They’re off the fish hook.
A UK advertising watchdog has refused to censure PETA’s (the People For Ethical Treatment Of Animals) recent graphic, pro-vegan campaign, in which they controversially declared that fish consumption is no different than eating cats.
“[We] acknowledged that some viewers would find the ad unsettling or distasteful,” the country’s Advertising Standards Authority, which decides the content standards for advertising, wrote in the ruling.
They argued that the commercial was hunky dory as it promoted a “vegan diet” and aimed to “challenge societal norms regarding the moral significance of meat consumption.”
They were referring to the animal rights advocate’s inflammatory billboard, erected last April outside a fish and chips shop in Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire, which, on its face, appeared to show a smiling seafood hawker holding a fish.
However, when approached from a different angle, the same hologram depicted the fishmonger clutching a dead cat.
“Sea things in a different light,” read the caption. “Respect all life. Go vegan.”
“PETA stated that the intent behind the ad was to promote veganism by challenging the societal tendency to treat animals merely as a means of fulfilling human desires, and to question the widespread assumption that certain species were more deserving of compassion than others,” the ruling stated. Twitter/@PETAUK
In a blog post announcing the advert, PETA wrote that the “advert’s message is irrefutable: when it comes to suffering, there is no difference between a fish, a cat, or any other animal.”
“We’re planning to roll the ad out nationwide as part of our efforts to challenge speciesist thinking,” the organization added. “We hope it will encourage everyone to leave all animals — whether feathered or finned, with four legs, two legs, or no limbs at all — off their plates.”
The crop-aganda campaign was subsequently ridiculed by viewers, many of which deemed it hypocritical given that cats, like many humans, consume fish.
“And what do cats eat?” scoffed one critic on Twitter. “You want us to feel bad about eating fish by making us imagine eating cats but seem oblivious to what we feed the lovable creatures we are supposed to be repelled at the thought of eating. Besides, cats are carnivores and we tend to eat herbivores (vegans).”
Others didn’t find the matter nearly as amusing: The ASA reportedly received at least ten complaints from critics, who found the advert “excessively distressing” and highly inappropriate given the billboard’s proximity to a fish and chips restaurant where “children could see it.
“The advert’s message is irrefutable: when it comes to suffering, there is no difference between a fish, a cat, or any other animal,” PETA wrote on their blog. Twitter/@PETAUK
When questioned by the advertising regulator, PETA argued that the ad’s purpose was to “promote veganism by challenging the societal tendency to treat animals” as objects of human desires and to “question the widespread assumption that certain species were more deserving of compassion than others.”
The org “added that children frequently encountered dead animals in everyday contexts, such as the supermarket, and deserved to be exposed to viewpoints that challenged their assumptions about the morality of meat consumption,” per the ruling. PETA concluded that the “ad’s content was far more likely to prompt healthy discussion between children and adults than to cause distress or offense.”
The ASA ultimately ruled that the “cat’s depiction was neither gruesome, nor shocking, and was unlikely to be considered particularly realistic by most viewers.”
“On that basis, we considered that viewers, including children, were likely to regard the image as relatively mild,” the watchdog decreed. “For that reason, we concluded that the ad was not excessively distressing, or likely to cause serious or widespread offense, and had not been irresponsibly targeted.”
This isn’t the first time PETA has come under fire for kookiness in advertising. In 2021, the organization raised eyebrows after releasing a sexually-charged video that suggests going vegan will improve people’s love lives.
The advert depicts a fishmonger holding either a fish or a cat depending on how it’s looked at. Twitter/@PETAUK
To illustrate this point, this literal food porn depicted fingers suggestively stroking the insides of various types of fruits and vegetables as if they were in a skin-flick produced by, say, Fresh Direct.
Accompanying captions explain how each food will make consumers an assassin in the sack.
They’re off the fish hook.