Censorship of Vegan message on buses – advertising campaigns silenced

Complaints received. Is it because it is the "fake news" of "vegangelists"?

In the run-up to Veganuary, there are two separate cases of pro-vegan advertisements on buses being cancelled. Is this censorship? Is it because they are “offensive”? Well, apparently it is because there have been “complaints”. How many and by whom? Who knows?

The campaign by Go Vegan World seems to have been censored by London Bus Operators. An advertising campaign was due to be launched in the lead up to the New Year, but it has been cancelled because there have been “complaints” about them. 

Over one hundred bus advertisements will now be pulled, even though they have been approved by the Advertising Standards Authority. According to Go Vegan World, the bus operators who have refused the ads are Tower Transit, Abellio, London United, Sovereign and Metroline. Exterion Media, now Global Media, was in charge of placing the advertisements.

There are important implications for free speech here. In essence, an educational campaign has been cancelled because of complaints. It might even be just one person for all we know. What is clear is that the subjective opinion of a non-specified number of people who don’t like the message has effectively censored the campaign. 

When decisions like this are made and the reasons are hidden behind anodyne statements such as “they are too controversial”, then there is something seriously wrong. 

Did the complainants have a vested interest in the meat and dairy industries? We deserve to know this and to be told how many complaints were made.

Earlier in the year, Global Media had cancelled another Go Vegan World campaign at the last minute – that time it was in Lincoln. In that instance, the same reason was given: namely, that the advertisements were “too controversial”. 

For what it is worth this writer agrees that in the context of the society in which we live, then yes the advertisements are indeed controversial. But then again what’s the problem with that? So what?

Ads Campaign Director, Sandra Higgins commented that:

“Each one of them contains information that is a public right to know and that we, as an animal rights campaign organisation, have a right to state.

“Our campaign educates the public about the unfair exploitation inherent in all animal use. There are only a few voices campaigning for animal rights and we have only a tiny fraction of the funds and resources available to the animal using industries who use mass advertising which is equally “controversial” to vegans. Why is the counter view, on the rights of other animals not to be used, being silenced? Just as our campaign was due to launch next January, the meat industry in the UK will launch a campaign that will involve large scale advertising to encourage the public to consume animal products. It is wrong that the industries that promote the exploitation and killing of defenceless animals have free reign and access to media platforms while a voice that departs from the prevailing view is silenced.”

Second censorship in Shropshire

At the same time, Arriva stands accused of censorship for not allowing Veganuary bus advertisements in Shropshire. Again, this is after receiving “complaints”. 

A Veganuary spokesperson made the point that the ads had been ‘censored’ despite containing ‘indisputable facts’. 

“Nearly every day, scientists issue new warnings about animal agriculture’s heavy environmental toll and urge us to eat less meat” said the spokesperson. “And every dairy farmer knows that cows, like all mammals, must have a baby in order to produce milk and it is standard practice to separate the calf from the mother within 24 hours. People have a right to know this and decide if it is something they are happy to support.”

A local Conservative councillor called for the advertisements to be taken down because of the county’s agricultural heritage, calling the ‘fake news of vegangelists.’

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Nicholas Orosz

Nicholas is a former City solicitor and Cambridge graduate. He has a long-standing interest in health & nutrition, the environmental movement, green politics & digital publishing. He has always loved crafting words. His transition to a vegan perspective has been gradual and an ongoing process of self-discovery. Contact:
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