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A vegan charity has responded after the advertising watchdog axed its anti-dairy ad branding it ‘misleading’.
The Advertising Standards Authority [ASA] told leading vegan charity Viva! not to display the ad again, claiming consumers could interpret it to mean that drinking cow’s milk could increase the risk of developing cancer.
The ASA made the ruling about the ad – which was initially displayed on buses in Bristol in 2017 – after receiving two complaints. It also told Viva! not to make claims ‘which stated or implied that due to the presence of hormones, drinking cow’s milk could increase a person’s risk of developing cancer’.
The design features a cow’s udders along with the words: “Some dairy industry facts we bet you don’t know … Most cows are pregnant when milking. That’s why milk contains 35 hormones, including oestrogen … some of these are linked to cancer. Milk is for babies, so let Viva! wean you off the teat!”
The ASA agreed that the evidence admitted by Viva! supported claims that milk contains hormones, but said additional research was needed when it came to linking these hormones with cancer, saying: “The studies and meta-analysis did not support Viva’s assertion that the findings of increased risk of cancer were specifically a result of the hormones present in cow’s milk rather than to other factors.
“We therefore concluded the claim ‘milk contains 35 hormones, including oestrogen…some of these are linked to cancer’, as it would be understood by consumers to mean that due to the presence of hormones, drinking cow’s milk could increase a person’s risk of developing cancer, had not been substantiated and was therefore misleading.”
Viva! has defended its advert, saying: “[We gave] plenty of scientific evidence showing how dairy consumption and the hormones in dairy increase the risk of many types of cancer and saying ‘linked to’ is not the same as ’causes’.
“The ASA decided that we’re right to say there are 35 hormones in milk but despite the evidence supporting the links between dairy and some types of cancer, our ad claim was too generic and without further explanation might confuse people.
“Whilst we provided enough scientific data to support the claim and ASA acknowledged that there are indeed 35 hormones in milk, they considered the wording ‘linked to cancer’ misleading as apparently the public may interpret it as ‘drinking milk causes cancer’. We think people are smarter than that!”
Viva! Founder and Director, Juliet Gellatley, added: “There’s plenty of scientific data linking milk and other dairy products to an increased risk of some cancers and many researchers are pointing the finger of blame at the hormones naturally present in dairy.
“If the ad had contained a more specific wording, such as ‘linked to breast, ovarian and prostate cancer’ – for which the evidence is the strongest – it would have probably been accepted as appropriate.
“The ASA ruling only found an issue with the claim being too generic, not with it being unfounded.”
Viva! has written more extensively onthe advert and its supporting documentation here