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Retail giant Asda has denied claims that it deleted vegan comments on a Facebook post about 'free-range' milk.
After posting a status on its Facebook page about the decision to stock ‘free range’ milk, Asda’s post was met with a number of vegan comments criticising the dairy industry.
According to activists Asda began to delete any negative comments about dairy. One commentator claimed it was 'a clear sign of censorship and lack of transparency'.
But in a comment to Plant Based News the retailer denied these claims. The brand's head of social media said: "We don’t delete any Facebook posts and the account is managed by an external media company.
"As Facebook isn’t a Customer Service channel all posts are hidden as it’s currently a marketing platform for Asda. If a customer has feedback we would ask they use our advertised channels on Facebook."
Comments on the post - including a number of comments from vegan users - currently stand at 1,500.
The controversy followed the post about 'free-range milk'. This product will be stamped with a 'Pasture Promise' logo indicating that cows have grazed outside for at least 180 days of the year.
Celebrity foodies including chef Jamie Oliver and farmer Jimmy Doherty have rushed to champion the product which has hit shelves in Asda - the first UK supermarket to stock the milk.
When launching the product, Asda said: "We’re introducing the new milk – which carries the Pasture Promise logo – after customers told us they’d like more information about the kind of farms their milk comes from.”
But how much information does this logo provide?
At the time of going to press, there appears to be no information about the artificial impregnation of female cows, nor does there appear to be any detailing of the process of taking male calves from their mothers, and whether these animals become part of the meat or dairy chain, or are killed as industry 'by-product'.
The food industry has frequently been accused of using clever marketing to create an idyllic image of animal agriculture, with terms like 'free range' being widely debunked by critics as nothing more than a cynical attempt to persuade consumers to part with their cash.
Even some mainstream welfarists have objected to the label, the 'free range' milk tag, with John Avizienins, from the farm animals team at the RSPCA, saying the definition doesn't say 'anything much about the welfare of the cows in these systems'.
In my opinion, free range milk is nothing more than a marketing ploy to ease the conscience of the consumer. Slapping a nice label on the carton and grazing the cows in a field for a set number of days does not make the way female cows are exploited in the industry morally justifiable - neither does it account for the treatment and slaughter of male calves.
From a vegan perspective, if Asda truly wanted to negate cruelty and suffering it wouldn't promote dairy under a label that guarantees nothing about animal welfare other than the number of days a cow has been grazed outside. This could be read as a type of 'virtue signalling' by retailers whose apparent concern for animal welfare is driven by a desire to shift more units, while appearing transparent over agricultural practices.
It is too early to tell whether or not ‘free range’ milk will help save milk farmers but with the rise of plant-based beverages such as soya milk (which is significantly cheaper than ‘free-range’ milk), and the number of vegans rising exponentially, it will take a lot for the dairy industry to reverse its impending demise.
Regardless, whatever happens, we can be sure this isn’t the last trick the dairy industry will attempt.
Rest assured though. The vegans will be waiting.
Ed Winters is a passionate animal rights activist, popular vegan Youtuber and co-founder of SURGE an animal advocacy group.
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