The Ironic Reason Some Pro-Vegan Ads Were Banned In The UK

Veganism is on the rise in the United Kingdom (U.K.). According to The Vegan Society, the number of vegans in the U.K. quadrupled between 2014 and 2019. The organization reports that the number of Brits choosing to exclude any animal products from their diets went from 150,000 to 600,000 in those five years. Numbers have continued to rise since then, with some studies estimating that approximately 3% of the population follows a vegan diet (per Finder). The Guardian also reports that a YouGov poll showed a third of the population now supports or are interested in a vegan or plant-based diet.

However, there seems to still be some pushback regarding advertisements which support the endorsement plant-based diets. According to The Guardian, a recent advertisement from Vegan Friendly UK encouraging the diet was recently banned by the advertising watchdog organization, Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

The ad featured a group of three adults speaking together about their concerns for animal welfare over a carnivorous dinner. The conversation is intercut with split second images of pigs with closed eyes, gasping fish out of water, and a skinless cow's head with its eyes and teeth still present, among others. The advertisement was first given a scheduling restriction which limited it from appearing close to programs intended for children under 16 years old (via Sky TV). It was later banned completely after the ASA received 63 complaints of violence to animals due to the ad disturbing some viewers.

viewers found the pro-vegan advertisement 'distressing'

Sky TV reports that viewers found the advertisement's depiction of animals intended for consumption "distressing" and requested that the ad be pulled from the air. Vegan Friendly UK pointed out that there were no images of violence being done to animals in any part of the advertisement (via The Guardian). It argued that the images used were not any more graphic than what could be seen in the windows of shops belonging to butchers or fishmongers lining any English high street. Vegan Friendly UK pointed out that its intention was to highlight the hypocrisy of those who claim to care for animal welfare while eating meat and that they were not attempting to vilify meat-eaters (via The Guardian). 

Vegan Friendly UK is no stranger to controversy. The advertisement itself even points out that none of the animals shown were harmed for the purposes of filming. The advertisement ends with the disclaimer that, "[N]o animal was harmed, consumed, or purchased to make this advert," followed by the text: "Make the connection." The pro-vegan commercial which aired was originally shown in Israel on the U.K.'s Sky TV and Channel 4 (via Plant Based News). It quickly garnered more than 200 complaints from viewers.

The ASA also recently banned another advertisement for the Tesco brand, Plant Chef Burgers, which are a vegan-substitute burger patty (via Sky TV). The watchdog organization stated that the sustainability claims in the advertisement were misleading.