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LONDON (Reuters Life!) - An animal rights poster promoting vegetarianism was banned by Britain's Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) on Wednesday for wrongly implying that eating meat caused swine flu.
The agency said the poster -- on which the words "meat kills" and "go vegetarian" were transposed over the names of deadly diseases, of which swine flu featured most prominently -- was misleading and could cause undue fear and distress.
So far, 76 people in England have died from the H1N1 swine flu virus, which the World Health Organization has classified as a pandemic, as well as a further 10 in Scotland, three in Northern Ireland and one in Wales.
In response to a complaint from a member of the public, UK-based animal rights charity People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), who produced the poster, said it was not intended to suggest that eating meat caused swine flu, but to make people think about the consequences of livestock production and confining animals to factory farms.
PETA said the poster highlighted that reducing meat consumption was one of the best ways to prevent the development and spread of deadly diseases that originated from such practices.
But the ASA noted that of the four diseases referred to on the poster -- E. coli, mad cow, swine flu and MRSA -- only two were known to have originated from eating meat, and said the advert could cause some readers to wrongly infer swine flu could be caught in this way.
"Although we understood the intention was to refer to livestock and meat production rather than just eating meat, we considered that the message was, at best, ambiguous," the ASA said, banning the poster from appearing again in the same form.
Reporting by Kylie MacLellan; Editing by Steve Addison