Complaint upheld against badger charity

Advertising watchdogs have upheld three complaints against an animal welfare charity campaigning against a badger cull.

Two newspaper advertisements by Save the Badger, a campaign run by Secret World Wildlife Rescue, were untrue and unsubstantiated, said the Advertising Standards Authority.

Published in May this year, the adverts urged readers to oppose a badger cull to combat bovine tuberculosis.

The first advert included an image of badgers and with the words” “A doting mother and cubs … oblivious that all of them are about to die…”

It added: “Young cubs will starve underground, and hundreds of badgers will lose their lives in a ‘pilot scheme’ with no scientific justification.”

The second advert claimed that farms on the edge of the proposed badger cull zone would be at an increased risk of TB infection.

It added: “Will badgers be needlessly killed across Wales? … Killing badgers does not work!”

The Farmers Union of Wales (FUW) and a member of the public lodged four complaints over the adverts.

They challenged the claim that young cubs would starve underground because a protocol was likely to prohibit culling during the closed season.

In a second complaint, the FUW challenged suggestions that the cull would lead to the extinction of badgers, rather than a reduction in numbers.

A third complaint challenged the claim that hundreds of badgers would be killed with no scientific justification was misleading, it added.

A fourth complaint challenged the assertion that killing badgers didn’t work, arguing that scientific evidence existed to the contrary.

In response, Save the Badger said the adverts were placed to promote awareness of the cull about to take place at the time the ad appeared.

It said the adverts were published having considered and analysed all the relevant scientific evidence.

The adverts were intended to make farmers aware of the possible repercussions, in terms of the potential for an increase of TB on adjoining land, it said.

Save the Badger insisted the closed season was unlikely to be effective and cubs would still be orphaned underground or would die above ground.

And it said the claim that “Killing badgers does not work” was supported by overwhelming scientific evidence.

In its adjudication, the Advertising Standards Authority upheld the first complaint against the claim that young cubs would starve underground.

It also upheld the FUW complaints against claims that a native breed would be exterminated and that badgers would be killed without justification.

But the authority rejected the fourth complaint against claims that killing badgers does not work. This was likely to be interpreted as opinion, it said.

“Because the claim was likely to be understood as a reflection of the advertisers subjective view, we considered it was not capable of objective substantiation.

“We considered the claim was clearly an expression of … opinion and therefore concluded that it was not misleading.”

The authority said the adverts must not appear again in their current form.

It has also told Save the Badger to ensure robust substantiation before making claims that are not clearly an expression of their view in future.

The full adjudication can be seen here.

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