RSPCA Badger cull ad

The RSPCA’s badger cull ad appeared in the Metro newspaper

The Advertising Standards Authority has received 80 complaints in the past 24 hours about an anti-badger cull advert run by the RSPCA.

The ad, which appeared in yesterday’s Metro newspaper, carried the headline “vaccinate or exterminate?” and called on members of the public to support the RSPCA’s petition to stop the cull.

A spokeswoman for the ASA said the complaints the regulator had received referred to the use of the word “exterminate” in the headline. “Complainants believe the headline ‘exterminate’ is misleading as to the nature of the badger cull,” she added.

She said the ASA was only starting to assess the complaints and had not yet made a decision as to whether it will investigate the RSPCA’s ad.

The RSPCA defended its ad and stressed it had not used any donation monies as the ad had been placed free of charge. “The word ‘exterminate’ accurately describes what will happen to in excess of 70% of the badgers in the pilot cull areas - and beyond, if the disastrous policy is rolled out,” a spokesman added.


The ad was slammed as “inaccurate” by Defra minister Richard Benyon on Twitter yesterday:

A statement on Defra’s “Tackling Bovine TB” tumblr account, posted yesterday, also said the cull would not “exterminate” badgers. “This is not the case and is extremely misleading to readers of the advert. There is no risk to England’s badger population.”

The RSPCA’s ad also stated scientific evidence suggested “slaughtering thousands of England’s badgers is unlikely to stop the spread of bovine TB in cattle”, but Defra claimed this was not the case. “Based on results from the Randomised Badger Culling Trials it has been estimated that culling over a 150 sq km area will lead to an average reduction in new cases of TB of around 16% over nine years, relative to a similar unculled area,” it said. “This is a significant reduction that will help us tip the balance and start to reverse the spread of TB when used alongside our other TB control measures.”

Meanwhile, the National Farmers Union said: “It’s a shame that a charity which claims to represent animal welfare continues to run an alarmist campaign without the full facts. The RSPCA needs to start publicly acknowledging the 38,000 cattle which were slaughtered last year as a result of contracting TB.”

The RSPCA’s ad only attracted attention yesterday, but it is not the first time it has been run. As flagged up by The Grocer, the same ad appeared in the Metro last week:

Comment: Owen Paterson should practice what he preaches on GM debate