Ad claims parents who give kids meat are child abusers

A PROVOCATIVE billboard which suggests feeding children meat is child abuse has been erected by an animal rights group in the Capital.

• The animal rights group says Edinburgh was the 'natural choice' for its hard-hitting advertising campaign

The controversial hoarding, funded by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), went on display in Granton yesterday and declares in bold lettering: "Feeding kids meat is child abuse. Fight the fat. Go veg." Illustrating the slogan is an image of a fat cheeked, child about to take a bite out of a burger.

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Sited at Crewe North Road near Forthview Primary School, the 20ft by 10ft ad has already provoked outrage from some who claim the message is inflammatory and trivialises the issue of child abuse.

• Is PETA justified in comparing feeding meat to children to child abuse? Vote here

Ward councillor Steve Cardownie said: "I have every sympathy for the plight of animals and recognise the impact of obesity in Edinburgh but this is the wrong way to go about getting your point across.

"To imply that any parent who buys their child a McDonald's or gives them a hamburger for tea is a child abuser is just plain wrong and this will serve to turn off the very people they are trying to influence.

"Child abuse is a very serious matter and this trivialises it. Any parent seeing this will not rally to them, but rather will be rebuffed by these sentiments. It's offensive and I think it will backfire on them."

But PETA argues it is trying to alert residents to the city's "ballooning childhood obesity problem" and point to NHS figures showing around one in ten pupils at Edinburgh primary schools are considered clinically obese. Abi Izzard, PETA's special projects co-ordinator, said Edinburgh has a "big problem" with obesity and so was the "natural choice" for the ad.

"The potential for damage from a meat-heavy diet is like a ticking time-bomb in kids," she said. "In addition to causing immeasurable suffering to millions of animals, getting kids addicted to chicken, beef and other types of meat condemns an entire generation to a future of health problems. (The ad helps] to inform parents that it is not just fizzy drinks and crisps they need to worry about."

The billboard, which PETA says was approved by the Advertising Standards Authority in 2007, will be removed after a fortnight and no plans have been made to erect any similar advertising boards in future.

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Durham and Coventry have both played host to PETA's billboard in the past, but this is the first time Scotland has been targeted by the ad campaign.

Asked how she expects city residents to react and whether the message trivialises genuine child abuse, Ms Izzard said: "We expect that people will take notice of the billboard and, along with it, the perils of feeding meat to children."Overwhelming scientific evidence has linked eating meat, eggs and dairy to obesity as well as heart disease, cancer and diabetes.

"Parents who want to help their children achieve a healthy weight should forget about the greasy sausages and burgers and provide their children vegetarian meals. Every generation is getting fatter and developing obesity-related diseases much sooner, and it's largely due to diets loaded with animal fat."