ASA bans PETA anti-meat ad

An anti-meat ad, that likened the risks of meat consumption to the risks of smoking, has been banned by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

The billboard ad from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) showed a child smoking a cigar and read: “You wouldn’t let your child smoke. Like smoking, eating meat increases the risk of heart disease and cancer. Go vegan! PETA”.  

Two complaints

According to the ASA the ad received two complaints, challenging whether the claim that eating red meat causes cancer was misleading and if it could be proven. It banned the ad as it likened the risk of eating any kind of meat with smoking, and consumers would make the connection. “We therefore concluded that the ad was misleading”.

PETA claimed the link between meat and an increased risk of heart disease and some cancers had been documented in various medical studies and journals. It said it felt the claim was not misleading and said it would appeal the ASA’s verdict.

Peta’s defence

In a bid to defend the ad the pro-vegan animal rights organisation provided several studies that discussed premature death and the consumption of red meat. However, the ASA noted that one study was related to post-menopausal women only, while two other studies “looked at the overall effect of a vegetarian diet, rather than specifically studying the effect of eating meat on increased heart disease (IHD) risk”.

The ASA said: “We acknowledged that the researchers had attempted to adjust for other risk factors that were known to be associated with IHD, such as weight and smoking status. We noted that both studies had found differences in diet, other than simply whether or not meat was consumed between vegetarians and non-vegetarians – for example, a higher intake of fruit, vegetables and wholegrains among vegetarians in the first study, but that these factors had not been adjusted for because the studies were not designed to look at the effect of meat consumption in isolation.”

“Befuddled” by the ruling

A PETA spokesman said: “We are befuddled by the ASA’s ruling on our billboard highlighting the fact that eating meat increases the risk of heart disease and cancer. The link between meat consumption and the increased risk of heart disease and cancer has been repeatedly documented in studies and medical reports.

“Most recently, researchers from the University of Oxford analysed the diets of almost 45,000 volunteers in England and Scotland to compare the rates of heart disease in those who do and do not eat meat, including fish. The study, funded by Cancer Research UK and the UK Medical Research Council and published just this year in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that vegetarians had a 32% lower risk of becoming ill or dying from heart disease than non-vegetarians.”


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