The UK’s Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) has sided with vegan advertisers, Go Vegan World, in what is being described as a “landmark decision.”
After releasing an advert in February 2017 with the claim “Humane Milk is a Myth,” Go Vegan World was the subject of seven different complaints sent to the ASA, one of which was from the National Farmer’s Union (NFU).
They were cleared of the claim that they misled the public about the reality of dairy farming.
The ruling was the subject of criticism both from NFU, but also from the RSPCA (The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), the largest animal welfare organization in the UK.
As an ambassador for the RSPCA, David Bowles told the Times that Go Vegan World “used very emotive and anthropomorphic language, applying human emotions to a calf or dairy cow. I don’t believe we have scientific evidence to support that.”
A 2011 study found that cows are capable of feeling complex emotions and have the ability to form close friendships and experience anxiety if they’re separated.
NFU member Michael Oakes also put forward the claim that “cows are not that maternal.”
Calves are happy to bond with their handlers and “as long as they are fed well, watered well, have clean bedding and can interact with other calves,” they’re “perfectly happy,” he noted.
Research has indicated that separating calves from their mothers at too early a stage in their life can have a serious effect on their socialising abilities later in life. There is also video footage of rescued cows that suggests they do feel a strong bond with their children, just like other mammals do.
Sarah Higgins, director of Go Vegan World, believes the debate surrounding animal welfare improvements are pointless.
She said, “We have been having this debate for hundreds of years on how to improve the conditions of those animals we use and it hasn’t been effective. We wouldn’t swap places with them.”
Bowles, however, claims, “you can rear, transport and slaughter an animal according to good welfare standards and therefore they can be humanely . . . eaten.”
The ASA’s ruling suggests that current animal welfare standards in the dairy industry, at least, can be classed as inhumane.