The bus company Arriva dropped a series of ‘Veganuary’ advertisements from twenty of its buses in Shropshire before Christmas following complaints. Some commentators viewed this as a clear example of censorship. Now the company has relented and reversed its decision and is allowing the pro-vegan advertisements to run.
The original decision by Arriva to remove the advertisements was “totally unjustified” according to the Shropshire Veggies and Vegans group, which had fundraised £2,650 to pay for the ads in Shrewsbury and Telford. Its supporters made their views known to the bus operator.
The Veganuary campaign called the original decision “outrageous”.
Arriva has now explained that the decision was made on the basis of “errors in the approval process of its third-party supplier”. It denied that this had anything to do with the advertisements’ content. This was, therefore, more a case of incompetence rather than censorship according to the bus company.
The posters are now back on the buses and the issue has been resolved according to the bus company.
Advertising on buses to encourage people to try a plant-based diet
The Veganuary campaign encourages people to go without animal products during the course of January, which is an ideal time to try such a switch after the notorious excesses of the Christmas period.
“The bus posters were removed after just being up for one week,” said Jo Ruff from the fundraising group.
“My initial notification came from the organisers on the day they were being removed, giving me no option to challenge the decision. I was told it was due to a number of complaints.
“Many people were disappointed by this and complaints regarding them being removed were huge. They would have far outweighed the unnecessary complaints against us.
“Being reinstated shows how the facts about the horrific cruelty of the meat and dairy industry are very true. It also shows how essential it is to be vegan if we want our planet, and thus ourselves, to survive.”
The events do rather beg the question of how many complaints were initially received. The Shropshire Council deputy leader Steve Charmley had originally said that the advertisements should be removed from buses because of the area’s agricultural ties. There are numerous livestock and dairy farms in Shropshire.
An Arriva spokeswoman said: “Recently, several adverts on our buses in Shropshire relating to the GoVegan campaign were removed due to an operational error which has now been resolved.
“Arriva is and continues to remain impartial to the content of these adverts and can confirm that these have been reinstated as agreed between the advertiser and our third-party supplier.”
The commitment of the fundraisers should not be underestimated. After fundraising with the group and friends and family they held car boot sales, organised raffles and organised bake sales. A grant from The Vegan Society helped too. Given such determination to make the advertisements a reality, it is hardly surprising that the fundraisers were not going to be fobbed off with just a few complaints leading to an administrative denial of the posters. One report has even suggested it was only one complaint.
Was this censorship or just a clerical error? Either way, the number of complaints against the ban was clearly far greater than the original number of complaints against the advertisements. As Ms Ruff commented:
“Many people were disappointed by this and complaints regarding them being removed were huge. They would have far outweighed the unnecessary complaints against us”.
As a long-time vegetarian and animal-lover, Jo Ruff became a vegan after becoming aware of the cruelty inherent in the dairy industry some ten years ago. ‘Finding out how cows are impregnated forcefully, and then their calves taken away from them so we can drink their milk was such a shock,’ she says. ‘I realised that the only way I could avoid contributing to such suffering was to be vegan.’ It is that commitment of hers that has ensured that this message is now being seen by residents around Shrewsbury and Telford.
In a case in Canada recently, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency had blocked a billboard which set out the basic notion that dairy farming takes away cow mothers from their children, their milk and ultimately their lives. One single complaint had apparently led to this regulatory action. Farmers had claimed that there was a level of misrepresentation. Many have criticised this regulatory enforcement as unacceptable censorship. Promoting veganism can certainly trigger entrenched traditional practices.