A seemingly innocuous outdoor ad for animals rights charity Peta, designed to urge consumers not to wear wool, has been ripped down by the watchdog after being deemed misleading.
The ad, which was mild by Peta standards, ran in Glasgow on bus-sides and was part of a wider campaign against the Scottish wool industry sparked by an undercover investigation which alleged widespread cruelty during sheep shearing.
The poster featured an image of a woman with the neck of her jumper pulled over her face along with 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.”
Ten complainants, who believed that sheep needed to be shorn for health reasons and therefore wool should not be compared to fur, challenged the Advertising Standards Authority to investigate whether the claim “wool is just as cruel as fur” was misleading and could be substantiated.
In response, Peta provided details of cruelty and abuse that occurred in both the fur and wool industries, which included genetic alterations and the mutilation of animals. The organisation said that not all domestically raised sheep needed to be shorn.
It also provided links to reports from across the world detailing incidences of abuse to sheep carried out by farmers and stated that, as in the fur industry, many animals in the wool industry died far shorter of their natural life expectancy.
Peta provided further accounts of cruelty towards sheep and the conditions in which they were exported, insisting that while the public would have different ideas about what was cruel, it was undeniable that cruelty existed in the wool industry in the same way as it did in the fur industry.
In its assessment, the ASA considered people who saw the ad would interpret the claim “wool is just as cruel as fur” as equating the conditions in which sheep were kept and the methods by which wool was obtained with the conditions and methods used in the fur industry.
However, it pointed out that sheep were not killed for their wool as animals were in the fur industry and there were standards in place relating to their general welfare including relating to the shearing process.
Concluding that the claim was misleading and in breach of the code, the regulator ruled that the ad must not appear in its current form and warned Peta not to use the claim “wool is just as cruel as fur” in future activity.
In response to the ruling, Peta director Elisa Allen said: “The general public now understands that the fur industry is cruel to animals in a variety of ways, including, but not limited to, gratuitous violence by industry workers, genetically manipulating animals in ways that cause them distress, leaving them to suffer from horrific wounds, and slaughtering them for human gain – and all this suffering has been documented in the wool trade, too.
“Peta provided the ASA with stacks of evidence backing this up, so its decision is both confusing and disappointing. Nevertheless, we’ll continue to urge decent people to steer clear of wool, and we have plans to run a modified version of the ad in numerous cities this winter. Peta urges anyone contemplating buying any wool item to watch Peta Asia’s eye-popping video revealing how sheep are abused in this industry and to judge for themselves.”
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