Adfree Cities, a network of groups challenging corporate outdoor advertising, is calling for meat advertising to be banned in the UK.
The campaigners point out that most animal products are produced through intensive farming, which they say “causes immeasurable suffering and inflicts colossal damage on nature and the climate”. They argue that since tobacco advertising has been banned due to the harm it causes, the same should apply to meat.
The Cows Aren’t Laughing
To accompany the campaign, Adfree Cities has published a report called The Cows Aren’t Laughing, outlining nine tactics commonly used by advertisers to obscure the realities of meat, dairy, and egg production. They are:
- Keep it secret — Hide the fact that the vast majority of farmed animals are raised on industrial farms.
- Erase the animal — Avoid mentioning the animals that meat and dairy products come from, or use cartoons and imagery of “happy animals” to obscure the reality.
- Objectify the animal — Talk about animals as if they are objects to be used rather than living beings.
- Normalise meat — Make meat advertising so ubiquitous that meat consumption is not even questioned.
- Humane-washing — Misrepresent the conditions animals are raised in to make consumers feel good about purchasing animal products.
- Say it’s healthy — Describe meat with words such as “goodness” and “natural”, despite most nutrition organisations recommending a plant-forward diet.
- Greenwash and misinform — Make claims that animal product consumption is sustainable, despite evidence showing the opposite.
- Get nostalgic — Appeal to “storybook” ideas of small family farms, even though very few animal products are now produced in this way.
- The promise of love — Tie meat consumption to sentimental situations such as family dinners.
To achieve a ban or reduction in meat advertising, Adfree Cities suggests the following policies:
- Call on MPs to ban advertising for damaging and polluting products.
- Introduce ethical and low-carbon advertising policies at a council level.
- Expose misleading advertising by complaining to the Advertising Standards Authority.
- Reduce the number of billboard and bus stop ads; those interested in getting involved with this are invited to join their local AdBlock group, or start their own.
“This is a call to everyone who cares about a more sustainable, kinder food system: let’s challenge misinformation and end advertising for factory-farmed food,” says AdFree Cities.