Could rules and regulations come into place banning mass meat adverts around the UK? Charlotte Willis takes a look...
It’s not that long ago that you would have seen cigarette advertisements still being broadcast on television, and even more recently than that you will recall how much more widespread and liberal the advertising for alcohol used to be, a matter of only 18 years ago.
Just as we’ve seen the tides turn on the restrictions surrounding adverts for addictive, harmful substances, could we be about to witness a new age of regulation on meat advertisement?
If you happened to live in the Dutch city of Haarlem, west of the uber-vegan-friendly Amsterdam, you’d soon witness adverts for meat disappearing from all public spaces in 2024 with the passing of new legislation in the city.
This makes Haarlem the first city in the world to officially ban meat advertisements from buses, shelters and all screens visible in public. The ban came about as a result of the government’s response to growing scientific findings naming meat as a huge contributor to the mass climate crisis we’re facing.
For example, meat is estimated to contribute about 60% of all greenhouse gases emitted during food production. The city hopes the ban will encourage a reduction in the consumption of meat, and result in a lower emission of greenhouse gasses.
Ziggy Klazes, a GroenLinks party councillor who drafted the ban, told local radio station Haarlem105: “We can’t tell people there’s a climate crisis and encourage them to buy products that are part of the cause.”
With the ban coming into place next year, it’ll be interesting to see whether other cities follow suit.
The Dutch city of Haarlem banned meat adverts from public spaces in 2022 in a bid to curb consumption and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Photo © borisb17 via Adobe Stock
Many of us believe that we aren’t affected by advertising. But there’s a reason why advertising is a multi-billion pound industry. Adverts, even bizarre and annoying ones, use numerous psychological techniques designed to grab our attention, entice us to buy, and make products hard to forget.
Why else am I able to give you the number of Hastings Direct, tell you what Beanz Meanz, and recite the lyrics to the Go Compare jingle?! Advertisement, whether we believe it or not, influences our beliefs and behaviours, encouraging us to make certain purchasing and lifestyle decisions.
With this in mind, let’s explore two of the main reasons why banning meat advertising may be an effective outcome for the planet.
1. Stopping the Halo Effect
The Halo Effect is one of my favourite advertising psychology terms, and there’s no doubt that meat advertising can be positively affected by it. The Halo Effect describes an individual’s tendency to let one positive trait sway their overall opinion of a person or product.
A real-life example of this could be how McDonald’s (well known for their relatively high fat and high sugar menu) sponsored the Olympics, or Coca-Cola (one of the largest plastic producing global brands) sponsored the COP Climate Change conference.
These sponsorships and associations with positive events can make consumers more inclined to purchase products, thinking they are supporting a good cause. Similarly, meat advertisement is often heavy with positive imagery of home-cooked meals.
Sponsorships like Coca-Cola adverts at the Olympics can create positive associations with consumers, making them more likely to purchase products in future as they believe they're supporting a brand or product that aligns with their views. Photo © Model Republic via Adobe Stock
They are often accompanied by sensory adjectives such as ‘goodness’ or ‘mouth-watering’ suggesting you will experience a pleasurable taste. A frequent example in the UK is the use of terms such as ‘Reared in Britain’, ‘British Beef’ and ‘Free-range Cornish chickens’.
All of these examples produce a Halo Effect on meat, as the individual may be inclined to believe that their purchase will result in a flavoursome meal, help support a small, local farm or encourage animal welfare, when often, the opposite is true.
Adverts encourage the public to view meat in a positive light, when the reality is far from it. Removing the public advertising may help reduce the effect such positive framing of meat can have, and could encourage greater scrutiny of meat and meat products in the future.
Meat adverts are often heavy with positive imagery of home-cooked meals to suggest a pleasurable eating experience. Photo © gstockstudio via Adobe Stock
2. Reducing effective frequency
Another advertising psychology term is known as ‘effective frequency’. This refers to the number of times an individual needs to be exposed to an advertisement within a time frame to increase the likelihood of making an action, such as purchasing a product.
For example, if an omni member of the public (let’s call them Cal) is deciding between a vegetable curry and a beef burger for dinner, advertising psychology suggests that advertisements might sway their decision as to which item they’ll buy. If Cal sees more meat-based adverts throughout their day, chances are they’ll be more inclined to buy the beef burger.
This is because Cal has been repeatedly exposed to positive messages about meat, which may prime (or sway) their decision towards the beef. If you remove the adverts, Cal may be less swayed towards the burger.
Of course, Cal’s decision is affected by a variety of factors, but removing advertising is a great way to reduce additional outside influence.
Advertising psychology suggests that the number of times a consumer is exposed to an advert within a timeframe will impact their purchasing decisions, so the more they see meat adverts during the day, the more likely they are to buy meat products. Photo © ryanking999 via Adobe Stock
Where do we go from here?
In order to be most effective, banning meat advertisement should be accompanied by encouraging, proactive, and forward-thinking governmental policy towards meat-free diets. Here, efforts need to be made to increase accessibility to meat-free alternatives for all ages, for example, in schools and hospitals.
However, the banning of meat advertisement is a positive step in the de-normalisation of animal products being a part of our day-to-day lives.
Removing public reminders of the social acceptability of meat consumption may additionally encourage a positive attitude towards information on the dietary link between meat and climate change, particularly any information or instruction coming from a governmental stance.
It will be interesting to see the impact of banning meat advertisement in Haarlem on public buying patterns and attitudes towards plant-based diets. If all goes well, perhaps more cities around the world will consider such measures in order to better the planet, and the animals.
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Featured image © MclittleStock via Adobe Stock, edited by VFL