Summary of Council decision:

Two issues were investigated, both of which were Upheld.

Ad description

Two ads for dog food company THE PACK:

a. A paid-for Facebook post, seen on 16 May 2022, stated "Did you know meat based conventional dog food is a leading cause of the dog health crisis? Vets have confirmed that 51% of dogs in the UK are overweight. While healthier dogs are less at risk from diabetes, arthritis, kidney disease and cancers. Research found overweight dogs' lifespan can decrease by 20%. Up to two and half [sic] years less than a dog at a healthy weight. The solution? A healthier plant based alternative our pooch will love!".

An image embedded in the post featured a dog with cans of THE PACK’s dog food, over which was superimposed a search engine search bar that stated “Best food for my dogs [sic] health?”. Under that was a list of suggested search terms that included “How can my dog lose weight?”, “How can I improve my dogs [sic] energy?”, “What is the best diet for dogs?”, and “Are plant based dogs healthier?”.

b. A post on THE PACK’s Facebook page, seen on 12 June 2022, featured a video that started with several images of bowls filled with vegetables. The bowls were then shown filled with dog food. The video then showed dogs eating various THE PACK products. On-screen text at the end of the video stated, “THE PACK. JOIN THE PACK FOR A HEALTHIER DOG & PLANET”. A caption accompanying the video stated “Better for The Planet”.


The ASA received two complaints:

1. Both complainants challenged whether ads (a) and (b) misleadingly implied that a plant-based diet was healthier for dogs than a meat-based diet.

2. One complainant challenged whether the claims “for a healthier … planet” and “Better for The Planet” in ad (b) were misleading and could be substantiated.


1. THE PACK PET Ltd t/a THE PACK said that meat-based diets were a leading cause of a dog-health crisis and explained that, as long as they were nutritionally complete, plant-based diets were healthier. They provided three studies, a literature review, a press release, and a report from the Pet Food Manufacturers’ Association (PFMA) in support of the claims.

2. THE PACK said that because ad (b) had been limited by characters, time and space, they had tried to put their environmental message across in a concise and easy to understand way. They said future iterations of the claim would include more information. They explained that before the products had been launched, a Carbon Footprint Assessment life cycle analysis had been conducted, taking into account transportation, manufacturing and the ingredients used. The assessment compared their products to equivalent conventional meat products – chicken, beef and fish – and found that they had a lower CO2e footprint. The European Commission (EC) had stated that carbon dioxide (CO2) produced by human activities was the largest contributor to global warming, and since THE PACK’s products produced less CO2e than their meat equivalents, they contributed towards a healthier planet. They provided a copy of the analysis report.


1. Upheld

The ASA considered consumers would understand the claims “A healthier plant based alternative” in ad (a) and “FOR A HEALTHIER DOG” in ad (b) to mean that a plant-based diet was healthier for dogs than a conventional meat-based diet. Additionally, we considered that they would understand from ad (a) that by switching from a meat-based diet to a plant-based diet, their dog could live for up to two and a half years longer.

We assessed the evidence provided by THE PACK. The first study involved three groups of dogs fed: a conventional meat-based diet; a raw meat diet; or a vegan diet. The study stated that its reliability had been limited by, among other things, its reliance on owners’ perceptions of their pet’s health rather than veterinary assessments or laboratory based results. The reliability of the study had also been undermined by the fact 82% of respondents had no veterinary training or skills when assessing their pet’s health. The study concluded that a larger-scale, longer term study was needed.

The second study surveyed 100 dog owners and aimed to quantify perceived health changes in a range of indicators following feeding of a single brand of UK-produced vegan dog food for 3 to 12 months. The study, which had not been peer-reviewed, and stated that the observations it contained could have been random coincidence relationships and that prospective, randomised, controlled clinical studies were needed to confirm the clinical significance of the observations.

The third study collected diet information via an online form for 1,189 dogs – 56% being fed a meat-based diet, 30% a plant-based diet, 5% a mix of both diets and 9% an indeterminable diet. Owners were asked for their perception of their pet’s health. As with study one, we considered the reliability of the results was hampered by the respondents’ lack of veterinary training or skills when assessing their pets’ health. The study concluded that there were no adverse health outcomes from feeding dogs a plant-based diet, and that plant-based diets were generally perceived to be protective against health disorders by respondents. However, it also concluded that no causation could be inferred from the results, and there was a high risk of recall bias on behalf of the respondents.

