“Unnecessary Burden on Viewers” – Advertising Watchdog Bans Pro-Vegan TV-Ad

A Vegan Friendly UK commercial was banned for "graphic images of animals in distress and people eating."


After numerous complaints to the British advertising regulator, a commercial was banned. The video criticizes the double standards of some people.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) in Great Britain has banned a television commercial by the organization Vegan Friendly UK. The reason: people had complained that the commercial showed drastic acts of violence against animals. The supervisory organization received a total of 63 complaints.

Clip shows people eating and animals suffering

The advertisement with the slogan “Make the Connection” shows three people sitting together at a table eating burgers, fish and fries. Meanwhile, they discuss animal welfare, bullfighting and the danger to animals from plastic straws. Intercut between shots of the food, mouths and greedy swallowing are clips of animals. For example, of wriggling fish on a treadmill, a fish head gasping for air, a piglet next to a pig with its eyes closed, and a cow that appears to have tears leaking from its eye. The commercial is cut quickly – so the clips and shots of the animals are barely visible for more than 3 seconds. At the end of the commercial is the note: “No animal was harmed, consumed or purchased to make this commercial” (translation). The clip can still be seen on the Adweek.com website.


The Guardian newspaper quoted Vegan Friendly UK as saying the ad was intended to highlight “a person’s potential hypocrisy and the contradictions between what people said and their actions.” It said the ad was intended to encourage meat eaters:inside who speak out against animal cruelty to reconsider their meat consumption. It should not vilify people who eat meat but “promote love and compassion for all beings” and “reduce discrimination against other living beings.”

63 complaints to advertising watchdog

The ASA initially restricted the distribution of the ad so that it did not run on programs likely to be consumed by children under 16. Nevertheless, the advertising regulator has received 63 complaints about the commercial since it was first broadcast. The reason given was that it graphically depicted gratuitous violence against animals, causing unnecessary distress to viewers. This is how the Guardian reported it.

Vegan Friendly UK defended itself, according to the media report, saying that the images were similar to what one would see in shop windows of meat and fish retailers. And that the clips “wouldn’t look out of place in a cooking show or nature documentary.”

But the ASA noted that visiting a butcher or watching a cooking show “was an active decision with different expectations than a television commercial.” Thus, the watchdog concluded that the ad should not be rebroadcast. “We have instructed Vegan Friendly UK not to use any imagery that may cause alarm to both younger and adult viewers.”

Utopia says: “The commercial highlights the disconnect between thought and action that is so common when it comes to meat consumption. Keyword: cognitive dissonance. Anyone who eats animals should be aware of how they live and die. Therefore, the commercial addresses a legitimate and important concern. At the same time, images of violence and suffering – especially when they are shown without warning – can be mentally stressful. A trigger warning could have at least partially intercepted this.