RSPCA anti badger cull advert banned

Badger The pilot culls in west Gloucestershire and west Somerset have now ended

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An RSPCA advert suggesting badgers in cull areas would be "exterminated" has been banned following 119 complaints.

Most complaints against the advert, which featured an image of a syringe and a bullet with a headline "Vaccinate or exterminate?", claimed it was "inaccurate and alarmist".

The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) said the advert "must not appear again in its current form".

The RSPCA said it believed exterminate "accurately described" the culls.

Two government-led pilot culls took place earlier this year in west Gloucestershire and west Somerset in an attempt to prove that badgers, which are widely believed to spread TB to cattle, could be culled humanely and effectively.

'Vaccinate or exterminate?'

The advert, which was published in the Metro newspaper, stated: "The UK government wants to shoot England's badgers. We want to vaccinate them - and save their lives."

The RSPCA said the word "exterminate" had been used "carefully and deliberately", and added it had "a literal meaning of total eradication and a common use meaning of killing on a massive scale".

It said the culls were "based on an assertion that at least 70% of the estimated badger population would need to be killed in a given area to have the desired impact on the spread of bovine TB".

The ASA acknowledged the charity's assertion that "e-petitions, consultations, press coverage and their own campaigning material" had "ensured consumers would be aware of the 70% cull benchmark, and would therefore be aware that not all badgers would be culled".

But it said the general population, who had not taken an active interest in the issue, would not be aware of the proportion of badgers expected to be culled.

'Much-loved species'

The ASA said: "We therefore considered that consumers were likely to interpret the claim, along with the text 'The UK government wants to shoot England's badgers', to mean that all badgers would be eradicated in the cull areas."

An RSPCA spokesman said it "welcomed" the judgement to dismiss three of the areas of complaint about their advert but "respectfully disagreed" with the complaint which had been upheld.

He said: "The advert referred to the fact that removing more than 70% of the badger population in the cull areas of Gloucestershire and Somerset is a virtual eradication of a much-loved species in these areas.

"We still believe the word 'exterminate' accurately describes this and that the public would have been aware at the time of the plan to eradicate 70% of badgers.

"These are facts which were reported in the majority of the media at the time, as well as our own press statements, and public awareness of these facts were widespread."

Complainants about the advertisement included Conservative MP Simon Hart, the Farmers' Union of Wales and Welsh Conservative Assembly Member Antoinette Sandbach.

Both pilot culls failed to meet the 70% government target.

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