Tesco, the supermarket group, has made a formal complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority about an animal rights advertisement that is aimed at stopping the culling of seals in Canada.
The International Fund For Animal Welfare (IFAW) ran a full-page advertisement in one of yesterday's newspapers calling for Tesco's chairman, Sir Ian MacLaurin, to ban Canadian tinned salmon in its stores in order to increase pressure on the Canadian authorities to stop the culling.
Under a graphic illustration, the advertisement headline runs: "Every tin of Canadian salmon Tesco sells is another blow Sir Ian."
Tesco said it had made the complaint because it felt that the advertisement could be misinterpreted. The company said yesterday: "Tesco does not condone the practice of seal culling but we believe this advert is misleading. We do not feel it is our role to make moral judgements on our customers' behalf. It is up to [them] to make an informed choice. We label our products clearly and display literature in the stores to enable them to do this."
IFAW said yesterday that it stood by its advertisement and planned to run it in other newspapers. It pointed out that it did not intend to harm Tesco, and had held discussions with the company before the advert appeared. The group had chosen Tesco for its promotion because Sir Ian had made a stand against selling Canadian fish in 1984. But the supermarket chain said that that situation had been different as it had involved baby seals.
The animal rights group also said that, in refusing to help to stop the killing, Tesco was inadvertently supporting the trade in seals' penises, regarded as an aphrodisiac in the Far East. Tesco said: "That is completely wrong. This has nothing to do with us. We think [this] trade is appalling. But it has nothing to do with tinned salmon."
The Canadians say the culling is necessary. At a press conference yesterday the Canadian High Commission said: "This cynical campaign, whose main purpose is to raise funds for the IFAW, is a further example of ... alarmist propaganda. If this technique is allowed to prevail it will not end with one supermarket chain or one product."
The commission said that the culling had to be done to curb the burgeoning population of harp seals in the North Atlantic. It added that the number of seals had doubled to 5 million in the past five years, and that each seal can consume up to 1.4 million tonnes of fish per year. The commission also said that only 3 per cent of seals are still clubbed. The rest are shot.
In a separate development, Tesco yesterday mailed out pounds 40m of money-off and product offers to holders of its loyalty card. Members who have collected more than 40 points, between 16 October and 12 November, will also be sent a turkey voucher worth pounds 3.55. Tesco's Clubcard has more than 6 million members, and more than 170,000 students have signed up for the company's student card.