At first glance – as a vegan, at any rate – it was easy to be irritated by news last week that Britain’s Advertising Standards Authority had banned a TV advert by Vegan Friendly UK on the grounds that it was “likely to cause distress” to viewers.
It’s not a particularly gruesome ad, showing a group of people enjoying a meat-based meal while pontificating about damage to the oceans and cruelty to animals, with a handful of swiftly intercut clips of freshly caught fish and farm livestock. It makes a powerful and thought-provoking point about hypocrisy, and urges people to “make the connection”.
However, the ASA ruled that the “juxtaposition between the adults eating and the animal imagery would heighten the distress felt by viewers” and banned the advert (see below) from TV.
The ban itself seems hypocritical, as the ASA is happy to allow a constant stream of material promoting roast lamb and pork sausages and beef burgers and fish fingers and cheese and milk, etc, all produced via distressing processes on an industrial scale. Still, you don’t like something, you don’t watch it. Easy.
But the more I think about it, the more I think the ASA has done a subtle service to the cause of veganism. By banning Vegan Friendly UK’s ad, it is highlighting the fact that the realities of the meat and fish industries are utterly horrific – too horrific, in fact, to be seen by those who eat their products, even in such an understated way.
The ban itself makes one of the points the advert was making – meat is a cruel business – but in a really stupid way. It might be worth investigating more closely.