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Anti-meat ad banned by ASA

27 June 2013

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has banned an anti-meat advert that compares the risks of eating meat with that of smoking cigarettes.

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

The ASA says it received two complaints questioning whether the claim that eating red meat causes cancer was misleading and if it could be proven. On the basis that the ad likened the risk of eating any kind of meat with smoking and that consumers would make the connection, the authority decided that it 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. The ASA responded by stating 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.”

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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