Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Scottish government's Edinburgh Zoo panda advert banned

Yang Guang
Image caption Yang Guang and Tian Tian arrived at the zoo in December

A Scottish government advert has been banned for suggesting China had "gifted" two pandas to Edinburgh Zoo.

It stated "the Chinese are gifting two giant pandas to live in Scotland, under the custodianship of Edinburgh Zoo".

The zoo, run by the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland, will pay an estimated £6m to house Tian Tian and Yang Guang for the next decade.

The Advertising Standards Authority ruled the advert was misleading, after complaints from two animal charities.

Scottish ministers said no money was due to be paid by either the UK or Scottish governments to the Chinese authorities for the two pandas.

The advert had featured in newspapers under the headline: "Celebration of links between Scotland and China as pandas arrive in Edinburgh".

It went on to state: "Now, in a symbolic gesture of friendship between the countries, and following five years of political and diplomatic talks, the Chinese are gifting two giant pandas to live in Scotland, under the custodianship of Edinburgh Zoo."

The text continued: "The pandas' presence in Scotland is a sign of a strengthened alliance with China, and opens up new opportunities in trade, culture and education with the world's fastest growing economy."

The ad prompted complaints from Animal Concern and Scotland for Animals.

Edinburgh Zoo will pay $1m (£600,000) to the Chinese authorities each year for the pandas, which are due to stay at the zoo for at least 10 years.

A spokeswoman for Edinburgh Zoo said that any money paid by the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) towards the loan of the two pandas goes directly to the Chinese Wildlife Conservation Association, which funds giant panda conservation projects in the wild.

However the Advertising Standards Authority upheld the complaint, saying: "We considered that consumers would interpret the terms 'gift' and 'gifting' to mean that the pandas were given without payment.

"Although we acknowledged that the Scottish government had not made any payment, we considered that the sum paid by the charity that owned Edinburgh Zoo would be considered by consumers to be a commercial arrangement.

"In the absence of text stating that the 'gift' was in exchange for a substantial payment, we considered that the claim 'in a symbolic gesture of friendship between the countries' in conjunction with the terms 'gift' and 'gifting' implied that the pandas were provided by China for free.

"Because that was not the case, we concluded that the ad was misleading."

The watchdog ruled the advert must not appear again in its current form and added: "We told the Scottish government not to imply in future that the pandas at Edinburgh Zoo were provided without payment."

A Scottish government spokesman pointed out that the ASA had dismissed two out of three parts of the complaint.

He said: "We are disappointed by the ASA's recommendation to uphold one part of this complaint. However, we will of course comply with the ASA ruling.

"No money was, or is due to be, paid by either the Scottish government or the UK government to the Chinese authorities for the two giant pandas."

John Robins of Animal Concern welcomed the ruling, adding: "Some people may not feel inclined to pay £57.60 for a family ticket for the zoo and to see the pandas if they know that a large chunk of their money is going to the Chinese government."

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