Translink responds to criticism as Go Vegan World advertising campaign is launched in Northern Ireland

5th January 2023

There has been some backlash on social media and in the press, to our New Year 2023 campaign in Northern Ireland. The ads in question appear on 100 buses in Northern Ireland This is not the first time Go Vegan World has experienced a bullying attempt to remove our campaign. In 2020 Translink removed our ads from their buses following complaints from the Ulster Farmers Union claiming that the ads were ‘anti-agriculture’ and ‘demonised farmers’. However, Go Vegan World challenged Translink’s refusal to run our ads as an unlawful interference with our legal right to freedom of expression. In the face of our legal challenge Translink reversed its decision and we were able to run the campaign again.

Interference with the right to freedom of expression is lawful only if the restriction is in furtherance of a legitimate aim, necessary in a democratic society, i.e. justified by a “pressing social need,” and the restriction is proportionate to achieving that legitimate aim. The reasons provided by Translink’s advertising agent, Exterion Media which is now Global media,  for refusal of our ads do not meet this test. Avoiding complaints from those involved in the animal-using industries is not a “legitimate aim” in relation to quashing freedom of expression, and the fact that our ads may elicit complaints from those industries does not create a pressing social need to prevent them from running.

Furthermore, our ads are not anti-agriculture and do not demonise farmers or target them in any way. Instead, they draw attention to the sentience of other animals and the injustice that is inherent in their use and killing for food and other purposes. One of the ads states ‘It Is Not a Personal Choice When Someone is Killed’. It features Cormac, a bull who was rescued from the Irish dairy industry and lives at our sanctuary, Eden Farmed Animal Sanctuary. The ad reminds members of the public that using other animals is not a personal choice because when we use them, they lose their lives.

How often have you heard the retort that veganism infringes on peoples’ personal choice? Let’s think about what has truly influenced our choice as to whether we live vegan or not. Most of us were given no choice in being born into a speciesist culture that normalised the concept of other animals as inferior to humans; that taught us to accept animal products as normal, natural, necessary, and nice. If we had been taught accurately about what is entailed in the production of milk, eggs, fish, flesh, wool, and leather, entertainment and research, most of us would have been vegan from our youngest days.

The other ad in our Northern Ireland campaign states ‘Dairy Takes Babies from Their Mothers’, reminding the public of the price other animals pay when we use dairy and create a demand for cows or other mammals to be impregnated and give birth only to have their newly born children taken from them so that we can drink the milk produced to feed them. One of the most poignant facts that is hidden from us by the industry that profits from our ignorance, is the separation of mothers from their calves in the dairy industry. Our campaign merely shines a light on the facts of the animal exploiting industries. It is everyone’s right to be made aware of these facts and their responsibility to act on them and be vegan.