SAFE: “Political advocacy advertising” by a registered charity – lobby group

SAFE (Save Animals From Exploitation Incorporated), a registered charity (CC40428), funded an expensive “political advocacy advertising” “campaign” on Television Four during 2012/13 – aimed at changing New Zealand law to bring an end to factory farming of pigs and chickens. The slick emotive propaganda depicting scenes of emaciated and crowded caged farm animals, screened at 7.35 p.m. during “a family orientated movie”. Towards the end a SAFE logo appears along with the words: ”imagine a world without factory farming” pointing viewers to the website “www.stopfactoryfarming.org.nz” (run by SAFE campaign director Eliot Pryor and featuring a promo by SAFE director Hans Kriek). The song “Somewhere” was played in the background as a piglet was shown sprouting wings and escaping from the crate. (Mr Pryor was part of the ground crew coordinating the blockade of Mainland Poultry by SAFE and other animal “rights” activist groups in June 2012).

See: http://www.spcs.org.nz/2012/safe-save-animals-from-exploitation-a-registered-charity-its-political-advocacy/

http://www.spcs.org.nz/2012/safe-save-animals-from-exploitation-a-registered-charity-demands-ban-on-rodeo-animal-abuse-industry/

In response to a complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) by M. Burton, who described the SAFE advertisement as “appalling”, “emotive” and using “ cynical shock tactics” to influence vulnerable children, the ASA Board ruled (Decision 13/051) that the “images shown in the advertisement were emotive and may be distressing to some viewers”. Whilst it ruled that the advert did not exceed the limits of GXC classification guidelines, it noted that the Commercial Approval Bureau on behalf of Media classified it as “political advocacy advertising”.

The charity SAFE has only two “objects” in its Constitution and both were approved as “charitable” when it was registered as a charitable entity by the Charities Commission on 30 June 2008. They are:

(1) “raising awareness of the suffering, abuse and exploitation of animals” and

(2) “promoting education on human-animal relations”.

SAFE gained charity status on the basis of its “Advancement of Education”. However, it is well-documented and obvious to the public and media that one of its primary objects (deliberately unstated) is to change the law in relation to the treatment of farmed animals – and this involves it aggressively engaging in “political advocacy” campaigns that go much further than just raising awareness of a problem(s).

SAFE’S call for “STOPfactoryfarming” is a very different propaganda call to one that encourages farmers to merely modify their farming practices and comply with existing New Zealand law.

In its response to the ASA Board investigation, SAFE tried to defend its propaganda advert stating that its purpose was to:

“… inspire and empower people to TAKE ACTION ON BEHALF OF THESE ANIMALS. The TVC invites people to suspend belief – to believe in a world where animals can sing and pigs can fly, an END TO FACTORY FARMING is in fact possible” [Emphasis added].

Eliot Pryor and his team of political campaigners are so passionate about changing the law that they break the law to impose their beliefs on others. For example, blocking a roadway and preventing workers accessing Mainland Poultry in 2012, deprived other citizens of their rights to go about their lawful business. Such unlawful actions are the ‘bread-and-butter’ pursuits of Greenpeace activists and Greenpeace has so far been refused charity status based in part on its involvement in such activities.

On the positive side, registered charities are entitled under the Charities Act 2005 to engage in “political advocacy” if it advances one or more of its charitable purposes, provided the extent and degree of such advocacy is only ancilliary to its purposes.

In the case of SAFE’s advertising campaign and its officers’ protest actions that breached the law, such activities involving demands for changes in the law, are not signalled in any shape or form in the purposes of the charity.

Whilst not upholding the complaint from M. Burton, the ASA Board took the view that “the advocacy advertisement [engaged in by SAFE] was intended to raise awareness about the cruelty of caged animal farming”. However, it clearly went much further than that by pointing to its propaganda website “stopfactoryfarming.org.nz”. A careful analysis of the activities of SAFE (see: www.safe.org.nz) and its associated websites reveals that SAFE is an animal “rights” lobby group that perpetually advocates for a particular point of view and is intent on changing the law.

“Advocacy advertising” is a expression of opinion and is a desirable part of the functioning of a democratic society” (Principle 11 ASA Code of Ethics). However, in the case of SAFE, there appears to be nothing in its constitution that connects it with this charity’s perpetual advocacy of the view that the law on farming practices must be changed to prevent the alleged widespread “cruelty” and “torture” of animals in New Zealand.

Note: In another complaint against the advertisment from O.Turk (Decision No. 13/043 dated 21/02/13) the Chairman of the ASA ruled that there were “No Grounds to Proceed”, but did note that it constituted “advocacy advertising”.

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