown in our advert.”
Illegal farming methods
The second complaint upheld by the ASA was that the ad was misleading because they believed it featured farming methods that were no longer allowed in the UK.
According to the ASA: “Defra’s guidance allowed for pigs to be held in conditions where they were unable to turn around for the period between seven days before the predicted day of farrowing and the day on which the weaning of the piglets was complete, which we understood was when the piglets were between 21 and 28 days old. Defra’s guidance also allowed for pigs to be confined for certain veterinary procedures.”
It added: “In Viva!’s ad, the dark lighting and close up and brief nature of some of the footage meant that it was not clear why pigs were being accommodated in the way shown or for how long…
“We considered consumers were likely to interpret the indoor scenes to mean that pigs that were intensively or factory farmed in the UK would be kept in the indoor conditions shown or similar most of the time, which was a practice that we understood would not be in line with Defra’s guidance.”
Hope the pig starred in Viva!’s ad
Against Defra guidelines
But Viva! says the footage used in the cinema advert was taken in an average UK pig farm and is a representation of UK factory farming practices.
It added: “Although DEFRA guidelines suggest that sows should be left no longer than 30 minutes in a rack, Viva! Campaigns has also routinely filmed sows still in the crates during the early hours of the morning, which suggests that they are regularly caged for longer periods of time.
“We also showed farrowing crates at the end of the advert, which are again commonly used on British farms. According to the Government’s Farm Animal Welfare Council, 60 per cent of the 350,000 sows kept indoors are subjected to confinement in crates – typically, sows are put into these crates a week before they give birth and are kept there for up to four weeks afterwards.
“This happens 2.5 times a year, which means that they are restrained for more than three months annually. The crates are so small that the sow is unable to turn around in that entire time. In the EU, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland have already banned the farrowing crate due to its cruelty. “
A third complaint about the advert was not upheld: The NPA and complainants claimed that ‘the ad contained content which was likely to cause distress without justifiable reason’.
Viva! said the ad was passed by the BBFC as PG but by the Cinema Advertising Association (CAA) as 12A. Viva! agreed with the more cautious, CAA assessment. The charity recognized that the ad contained challenging content, but considered the restriction meant that it would not be scheduled inappropriately.
“We acknowledged that the ad contained images and subject matter that some viewers would find challenging,” said the ASA. “We considered that the decision to limit the cinema ad to being shown around 12A, 15A, 15 and 18 certificate films only meant it would be seen by an audience that was likely to be able to understand the nature of the debate that the ad raised and that it was not out of place in the context of those films. With the classification that had been applied to it, we concluded that the ad did not breach the Code.”
‘Desperate attempt to conceal the truth’
Viva! believes the ASA ruling against its Hope Not Hell cinema advert ‘further suggests that the animal agriculture industry is desperately trying to conceal the truth about the UK’s farming industry’.
The charity added: “The complaints about the advert did not question whether pigs are confined to the extent that they are unable to move, nor did it question whether pigs were kept in squalid conditions.
“Instead, the NPA questioned our integrity in hopes of convincing the public to ignore our campaign. The farming industry is shrouded in a web of lies and smokescreens, and the public has the right to see the truth.”