The Advertising Standards Authority has ruled that an advert by the animal rights charity Peta, which suggests that the cancer risk from eating meat is comparable to the risk from smoking, is misleading and must not appear again.
The billboard advert shows a toddler smoking a cigar with the line: "You wouldn't let your child smoke. Like smoking, eating meat increases the risk of heart disease and cancer. Go vegan! Peta."
The ASA received two complaints about the advert that challenged whether the claim that eating meat increased the risk of heart disease and cancer could be substantiated.
In response, Peta told the ASA that the link between meat and an increased risk of heart disease and some cancers had been repeatedly documented in medical studies and it did not think the advert was misleading.
The group submitted a number of medical studies to the ASA to support its claim. But the ASA ruled that the studies did not unequivocally support Peta’s claims and it upheld the complaints, ruling that the advert breached its rules on misleading advertising and substantiation.
The ASA told Peta that it should not imply that any consumption of meat would raise the risk of heart disease and cancer.
"We considered that because the ad likened the risks associated with eating any kind of meat to the risks of smoking, consumers would understand from the ad that the connection between eating any kind of meat and the risk of heart disease and cancer had been proven beyond doubt, which was clearly not the case, and we therefore concluded that the ad was misleading," the ASA ruled.
But Peta insisted the advert was not misleading and pledged to challenge the ruling.
"We are befuddled by the ASA's ruling on our billboard highlighting the fact that eating meat increases the risk of heart disease and cancer," a Peta spokesman said. "The link between meat consumption and the increased risk of heart disease and cancer has been repeatedly documented in studies and medical reports."
The ASA said appeals are made through its independent review process and must be made within 21 days of the original ruling. The appellant must draw attention to a flaw in the ASA’s ruling or submit new evidence to support its claim.