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RSPCA's anti-badger cull advert banned after 199 complaints

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: December 11, 2013

RSPCA
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An RSPCA advert suggesting that badgers in cull areas would be “exterminated” has been banned following 119 complaints.

The ad featured an image of a syringe and bullet at the top of the page with a headline reading “Vaccinate or exterminate?” before text continued: “The UK government wants to shoot England’s badgers. We want to vaccinate them – and save their lives.”

It continued: “The Government’s proposed badger cull could begin at any time, despite scientific evidence that slaughtering thousands of England’s badgers is unlikely to stop the spread of bovine TB in cattle. Will you help us continue our campaign to stop the cull?”

Conservative MP Simon Hart, the Farmers’ Union of Wales, Welsh Conservative AM Antoinette Sandbach and 116 members of the public complained about the ad, with most saying the term “exterminate” was inaccurate and alarmist.

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The RSPCA said the word “exterminate” was used carefully and deliberately, saying it had “a literal meaning of total eradication and a common use meaning of killing on a massive scale”.

It said the proposed cull of badgers in Somerset and Gloucestershire was based on an assertion that at least 70% of the estimated badger population would need to be killed in a given area to have the desired impact on the spread of bovine TB.

It said information from the Government’s policy on bovine TB and badger control in England highlighted that it was possible that more than 70% of the badger population in the pilot areas would be killed, and there was “a real risk that badger populations in some areas of the cull could be wiped out completely”.

The RSPCA said while the culls may not result in the total eradication of badgers in England as a whole, it was possible that in certain areas within the cull zones the loss of badgers could be total.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) acknowledged the RSPCA’s assertion that the e-petitions, consultations, press coverage and their own campaigning material ensured that consumers would be aware of the 70% cull benchmark, and that they would therefore be aware that not all badgers would be culled.

However it said the general population, who had not taken an active interest in the proposals, would not be aware of the proportion of badgers expected to be culled as part of the Government’s plans.

The ASA said: “We therefore considered that consumers were likely to interpret the claim, along with the text ‘The UK government wants to shoot England’s badgers’, to mean that all badgers would be eradicated in the cull areas.

“On that basis, we concluded the claim was likely to mislead.”

It ruled that the ad must not appear again in its current form, adding: “We told the RSPCA not to use language in future advertising that implied the whole badger population in the cull areas would be culled.”

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4 comments

  • chandbrush  |  December 11 2013, 3:46PM

    A few months ago the ASA had over 1000 complaints about a Paddypower advert showing blindfolded footballers kicking a cat they did nothing they have 116 about RSPCA advert and they ban it very odd.

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  • JuliaMichell  |  December 11 2013, 2:05PM

    Who exactly are these 116 members of the public?

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  • groundnut  |  December 11 2013, 11:51AM

    Nick you are making assumptions, which are not based on fact. Perhaps in an attempt to discredit the RSPCA or some members of it. Only yesterday evening on the BBC main TV News. A report was given about over 100 seal pups who had been orphaned by the east coast storms being cared for by RSPCA staff. A colossal work load and financial expense to hand feed every 4 hours by day and night. The RSPCA has not lost any of its objectives with respect to animal welfare. Its workforce is just as dedicated to the task. But there are always those, who fear their ability as a large Animal Welfare Organisation to use modern media, and the courts to attempt to project the truth. This advertisement was prepared before any cull commenced. But who were the other 116 persons opposing it. If the truth were known it would of course show some light on the validity of the advert. In hindsight it is clear—the 70% figures mentioned again. (Of what) moving goalposts, no free shooting, just cage trapping. And countless revisions to the guesswork of how many Badgers there were or are left. And no answers as to whether local eradication has occurred or not. This AD. By the RSPCA was then and is now much nearer the truth about this exercise, than anyone not mislead by Owen Paterson would have believed. That is what those other 116 persons objecting were afraid of – the truth becoming the reality. And the public becoming more aware. http://tinyurl.com/mnkk5qx

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  • nick113  |  December 11 2013, 11:19AM

    This illustrates just how far the RSPCA has gone from focusing on animal protection into the world of politics.

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