The literature review looked at vegetarian versus meat-based diets for companion animals. It concluded that while vegetarian diets could offer health benefits to both dogs and cats, they must be nutritionally complete and balanced in order to do so. They noted that studies in the area were rarely conducted in accordance with the highest standards of evidence-based medicine. THE PACK highlighted a 1994 survey by non-profit organisation People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) that had formed part of the review. The PETA survey involved 300 dogs fed vegetarian diets, and found that 82% of those maintained on such a diet for five years or more were considered to be in “good” to “excellent” health. However, the review noted that the precise diets used in the surveyed dogs were not recorded”. The survey itself also stated that tests for statistical significance of the survey results had not been performed.

The press release, which had been prepared by the World Health Organisation’s International Agency for Research on Cancer related to the classification of processed meat as carcinogenic in humans, and therefore only stated the health implications of processed meat consumption in humans. The report from the PFMA related to obesity in animals, but did not compare meat-based and plant-based diets in dogs.

In view of the points raised above, we concluded that the body of evidence provided was not adequate substantiation for the ads’ claims that a plant-based diet was healthier for dogs than a meat-based diet, and the claims were therefore likely to mislead.

On that point, ads (a) and (b) breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules  3.1 3.1 Marketing communications must not materially mislead or be likely to do so.  (Misleading advertising) and  3.7 3.7 Before distributing or submitting a marketing communication for publication, marketers must hold documentary evidence to prove claims that consumers are likely to regard as objective and that are capable of objective substantiation. The ASA may regard claims as misleading in the absence of adequate substantiation.  (Substantiation).

2. Upheld

The CAP Code required that the basis of environmental claims must be clear. The Code also stated that claims must be based on the full life cycle of the advertised product, unless the ad stated otherwise.

The claims “JOIN THE PACK FOR A HEALTHIER … PLANET” and “Better for the Planet” in ad (b) were broad and non-specific. The video in the ad started by showing bowls of vegetables being turned into dog food, but provided little other context with which to interpret the claims. We understood dog food was conventionally meat-based, and that vegetable-based dog food was a relatively novel product. We therefore considered one possible interpretation was that the products shown were less detrimental to the environment compared to their conventional meat-based equivalents across their life cycles.

THE PACK provided a life cycle analysis that detailed the CO2e emissions of the three products shown in the ad, No-Cluck Casserole, No-Moo Ragu and No-Fishy Dishy, and their meat-based alternatives, chicken, beef and fish. The analysis set out the emissions in the farming, transport, processing, packaging, storage and distribution stages of the products’ life cycles. THE PACK’s products were found to produce around 7 to 18 times less CO2e than their meat-based alternatives. However, we noted the report omitted the disposal of the products’ packaging in its analysis and therefore did not cover their entire life cycle.

We welcomed THE PACK’s assurance that they would include more information when using the claim in the future. However, because the basis of the claims “JOIN THE PACK FOR A HEALTHIER … PLANET” and “Better for the Planet” had not been made clear, and were not based on a full life cycle analysis of the products, we concluded the ad did not comply with the rules of the Code on environmental claims.

On that point, ad (b) breached CAP Code (Edition 12) rules  11.1 11.1 The basis of environmental claims must be clear. Unqualified claims could mislead if they omit significant information.   and  11.4 11.4 Marketers must base environmental claims on the full life cycle of the advertised product, unless the marketing communication states otherwise, and must make clear the limits of the life cycle. If a general claim cannot be justified, a more limited claim about specific aspects of a product might be justifiable. Marketers must ensure claims that are based on only part of the advertised product's life cycle do not mislead consumers about the product's total environmental impact.  (Environmental claims).


The ads must not appear again in the form complained of. We told THE PACK PET Ltd t/a THE PACK to ensure their future ads did not claim that a plant-based diet was healthier for dogs than a conventional meat-based diet unless they held adequate substantiation. We also told them to ensure that the basis of environmental claims they used in future ads was clear and that, unless stated otherwise, a full life cycle analysis was held in support.

CAP Code (Edition 12)

3.1     3.7     11.1     11.4    

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