‘Dairy is Scary’ billboards that caused controversy in New Brunswick when they were erected last week have now also appeared in Nova Scotia. The vegan billboards in Nova Scotia, which claim ‘Dairy is Scary’ and encourage a vegan lifestyle, have been purchased by the Vegan Education Group (VEG). They say that their goal is not to insult farmers, but to educate the public and raise awareness ‘about the use of animals for food, clothing, entertainment, or any other purpose.’
The billboards are based around a Youtube Video, by Canadian Erin Janus, that went viral in 2015. In the video, Janus ‘exposes the horrors of the dairy industry’, and discusses what VEG says is “common, yet largely unknown dairy industry practices,” such as “forcibly impregnating cows, and the slaughter of their newborns as “waste products” so their milk can be sold for human consumption”. The video, though just five minutes long, has been viewed over 5.4 million times.
“I created the Dairy is Scary video because the public absolutely has to know the truth,” said Janus. “Most people have no idea that modern animal farming is full of cruelty. The common practices of the dairy industry are scary for anyone who cares about animals.”
The purpose of the campaign, which features slogans such as “Dairy took my mom, my milk, and then my life,” is to raise awareness about the inherent cruelty and injustice done to dairy cows and their babies for milk, says Bill Wilson.
Wilson, who is part of the Vegan Education Group in New Brunswick, said “We understand we need farmers. We want the government to redirect animal agriculture subsidies and financial help to plant-based farming and to help farmers transition to sustainable plant-based agriculture.” According to a Facebook post by VEG, the government currently contributes $3.9 billion to animal agriculture.
Despite maintaining that their mission is not to insult farmers, the campaign seems to have managed to do just that. Speaking to CTV News, third-generation farmer Veronica Vermeulen says that it is discouraging to see the billboards. “It's really a misrepresentation of our character,” said Vermeulen. “It's not who we are as farmers, it's not who we are as people and, in a lot of ways, it feels like it's not fair.”
This same sentiment is felt by Mike Mullin, who owns a dairy farm in Steeves Mountain. He told Global News that it is in a dairy farmer’s best interest to treat their cows with care, calling the campaign a case of false advertising.
The controversial campaign also attracted some negative attention online, with one Twitter user saying "What is truly scary is the propaganda spread by these billboards."
However, the responses to the billboards haven’t been all negative. According to CTV News, Lauren Marshall, the owner of Real Fake Meats vegan restaurant, says the billboards are good advertising for the vegan industry. Marshall said, “This type of advertising is a little aggressive for some people, but, I think it puts an important message out there and gets people to understand the truth behind their food.”
She also added, “Once people educate themselves a little bit more about plant-based eating and the future of the world and how much we care about our animals and not just our dogs or our cats, I think we'll have a little bit better of an understanding.”
It is expected that the advertising campaign will continue to pop up around New Brunswick, with future plans in place for bus advertisements to start featuring the campaign.