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The Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) has taken action over a misleading Animal Aid advert which appeared on page 2 of the Christmas special edition of the Big Issue magazine in December 2023.
The advert made the false claims that pheasant shooting is subsidised by ‘taxpayers’ money’.
In a complaint lodged with the ASA, coordinated by the Countryside Alliance, it was made plain that no landowner receives any subsidies or other public money in connection with game shooting, nor are there farm or woodland subsidies for game shooting. The complaint went on to highlight that shooting is entirely privately funded and not supported by subsidy from the taxpayer as the advertisement falsely asserted. Moreover, it stressed to the ASA that, according 2014 Value of Shooting report, nearly £250 million is spent annually by shoots on conservation efforts and habitat management at no cost to the public purse.
In response to this complaint, the ASA rightly decided that action needed to be taken. The action that the ASA chose to take was to advise the advertiser that in future they must comply with ASA codes, and offered them advice and guidance on doing so.
Although the Alliance welcomes the recognition of wrongdoing by the advertiser through the taking of action, we believe that the action should have been more active in undoing the harm caused to society, in particular rural society. The ASA lists “harm or detriment” as foremost in their list of prioritisation principles and as such the giving of advice seems paltry in comparison to the harm caused. From our perspective, a more apt response would have been to order an advert to be placed in the same prominent page 2 position of a future edition of Big Issue, explaining that the Animal Aid advert was misleading, what the actuality is and offering an apology for printing misleading propaganda.
That anti-groups take this deceitful approach to attacking shooting is not a new phenomenon, but we, as a rural community, must concert our efforts to fight our corner in the most scrupulous and honest way we can. Social licence is vital and hard-won, hopefully this decision by the ASA will make a small difference and demonstrate that we will not accept misleading adverts in the public domain.