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‘Distressed’ farmers condemn Tesco vegetarian advert and suggest teenage girls should eat more meat

One of UK’s biggest supermarkets - and major retailer of meat - attacked over promotion of vegetarian range

Harry Cockburn
Thursday 17 October 2019 15:40 BST
Tesco ad encouraging plant-based diet 'distresses' farmers

The National Farmers’ Union has attacked a Tesco advertisement promoting vegetarian products, saying it is “demonising meat as a food group”, and “has caused significant distress for British Farmers”.

The advertisement shows a young girl arriving home from school and telling her father: “Daddy, I don’t want to eat animals anymore.”

With a hangdog look at the camera, the father tells viewers: “I bloomin’ love my meat. But not as much as I love my little girl.”

He picks her up and swings her around the kitchen to a soundtrack of jangly acoustic guitar music, and it becomes apparent he is cooking vegetarian sausages.

Holding a knife and fork he turns to the camera. “Just as tasty as it used to be,” he says.

“Better actually,” says his daughter.

The NFU claimed the ad was “demonising meat as a food group, which not only has negative connotations for farmers but also for the avocation of customers eating a healthy balanced diet” [sic].

In a statement, the NFU said its president, Minette Batters, had written to Tesco to “raise its objections” about the commercial.

The union said its members had “significant concerns with the language used within the advert and how it has caused significant distress for British farmers”.

It also claimed – apparently in direct response to the advert – that teenage girls are not currently eating a balanced diet, and that they could address this by eating more meat.

The statement said: “Meat as a food group provides naturally rich in protein and are a good source of iron, zinc and essential vitamins [sic].

“There are certain parts of the population, especially teenage girls, who are currently not eating sufficient quantities of these micro-nutrients to fulfil their dietary requirement[s].”

The statement added: “We believe it is vital that children do not establish misleading views of food groups, which may later affect their health and diets.”

The advert comes amid growing awareness of the ecological impacts of many kinds of meat production.

This month 60 scientists signed an open letter calling on the government to curb the amounts of meat served in schools and hospitals, to help address the “climate emergency”.

In August the UK government’s chief environment scientist, Sir Ian Boyd, said we must all eat less red meat, travel less and buy fewer clothes, in order to reduce our impact on the planet.

Currently, global livestock emissions – including the associated deforestation impacts – account for 14.5 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. This is equivalent to all cars, trains, ships and aircraft combined.

In a tweet, the NFU highlighted British farmers’ efforts to minimise the environmental impact of meat farming.

The union said: “65 per cent of UK farmland is only suitable to graze cattle, reared to produce tasty food. British beef has a greenhouse gas footprint 2.5 times lower than [the] rest of the world. British farmers are proud to drive solutions to climate change & are working to achieve net-zero.”

A Tesco spokesperson told The Independent: “Our Food Love Stories celebrate recipes both with meat and without. For those customers who tell us they are looking to eat a little less meat, our Plant Chef range offers a delicious, affordable alternative.

“Our aim is always to offer choice. We remain absolutely committed to working in partnership with all our UK farmers, and we value the vital role they play in providing food for our customers.”

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