Advertising watchdog bans ‘misleading’ Viva! cinema advert

The Advertising Standards Authority has banned a ‘misleading’ cinema advert from vegan campaign group Viva! that claimed 90% of pigs are factory farmed.

In a ruling that followed a complaint from the NPA, the advertising watchdog delivered a clear message to Viva! to ensure any future adverts don’t mislead the public over how animals are kept in ‘intensive farming environments’.

The NPA and seven members of the public complained after the advert was shown in cinemas in December 2017 before blockbuster films Jumanji and Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

A pig was featured running around in a field with a voiceover explaining she was called Hope and had been rescued by Viva and this was ‘her dance of joy for being outdoors for the first time’.

Subsequent footage showed pigs indoors behind the bars of a pen, and in a very crowded pen. The voiceover stated: “It’s something most pigs will never know as 90% are factory farmed. Set them all free. Try Vegan.”

Three complaints were made, two of which were upheld. ASA upheld the complaint that the advert was misleading because it featured farming methods no longer allowed in the UK.

Viva! said the ‘intensive farming footage’ was all taken on UK farms and showed the rack, which it maintained was used legally on most UK pig farms when sows were artificially inseminated.

But the ASA ruled consumers would interpret the footage to mean pigs that were ‘intensively or factory farmed in the UK would be kept in conditions similar to those shown in the indoor footage that appeared in the ad most of the time’.

It pointed out that the dark lighting and close up and brief nature of some of the footage meant it was not clear why pigs were being accommodated in the way shown or for how long. But, in reality, as shown by Defra guidance, the indoor conditions shown would not be in line with how pigs that live indoors are kept.

ASA also upheld the complaint that the claim ‘90% of pigs are factory farmed’. Viva! cited AHDB figures dating back to 2008 to claim more than 90% of pigs spent their lives inside.

Viva! cited AHDB figures dating back to 2008 to claim less than 8% of pigs were ‘outside for at least the first part of their lives. In fact, the overall percentage of pigs outside in the UK in any one year was likely to be lower.

But the ASA said the claim was ‘likely to mislead’ as it implied that the vast majority of pigs farmed in the UK were restricted to the indoors and never experienced the outside. Noting that 40% of breeding sows were kept outside, it said was not true to say those pigs and their piglets ‘would never experience life outside’.

A third complaint that the advert contained content which was ‘likely to cause distress without justifiable reason’ was not upheld.

The ASA said the advert ‘must not appear again in the form complained of’ and told Viva! to ensure its adverts ‘did not mislead about, for example, how animals would be accommodated in intensive farming environments’.

NPA response

NPA chief executive Zoe Davies described the ruling as a ‘fantastic result for the pig industry’ and welcomed the ‘pragmatic decision taken by the ASA’.

She said: “Like many people connected to the sector, I was extremely unhappy when I saw the advert. I complained to the ASA because the British pig industry refuses to ignore groups making misleading and damaging claims about how our pigs are produced.

“NPA hopes this ruling will discourage others from attempting this kind of dishonest campaigning in future.”

Zoe addressed the specific issues raised in the ruling. She said Viva! appeared to be confused about the figures.

“With 40% of breeding sows kept outdoors, and therefore having piglets outdoors, we simply do not see how anyone can suggest more than 90% of pigs have never been outside.

“Equally importantly, it is wrong to say pigs kept inside for some or all of their lives are ‘factory farmed’. That gives a false impression of UK pig production, which is unique amongst the major pig producing countries in its diversity of systems,

“Equally importantly, it is wrong to say pigs kept inside for some or all of their lives are ‘factory farmed’. That gives a false impression of UK pig production, which is unique amongst the major pig producing countries in its diversity of systems, including including free range, outdoor bred and those reared indoors on either straw or slats.

“Indoor rearing does not inevitably equate to ‘intensive’ production which equally does not necessarily equate to poor welfare. To intentionally convey that perception is misleading, which is precisely why the ASA ruled in the NPA’s favour.”

Viva! said the ‘suggests that the animal agriculture industry is desperately trying to conceal the truth about the UK’s farming industry’.

“The NPA questioned our integrity in hopes of convincing the public to ignore our campaign. The farming industry is shrouded in a web of lies and smokescreens, and the public has the right to see the truth,” it said.

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About The Author

Editor of LBM titles Pig World and Farm Business and group editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer. National Pig Association's webmaster. Previously political editor at Farmers Guardian for many years and also worked Farmers Weekly. Occasional farming media pundit. Brought up on a Leicestershire farm, now work from a shed in the garden in Oxfordshire. Big fan of Leicester City and Leicester Tigers. Occasional cricketer.