Vegan charity Viva! responds to the ASA’s claim that the UK’s first vegan cinema advert was misleading after receiving complaints from the National Pig Association (NPA).
Viva! raised funds to broadcast the UK’s first vegan cinema advert in a ground-breaking campaign over Christmas 2017. Bring Hope to Millions aimed to show new audiences the reality of factory farming. Our powerful advert showed the stark contrast between the life of Hope, a sow who was rescued by Viva! with her six piglets, and the lives of factory farmed pigs.
Viva! were delighted when the advert hit the big screen and we continue to be amazed by the overwhelming support the campaign received from the vegan community and the public. Unsurprisingly, the advert sparked outrage from the farming industry and was reported to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) by the National Pig Association.
The NPA claimed that our advert was misleading because we implied that the ‘vast majority of pigs farmed in the UK are restricted to the indoors and never experience the outdoors’. We know that around 40 per cent of sows give birth outdoors (roughly 166,000 of the total pig population in Britain at any one time), but when combining this figure with the pig industry’s top number of pigs reared for meat outside (five per cent) that still only equates to 8 per cent of pigs being outside for at least the first part of their lives. If anything, the 90 per cent figure we used in the advert to indicate the number of pigs reared inside is vastly underestimated.
Despite Viva! supplying sufficient evidence, which included all the calculations on which we based our 90 per cent figure, the ASA has ruled in favour of the NPA. While the ASA did acknowledge that 96 per cent of piglets are, in fact farmed intensively, moving indoors after weaning, they considered it untrue to say that they would never experience life outside, although none of those piglets would experience the type of freedom shown in our advert.
Whilst this ruling is disappointing, the Viva! team are not disheartened. This ruling simply came down to how the ASA considered the public would interpret the ad. They would be right to assume that 90 per cent of pigs in the UK are intensively or factory farmed but saying that they never experience the outside as a result is what the ASA considered to be incorrect. Our point was to compare the freedoms Hope and her piglets experience with those of the majority of piglets moved indoors for growing and fattening after just three weeks.
Additionally, the ASA believed the footage was not sufficient in explaining why the pigs were being accommodated in ‘rape racks’ or for how long they were constrained. It is completely legal for pigs to be confined in racks where they are unable to turn around as long as “the period during which it is so kept is [no] longer than necessary for that purpose”. The footage used in the cinema advert was taken in an average UK pig farm and is a representation of UK factory farming practices.
The sow stall has been banned in the UK since 1999 but what was featured in the video was not the sow stall but the ‘rape rack’, used to artificially inseminate sows on British farms. These rape racks are legal and commonly used in the UK. The examples used in our advert were filmed during an undercover investigation by Viva! Campaigns at an intensive Norfolk pig farm in October 2015.
Although DEFRA guidelines suggest that sows should be left no longer than 30 minutes in a rack, Viva! Campaigns have also routinely filmed sows still in the crates during the early hours of the morning, which suggests that they are regularly caged for longer periods of time.
We also showed farrowing crates at the end of the advert, which are again commonly used on British farms. According to the government’s Farm Animal Welfare Council, 60 per cent of the 350,000 sows kept indoors are subjected to confinement in crates – typically, sows are put into these crates a week before they give birth and are kept there for up to four weeks afterwards. This happens 2.5 times a year, which means that they are restrained for more than three months annually. The crates are so small that the sow is unable to turn around in that entire time. In the EU, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland have already banned the farrowing crate due to its cruelty.
This ASA ruling against our Hope Not Hell cinema advert further suggests that the animal agriculture industry is desperately trying to conceal the truth about the UK’s farming industry. The complaints about the advert did not question whether pigs are confined to the extent that they are unable to move, nor did it question whether pigs were kept in squalid conditions. Instead, the NPA questioned our integrity in hopes of convincing the public to ignore our campaign. The farming industry is shrouded in a web of lies and smokescreens, and the public has the right to see the truth.
For more information and to watch the advert visit viva.org.uk/hope-not-hell