UK Advertising Standards Authority Bans PETA Ad As 'Misleading' And Lacking Substantiation

On September 4, 2019 the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), which describes itself as "the UK's independent advertising regulator," upheld a challenge to an advertisement that had been displayed for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) on the side of buses in February 2019. As the authority described it, the ad "included the text 'Don't let them pull the wool over your eyes. Wool is just as cruel as fur. GO WOOL-FREE THIS WINTER PeTA.' Beside the text was an image of a woman with the neck of her jumper pulled over her face." Ten complainants challenged whether the claim "wool is just as cruel as fur" was misleading and could be substantiated. ASA upheld the challenge and ruled that the ad "must not appear in its current form" and "told PETA not to use the claim 'wool is just as cruel as fur' in [the] future."

According to the ASA ruling, PETA defended the ad with what it contended was evidence showing that the same abuses it claims occur in the fur trade "had also been documented in the wool trade but were not as well known by the public." In particular, PETA argued that "not all domestically raised sheep needed to be shorn" and asserted further that "the need to shear sheep was a result of selective breeding over the years by humans to increase the yield of wool for use in textiles. Sheep were being genetically altered to increase their wool production significantly and to eliminate natural shedding."

ASA did not agree with PETA's defense. While the Authority considered the fact that the ad was "from an animal rights organization and as such that the claim would represent its views, it was presented as a factual claim and a direct comparison between the two industries." As such, the ad was contrary to the CAP Code:

In terms of wool production in the UK, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Code of Recommendations for the welfare of livestock had specific guidelines on the shearing process to ensure they were adhering to the standards of animal welfare which was required by law. Those guidelines stated that every mature sheep should have its fleece removed at least once a year by experienced and competent trained shearers who should take care in ensuring that the sheep's skin was not cut. We considered that demonstrated that the main method of obtaining wool from sheep by shearing would not be regarded by consumers as being cruel.

The Code of Recommendations and additional guidance also included specific...

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