Supermarket sells living animals in controversial Vegan Friendly spot

Anti-meat ad will run on TV until end of January.

A controversial ad in which a live sheep is offered for sale at a supermarket is currently airing in the UK.

The spot – created by Vegan Friendly, a non-profit organisation that encourages people to adopt a plant-based diet, through agency Diboor – shows a couple as they carry out the weekly shop.

Their spree takes an abrupt turn when the search for “extra fresh” lamb results in the pair being given a lamb, prompting the tagline: "Just because you can't see the victim's face doesn't mean there wasn't a victim."

The ad was originally created to run in Israel, but is now also running in the UK due to efforts by vegan entrepreneur Tom Bursnall, who is founder and chief executive of plant-based food brand Miami Burger. 

Bursnall told Campaign that he had spent £50,000-£60,000 of his own money on adapting the Vegan Friendly spot for a UK audience through creative agency Hotwolf, including shortening and dubbing it. He added that Vegan Friendly claims the original film turned “a couple of hundred thousand people vegan”. 

The work will run across Channel 4 and Sky channels until the end of the month, with media handled by Guerillascope.

Bursnall has also run a Crowdfunder campaign, which has so far raised £2,308, to fund the initiative.  

“Ten years ago, I used to say I was an animal lover whilst eating an animal, and I never used to believe that that was a contradiction until now,” Bursnall said.

“I wanted to create some provocative, impactful ads that get people thinking and challenge their cognitive dissonance, which is holding the two contradictory beliefs of being an animal lover while paying someone to behead an animal.”

Bursnall was critical of TV advertising clearance body Clearcast, claiming that he spent five weeks on straightening out issues that got in the way of the organisation approving the ad.

One of the issues was the need to provide evidence that the lamb involved in the spot wasn’t harmed during its production.

“The embedded cultural bias in favour of the slaughter industry is something that will probably have to be challenged in the coming years, and I'm happy to do that, even if it means going to court,” he said.

Bursnall also claimed that Clearcast had an issue with the ad’s closing remark, which reads: “Let’s embrace real compassion and love for all living beings, not just those that look like us.”

“Surely the opposite would be more offensive,” he added. 

Bursnall continued: “You would have outrage if the opposite were to be said – simply just saying love everyone in the same way as the LGBT community or the Black Lives Matter folks is a pan statement.

“This is love all beings, be they black, white, yellow, gay, straight, with two legs or four legs.”

Bursnall maintains that regulators such as Clearcast are flawed as they “mirror cultural norms”, as opposed to promoting “progressive ideas about love and compassion”. 

He suggested that, to use one example, Clearcast would have taken a pro-slavery position in early 19th-century US.

Bursnall commented: “Veganism basically means to not harm animals, so why is the message at the end of the ad deemed to be potentially offensive? 

“These things shouldn't even be up for debate – they shouldn't be challenged by the ASA [Advertising Standards Authority] or Clearcast or Ofcom or anyone else."

Bursnall described Vegan Friendly's commercial as just “two out of 10” in terms of being hard-hitting, but claims his next creative endeavour will be a solid five.

A spokesperson for Clearcast told Campaign: “Clearcast’s role is to assess ads against the rules of the BCAP Code; our aim to get ads on air and keep them there.  

"The code’s rules require us to consider if ads are likely to cause serious or widespread offence and states that animals must not be harmed or distressed as a result of ad production.  

"The discussions undertaken with advertisers and agencies in the course of our clearance process is confidential and we do not publicly discuss the detail of our consideration."

Clearcast continued: "We have, however, in line with established copy clearance processes, cleared this ad for Vegan Friendly, with the inclusion of the advertiser’s desired line 'just because you can’t see the victim’s face, doesn’t mean there wasn’t a victim' and showing a live lamb.  

"We understand that the ad has now been broadcast."

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