The Vegan Society has made a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) as it strongly believes a series of new adverts by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), entitled ‘We Eat Balanced’, is likely to mislead members of the public.
A series of adverts that have been running across television, print and social media extensively throughout January. The nature, tone and messaging of the campaign sends the wrong message to those currently following, or considering, a healthy and balanced plant-based diet.
The ‘To B12 or Not B12’ slogan in particular presents a false narrative, suggesting you can only have Vitamin B12 by eating animal products, when we know it is routinely supplemented on the vegan diet, through fortified foods including milk alternatives, some breakfast cereals and yeast extracts. Supplements are in fact, an adequate source of B12 and many people consuming dairy milk and meat regularly need supplementation, while B12 deficiency in omnivores is not uncommon.
The Vegan Society believes this campaign, running at a time when a record-breaking number of people were taking part in the annual Veganuary campaign, some for the first-time, will mislead the public into thinking that vegan diets cannot be nutritionally adequate when the British Dietetics Association works with The Vegan Society to show those who choose a vegan diet that well-planned vegan diets can support healthy living in people of all ages.
Moreover, the society believes that these adverts are in direct conflict with government messaging around health, the environment and supplementation.
The Vegan Society has attempted to resolve the problem by reaching out to AHDB directly, in the hopes of having an open, honest, and constructive dialogue between the two organisations. However, to date the AHDB has not responded and the complaint has now been formally raised with the ASA.
Campaigns Manager at The Vegan Society, Mark Banahan, noted: “The AHDB has set out to mislead the public by denigrating the choices of people who don’t want to eat animal products. Most vegans are aware of the need to supplement B12 in fortified foods or a vitamin supplement and by doing so vegans can maintain a balanced diet. It is disappointing to see the ADHB resorting to such scare tactics in response to the growing interest in veganism and in reducing animal products.”
In recent years, the perception of veganism has changed and there is an exponential growth in the number of people following a vegan lifestyle or plant-based diet. There’s now estimated to be over 600,000 vegans in the UK alone with 125,000 signing up to Veganuary 2021 – the highest number of British participants since it began in 2014. More restaurants are introducing vegan-only menus, beauty brands adding vegan trademarks and more meat and dairy alternatives are being launched than ever before.
Last month, entrepreneur Dale Vince has spoken out against what he called “confusing” and “misleading” meat adverts. He argued that in contrary to the advert, B12 does not naturally occur in animal meat which is found in supermarket shelves, claiming that animals raised through intensive farming receive B12 supplements.
In his letter to ASA he wrote: “I believe these adverts will mislead and confuse many of those considering veganism for the first time as part of the popular Veganuary movement.”
“The claim is false as it is an objective fact that B12 occurs naturally in plants which are commonly found in vegan and omnivorous diet.”