UK farm levy body, the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), is celebrating after complaints about its meat and dairy promotional campaign were rejected.
The organisation says the decision by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) not to uphold complaints about the We Eat Balanced campaign is a “landmark ruling” for British farmers.
The £1.5 million campaign, which ran at the start of this year, promoted the sustainability credentials of red meat and dairy production in the UK, and the role of red meat and dairy in a healthy diet as both products contain the essential vitamin B12.
The ASA received 487 complaints about the campaign, including submissions from Compassion in World Farming UK and the Vegan Society.
The complainants said the campaign adverts were misleading because they implied that consumption of meat and dairy was required in order to eat a healthy, balanced diet, and to obtain vitamin B12.
They also said the campaign adverts “misleadingly implied” that livestock used for meat in the UK were typically outdoor grazed and had a minimal environmental impact – something the complainants said was not the case.
The ASA rejected the complaints and in its ruling it said: “The ads did not state that consumers could not obtain a balanced and healthy diet unless they ate meat or dairy.
“We did not consider that consumers would interpret the ad to mean that consumption of meat and dairy was required to be healthy, but rather that meat and dairy products provided a choice of food options that could contribute to an overall healthy, varied diet.”
AHDB welcomed the ruling and the organisation’s chief communications and market development officer, Christine Watts, said it worked hard to ensure its campaigns were “robust and evidence-based”.
She added: “For British farming this is an important day as we can continue to communicate the benefits around consuming red meat and dairy as part of a balanced diet.
“We are now focused on preparing for the next stage of our campaign, which will launch later this year, tapping into consumer trends around diet, health and environmental sustainability.”
Vegan Society head of campaigns, Louise Davies, said the organisation was disheartened and frustrated by ASA’s final ruling.
She said: “We still strongly believe by running these adverts the AHDB set out to purposely mislead the public at a time when a record-breaking number of people were trying veganism through the Veganuary campaign.
“Despite the outcome we hope the huge number of complaints submitted to the ASA will encourage the ADHB and similar bodies to think twice before resorting to such scare tactics again in future.”