Media release published at April 24, 2023

‘Healthy’ meaty ads trashed by vegan diet expert in new campaign

  • Viva! is challenging the misconception that you need meat and dairy to be healthy
  • The charity launches a VEGAN version of the iconic Eatwell plate
  • Dr Justine Butler – head of research at Viva! – is heading up the campaign

The UK’s leading vegan charity Viva! has launched a new campaign to tackle misleading adverts that suggest meat and dairy are crucial to a healthy diet. Known as Balanced Vegan, the campaign reassures vegans and meat-reducers that a vegan diet is still the healthiest option, despite false advertising from the meat industry incorrectly suggesting otherwise.

Balanced Vegan is a response to the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB)’s TV advertising campaign Eat Balanced. The AHDB – a statutory levy board, funded by farmers – launched their 2020 £1.5 million campaign encouraging British households to eat meat and dairy as part of what they call a “balanced diet”. Since then, additional adverts have hit viewers’ screens, claiming that “meat and dairy ‘naturally’ contains vitamin B12”, which they say is “an essential nutrient not naturally present in a vegan diet”. Viva! disputes this claim, presenting evidence that vitamin B12 is not ‘naturally’ present in meat and dairy as farmed animals are given supplements.

As part of the Balanced Vegan campaign, Viva! has created its own version of the Eatwell plate, an illustration that shows the main food groups humans need to be healthy. While the NHS Eatwell plate includes a section for dairy products or dairy alternatives, Viva!’s Vegan Eatwell plate encourages only the consumption of dairy alternatives such as soya or oat milk and prioritises the consumption of pulses as a protein source instead of meat. The guide also includes helpful reminders to supplement vitamins B12 and D, important for everyone regardless of diet.

Balanced Vegan is being led by Viva!’s head of research Dr Justine Butler, who is an expert in vegan nutrition. Speaking on the launch of the campaign, Dr Butler said: “The meat and dairy industries have been on the back foot for years now, clearly feeling the pinch as more people ditch meat and dairy in favour of a healthier, kinder and more sustainable diet. Their adverts make all kinds of outlandish and fanciful claims for meat and dairy but recommending meat for health, a food known to cause cancer and increase the risk of heart disease and diabetes, is misleading and dangerous. They are behaving exactly like the tobacco industry did when it was revealed how harmful smoking is – desperately grasping at straws trying to convince people to buy meat.

“Our new Balanced Vegan page tells you what you need to eat each day, which nutrients you need and where to get them, why plant foods protect health and why animal foods harm. The new Vegan Eatwell Plate shows exactly what a balanced vegan diet looks like. It’s a great resource and all the information we provide is supported by scientific research.

“All the major health bodies agree, a well-balanced vegan diet can supply all the nutrients you need while protecting you from all the big killer diseases; obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer.”

Find out more about the Balanced Vegan campaign here.

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