The ad from vegan pressure group Go Vegan World – titled ‘Humane milk is a myth. Don’t buy it’and featuring a picture of a cow behind barbed wire – received seven complaints for its ‘inaccurate’ description of the way dairy cattle were treated in the UK.
Complainants challenged the claims on the ad ‘The mothers, still bloody from birth’ and ‘their daughters, fresh from their mothers’ wombs but separated from them’ – see below. They said they were misleading and could not be substantiated.
Go Vegan World said that the phrase ‘still bloody from birth’ was an indication that the cow was a new mother and that the phrase ‘fresh from their mothers’ wombs’ was commonly understood as applying to a very young infant.
‘Still bloody from birth’
The group claimed the ad did not state or imply that calves were separated from their mothers prior to the 12–24 hours recommended by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
Go Vegan director Sandra Higgins added: “The ad highlights that the problem faced by animals in the dairy industry is not how they are treated, but that they are used at all.
“The ad pertains to animal rights: the right of other feeling beings not to be our property and not to be used by us for our ends.”
The ASA understood that the ad could imply that dairy farmers in the UK did not comply with animal welfare standards.
However, readers of the ad were unlikely to have specialist knowledge of the dairy industry and would understand the claims to mean that calves were generally separated from their mothers very soon after being born, rather than a comment on compliance with any specific welfare standards.
Reflected the group’s opinion
It considered that the ad was from a vegan pressure group and that consumers would understand that the language used reflected the group’s opinion about the use of animals in the production of food more generally.
“Although the language used to express the claims was emotional and hard-hitting, we understood it was the case that calves were generally separated from their mothers very soon after birth, and we therefore concluded that the ad was unlikely to materially mislead readers,” added the ASA.
The watchdog investigated the ad under Committees of Advertising Practice Code (Edition 12) rules 3.1 (Misleading advertising) and 3.7 (Substantiation), but did not find it in breach.
Meanwhile, last month, an advert for Arla organic farm milk was banned by the ASA, after it ruled it contained misleading environmental claims.