Dairy Farmers pulls ad after Ad Standards complaint

Claims about growth hormones made in a recent campaign drew complaints from animal rights activists.

Following consumer complaints to Ad Standards, the Dairy Farmers of Canada pulled its ad that made claims about there being no growth hormones in milk.

First reported by The Canadian Press, the print ad was part of the advocacy group’s “Honest. Canadian. Dairy” campaign and featured the headline “There are zero growth hormones in milk produced in Canada. Like, none.” However, some animal rights activists and Animal Justice – a group of lawyers that pursues legal cases to advance animal rights – took issue with the claim, as milk from cows contains IGF-1, a naturally occurring growth hormone. According to posts on social media and its blog, Animal Justice then began assisting concerned members of the public with filing complaints about the ad.

Ad Standards was unable to provide strategy with more details about complaints it may have received, as its process is confidential, and a report on any resolved complaints it may have received about DFC advertising so far in 2019 have yet to be posted to the organization’s website. However, The Canadian Press reported that Toronto resident Jenny McQueen, as well as others who filed a complaint, received a letter from Yamina Bennacer, manager of standards at Ad Standards, saying the complaints had been received by the advertiser and the ad had been permanently withdrawn from the market.

Online ads in both English and French saying that “Canadian milk is produced without the use of growth hormones” remain on DFC’s YouTube channel as of this writing.

Request to DFC for comment were not answered by press time.

The DFC’s “Honest. Canadian. Dairy.” campaign, led by DDB Canada, launched in January and is planned to run through March. It aims to “shift and change millennials perceptions about dairy products,” according to a press release about the campaign, by being upfront with facts about the way milk and dairy is produced in Canada. The release specified that one of the facts being focused on during the campaign would be that there are no “artificial” growth hormones in Canadian-produced milk, but also address “misconceptions” outside the realm of health, such as that most dairy farms are small and family-run.

The campaign launched around the time an updated version of Canada’s Food Guide was released, which de-emphasized the role of meat and dairy in a healthy diet and advocated for more plant-based options – which groups like DFC have expressed public concern about. It also came amidst growing consumer concern over the impact large farms and livestock are having on the environment.

Animal Justice previously made a legal filing with the Competition Bureau in 2016, stating that the DFC’s “Get Enough” campaign made false claims about the role of dairy in preventing things like osteoporosis, colorectal cancer and hypertension. According to the group, the Commissioner of Competition dropped an inquiry into the campaign last year.