It's wrong but will consumers get it?

Peta's latest claims has united the food industry but what will shoppers make of the campaign?

The latest shock tactics from Peta have served to unite the meat industry with the wider food industry in its condemnation of the animal rights activist's claims.

The universal acceptance was that Peta's claims in its latest advertising campaign - ranging from alleging that feeding meat to youngsters is child abuse, and linking meat consumption with UK's childhood obesity problem - are wildly inaccurate. But the danger is, what impact will they, however inaccurate, have on the consumers?

Anita Singh, campaign co-ordinator for Peta, also alleged that meat production methods are cruel and unethical and that meat was full of saturated fats, hormones, antibiotics and other drugs.


Phil Saunders, of the Meat & Livestock Commission (MLC), said: "The use of hormones in red meat in this country is banned. All antibiotics, other than for medical use, are also banned in the production of meat."

Saunders added that the only drugs given to cattle, sheep and pigs in the UK were to assist animals in their recovery from an illness and these would not be slaughtered until all traces of the drug had disappeared. He said: "It's not good for animals to suffer from illness and not treat them. What do these animal welfare bodies suggest?"

Singh said the aim of the advertising campaign was to alert people to the fact that the consumption of animal products was linked to life-threatening diseases and that switching to a plant-based diet was a healthier option. She said health experts and nutritionists worldwide had agreed that all the vitamins, proteins and minerals needed for a healthy diet were found in plant products.

She said UK children were eating as many as three meat-based meals a day and although other products, such as sweets, crisps and fizzy drinks contributed to the UK's childhood obesity problem, Singh claimed that meat was a direct factor.


Julian Hunt, director of communications for the Food & Drink Federation, said: "It is wrong to suggest that one food type is responsible for the obesity problem. All foods can play a part in a healthy balanced diet.

"Consumers need positive messages to take the right steps towards healthier diets and lifestyles - not outrageous scare tactics such as those used by Peta."

Speaking on Tuesday, Mabel Blades, a nutritionist who attended the National Obesity Forum this week, said: "Nowhere in the whole conference has there been anything spoken against red meat."

She added school meal targets aimed to include red meat dishes twice a week in primary schools and three times a week in secondary schools.


Joanne Lunn, a nutrition scientist at the British Nutrition Federation (BNF), said there was no reason to eliminate lean meat from the diet and had never heard of a link between the UK's problem with childhood obesity and meat consumption.

Lunn said: "Meat provides us with a variety of nutrients including protein, iron, zinc and vitamins A, D and B12, and forms part of a healthy balanced diet. Meat is a significant source of a number of B vitamins: thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, B6 and B12 for health and growth and an excellent source of haem iron. This form of iron is more easily absorbed than the non-haem iron found in vegetables and cereals."

Lunn explained iron was required for the formation of haemoglobin in red blood cells, which transport oxygen around the body. Iron is also required for normal energy metabolism and the immune system also requires iron for normal function.

She added: "Meat is a source of high quality protein, which is made up of amino acids, and we need to consume a number of essential amino acids. A food that is said to be a high-quality protein provides all of these essential amino acids.

"Most plant food proteins (with the exception of soya) have a low content of one or more of these essential amino acids needed by the body. Furthermore, different ones are missing in different plant foods. Therefore, plant foods need to be combined to provide high quality protein."