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Vegan Friendly Ad Banned by the ASA, Deemed Too Gruesome

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The UK’s Advertising Standards Authority  (ASA) has banned a particular ad titled “Make The Connection” by Vegan Friendly UK for being too gruesome. The ad campaign which was intended to urge people to stop eating meat didn’t quite sit well with the UK advertising regulators.

Vegan friendly logo

Vegan Friendly logo

Vegan Friendly is a UK-based organization that certifies businesses and products as ‘Vegan-Friendly’, provide them with a range of benefits and connects them with an exclusive community of vegans.

The TV commercial, which first aired in March 2022, included two women and a man eating at a table as they passionately discussed the cruelty in this world while eating beef. Apparently, some viewers were disturbed by the gruesome video featuring sights of sad-looking animals interjected with imagery of blood splatters.

Clearcast, a UK-based ad monitoring and clearing agency had earlier approved the commercial on the condition that it should NOT be shown in or near shows aimed at minors under the age of 16. It triggered 63 complaints, each of which included at least one of the following themes:

  1. The advertisement contains gruesome visuals and gratuitous cruelty toward animals, thereby causing viewers unnecessary discomfort.
  2. The advertisement was incorrectly timed because it aired at a time when children could be watching.
  3. The advertisement was offensive since it demonised meat-eaters.

The first two themes stood, but the third did not.

The organization (Vegan Friendly UK ) insisted that they used carefully picked stock photos that would normally be seen at home, in a cooking show or in a nature documentary. The defendant claimed that the films did not depict violent or harmful conduct and that such imagery could be found in butchers’ or fishmongers’ windows on any UK high street.

The pro-vegan organization went on to say that in the UK, the commonly acknowledged moral standard was to respect and care for animals, but people who ate meat deviated from that moral standard.


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Vegan Friendly UK only intended to persuade meat eaters who were opposed to animal suffering to reconsider their activities, for that reason, their justification that they did not demonise meat-eaters was upheld.

Vegan Friendly argued that the advertisement did not cause distress, but that if it did, it was justified because the meat industry murdered billions of animals. It further claimed that the advertisement was not targeted at or scheduled around children’s shows, food programs, or wildlife documentaries.

Clearcast, on the other hand, didn’t think the ad’s visuals were too graphic. Despite the presence of blood in the advertisement, the agency claimed that the style of imagery was similar to those seen in markets, butchers, and fishmongers. It didn’t depict any kind of cruelty or violence.

The BCAP Code, which is strictly enforced by the ASA, states that ads must not distress the audience without any justifiable reason.

The Advertising Standards Authority maintained that some of the imagery used in the ad was too graphic in nature and given the context in which it was used, it could likely cause distress. The ASA, therefore, stood on its decision to ban the TV commercial, pointing out the footage of a cow ‘crying’ and a fish ‘struggling to breathe’

As quoted by a representative of ASA, “The way in which the ad was shot had an impact upon the distress likely to have been felt by the audience.”

“We also considered that the camera angle was used to focus on the distress of the animals … we considered that the splash of blood that jumped from one clip and landed on the takeaway box in the following clip deviated from what would be expected in normal food preparation, and as such we considered its inclusion to be gratuitous. We, therefore, considered that the way that the ad had been shot and edited contributed to the visceral nature of the ad.”

With the complaints and additional context, it added: “We considered that several of the clips were shown, such as the clips that depicted animals in distress or the skinned cow’s head, would likely not be seen in … a butcher or watching a cookery program. [That] was an active choice that came with different expectations to those of TV ads.”

For the above-stated reasons, the ASA insisted that the ad was most likely to cause distress to both teenage and younger adult audiences and therefore was deemed not fit for broadcast on TV, regardless of scheduling restrictions.

On those points, the ad breached BCAP Code rules 1.2 (Social Responsibility), 4.1 and 4.10 (Harm and Offence), and 32.1 and 32.3 (Scheduling).

To reiterate, the ad must NEVER appear on TV again.


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