The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) received seven complaints after the advert, which shows a cow behind barbed wire and the slogan “Humane milk is a myth. Don’t buy it”, appeared in the national press in February this year.
Smaller text stated: “I went vegan the day I visited a dairy. The mothers, still bloody from birth, searched and called frantically for their babies.
“Their daughters, fresh from their mothers’ wombs but separated from them, trembled and cried piteously, drinking milk from rubber teats on the wall instead of their mothers’ nurturing bodies. All because humans take their milk.”
The complainants, some with experience of working in the dairy industry, challenged whether claims made in the ad were misleading and could be substantiated.
They felt the ad also suggested there were widespread breaches of UK welfare regulations in dairy farming.
Go Vegan World campaigners argued the ad did not state or imply that calves were separated from their mothers earlier than the 12 to 24 hours recommended by the UK government’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).
Furthermore, they said the exact timing of separation was irrelevant to the ad, which was designed to highlight the injustice of separating cow and calf in the first place.
Clearing the ad, the ASA said it understood complainants were concerned that it implied a significant number of dairy farms did not comply with animal welfare standards, and milk production was therefore “inhumane” as a result.
But it concluded: “Although the language used to express the claims was emotional and hard-hitting, we understood it was the case that calves were generally separated from their mothers very soon after birth, and we therefore concluded that the ad was unlikely to materially mislead readers.”
Sandra Higgins, director of Go Vegan World, said: “The aim of the ad is to let people know that no matter where the milk and dairy products they purchase have come from, whether an industrial-scale dairy farm or a smallholding, for each cow legal, standard practice necessitates her pregnancy, the removal of her calf, and her slaughter, so that we can drink the milk that she produced to feed her infant.
“The ad highlights that the problem faced by animals in the dairy industry is not how they are treated, but that they are used at all.”