An advert for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) has been banned for claiming that “wool is just as cruel as fur”.
The ad, seen on the sides of buses in February, read: “Don’t let them pull the wool over your eyes. Wool is just as cruel as fur. Go wool-free this winter.”
Ten complainants said the cruelty claim was misleading because sheep needed to be shorn for health reasons and wool could therefore not be compared to fur.
Responding to the complaints, Peta claimed abuses and suffering in the fur trade had also been documented in the wool industry but were not as well known by the public.
The organisation said research indicated that the need to shear sheep was a result of selective breeding over the years by humans to increase the yield of wool for use in textiles.
It said the industry had created “unnatural animals” with the use of artificial selection and genetic manipulation that led to a genetic condition which “caused them to suffer as they may overheat and would undergo the pain and stress of shearing”.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said the ad was presented as a factual claim and a direct comparison between the fur and wool industries.
The watchdog noted that Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs guidelines for livestock welfare stated that every mature sheep should have its fleece removed at least once a year by experienced and competent trained shearers who should take care in ensuring that the sheep’s skin was not cut.
Additional guidance covered the health, treatment, transportation and living conditions that sheep should be kept in for the overall benefit of their welfare, which the ASA said “demonstrated that in the UK, there were standards to prevent cruelty to sheep”.
The ASA said: “We considered people who saw the ad would interpret the claim “wool is just as cruel as fur” as equating the conditions in which sheep were kept and the methods by which wool was obtained with the conditions and methods used in the fur industry.
“However, sheep were not killed for their wool as animals were in the fur industry and there were standards in place relating to their general welfare including relating to the shearing process.
“We therefore concluded on that basis that the claim was misleading and in breach of the Code.”
Peta director Elisa Allen said the ASA’s ruling was “both confusing and disappointing”.
She said: “Nevertheless, we’ll continue to urge decent people to steer clear of wool, and we have plans to run a modified version of the ad in numerous cities this winter.”