PETA ad banned for comparing eating meat to smoking
The poster ad – from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) – showed a small child smoking a cigar, with the text stating “You wouldn’t let your child smoke. Like smoking, eating meat increases the risk of heart disease and cancer. Go vegan!”
The ASA said today the ad was misleading because it suggested consumption of any type of meat increased the risk of falling seriously ill. It told PETA not to run it again in its current form and “not to imply that any consumption of meat would raise the risk of heart disease and cancer”.
In defending the ad, PETA cited a number of studies that it said showed a link between meat consumption and increased risk of heart disease or cancer, but the ASA found the studies were too limited in scope to justify the generic claim that eating meat increased heart disease and cancer.
For example, some studies looked at the effects of a vegetarian diet on health rather than specifically at meat consumption, and did not adjust for the impact of higher fruit, veg and wholegrain consumption among vegetarians, the ASA said. In other cases, study results suggested a link between consumption of processed meats and an increased risk of cancer, but did not link unprocessed meat to higher cancer rates.
“We considered that because the ad likened the risks associated with eating any kind of meat to the risks of smoking, consumers would understand from the ad that the connection between eating any kind of meat and the risk of heart disease and cancer had been proven beyond doubt, which was clearly not the case, and we therefore concluded that the ad was misleading,” the ASA said.
Responding to the ruling, PETA said it was “befuddled” by the decision. “The link between meat consumption and the increased risk of heart disease and cancer has been repeatedly documented in studies and medical reports,” a spokesman said, citing a recent study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and work by the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.
“We encourage people with concerns about the effect that meat consumption has on their health to follow the example of former US President Bill Clinton, who credits switching to a vegan diet with extending his life.”