Lush ad banned over claims that reptile trading was driving species to extinction

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Lush: ASA found claims in online ad were misleading
Lush: ASA found claims in online ad were misleading

An ad for cosmetics company Lush has been banned by the advertising watchdog after it ruled that its claim that reptile trading was driving the species to extinction was false.

The website sales promotion ran on www.lush.co.uk, promoting a Lush campaign against the reptile trade.

The text said: "Those animals that die en route are simply factored in by the dealer as 'expected losses'. Six million reptiles were imported into the EU last year and almost 200,000 reptiles arrived in Britain from countries outside of the EU.

"These figures only show recorded trade; the true scale of the trade is actually much larger and is driving many species towards extinction."

The text also stated that, "The capture and transportation process is crude and brutal."

The text carried on in a similar manner, and additional information on the web page stated that for the month of August, all proceeds from sales of the Lush Chameleon would go to the Animal Protection Agency (minus VAT).

In total, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) received 14 complaints, relating to eight different points in the ad.

These included four complainants – one of whom worked for a reptile store – saying the claim, "Most wild-caught reptiles die within their first year of captivity", was misleading and could not be substantiated.

Another complaint challenged whether the claim – "six millions reptiles were imported into the EU last year and almost 200,000 reptiles arrived in Britain from countries outside of the EU. These figures only show recorded trade. The true scale is actually much larger and is driving many species towards extinction" – was misleading and could be substantiated.

In its defence, Lush and the Animal Protection Agency (APA) said sales promotion was part of a campaign to raise awareness of important animal welfare issues, so they did not believe judging the campaign was within the ASA's remit.

Lush added that an "upheld" adjudication would be a serious impingement on the right to free speech.

Additionally, Lush provided reference to reptile import statistics.

These included a claim from the RSPCA which estimated that in 2006 that between 3.6 million and 5.9 million live reptiles were imported into the EU that year.

The ASA ruled said the six of the eight complaints were deemed to have substance and in breach of advertising rules.

The ASA said it had not received sufficient evidence that "six million reptiles were imported into the EU in the previous year."

It also said the claim that "The capture and transportations process is crude and brutal", was misleading as it implied that the capture and transportation was invariably cruel, when the evidence showed it was only sometimes cruel.

In conclusion, the ASA ruled the ad could not run again.

Follow John Reynolds on Twitter @johnreynolds10

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