RSPCA rapped over badger cull advert

The advertising watchdog has upheld a complaint against the RSPCA for an advertisement about the badger cull, which was provocatively headlined “vaccinate or exterminate” alongside a picture of a syringe and bullet.

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has ruled the advert, which ran in the Metro newspaper, was misleading and should not be run again in its current form.

The ruling, published on Wednesday (11 Dec) challenged the use of the word “exterminate” because it said people might have concluded that all badgers would be eradicated in the cull areas, rather than the 70% target set by government.

The Farmers’ Union of Wales, one of 116 people and organisations to complain about the advertisement, welcomed the ASA’s decision.

But TB spokesman and union vice-president Brian Walters also warned that the Charity Commission needed to take robust action against the RSPCA in order curb its aggressive lobbying stance.

Over the past decade, the FUW had submitted numerous complaints to the Attorney General, Charity Commission and ASA regarding the RSPCA, he said.

“Such complaints have resulted in decisive action being taken by the ASA, but we believe that the Charity Commission has been less than forceful and its failure to act decisively against the RSPCA has brought all charitable organisations into disrepute.”

The RSPCA said it had to ‘respectfully disagree’ with the ASA’s decision and pointed out three of the four points in the complaint had been rejected.

“The advert referred to the fact that removing more than 70% of the badger population in the cull areas of Gloucestershire and Somerset is a virtual eradication of a much-loved species in these areas.

“We still believe the word ‘exterminate’ accurately describes this and that the public would have been aware at the time of the plan to eradicate 70% of badgers.”

The charity added: “We sympathise with farmers over bovine TB in cattle, and care as much about cows as we do about badgers but share the views of leading scientific experts that a cull would be of little help in eradicating bovine TB in cattle and could even make it worse in some areas.”

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