A billboard for Viva!, an animal rights group, seen in October 2018 included an image of a cow and stated, “TRASH … 95,000* MALE CALVES SHOT IN A YEAR - THE DAIRY INDUSTRY’S TRASH … *Latest figures available 2015”.
The complainant challenged whether the claim “95,000 male calves shot in a year” was misleading and could be substantiated.
Viva! provided a report by a prominent cattle welfare organisation which used figures sourced from the British Cattle Movement Service and Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board which explained that 95,000 male calves were euthanised in 2015. The figure was reached by subtracting the number of male calves registered and tagged in that year from the number that were born that year. The report also gave figures for the preceding years and explained that 2015 was the most recent year for which data was available. The report noted that calves were registered and tagged within 72 hours of being born. Viva! also provided a copy of a report from the Farm Animal Welfare Committee which confirmed that euthanising calves was carried out by shooting them.
Viva! also provided a recording of a radio interview with the National Farmers’ Union and a Guardian article that also referred the same figure.
The ASA considered that consumers would understand the claim “95,000 MALE CALVES SHOT IN A YEAR” to mean that 95,000 male calves were shot in a single year, and that it referred to one specific year rather than the amount that were shot every year. The ad included text, linked to the 95,000 figure with an asterisk, which explained that the claim was based on 2015 figures and we considered that consumers would therefore understand that the specific year referenced in the ad was 2015 (and that it was the most recent figure available at the time the ad was published). We considered that consumers would understand the figure given in the ad to reflect the total number of male calves killed, rather being a comment on the proportion of calves shot in that year.
We considered the evidence provided by Viva!. We understood that dairy farmers were required to record how many male calves were born and how many were then registered, and that those figures were relied on by the dairy industry. We considered those figures were sufficiently robust as the basis for the advertising claim. We further understood that at the time the ad was published the most recent figures available were for 2015, and also noted that the figure for 2015 was not the highest number of male calves euthanised over the preceding years.
We therefore concluded that the claim “95,000 MALE CALVES SHOT IN A YEAR” had been substantiated and was not misleading.
We investigated the ad under 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), but did not find it in breach.
No further action necessary.