TTC green lights vegan subway ads after conflict with animal rights group

The TTC have given the green light to vegan advertisements in 25 subway stations following months of back and forth with PETA.

After PETA said they'd take legal action, TTC and its ad agency green lit vegan ad campaign

PETA says it faced initial resistance to their vegan advertising campaign from the TTC's ad agency Pattison Outdoors. (Chris Glover/CBC )

A series of ads promoting the vegan lifestyle are up in Toronto subway stations, months after an animal rights organization threatened the TTC and its advertising sales agency with legal action for rejecting the campaign. 

The ads, which feature cows, pigs, chickens or lobsters, all read: "I'm me, not meat. See the individual."

The campaign is the work of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).

The advertisements were installed on July 9 and will continue to run until the end of the month.

Already, it's caused controversy among TTC riders.

"It should be a personal choice and not advertised," Bronwen Alsop told CBC Toronto. "I'm not vegan and I personally love meat."

"I think it's forcing other people's opinions on others," said David McLain. "I don't agree with it."

"I think guilt shaming people for eating meat is probably not the best idea," said Matis Fortier. "But I think being vegan is healthy and good for the environment." 

'What's the issue here?'

In late May, PETA issued a press release alleging TTC and its advertising sales agency, Pattison Outdoor, were refusing to post their ads. The release said they repeatedly emailed Pattison from March 23 to 29 without a response. 

PETA said their ads comply with the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards, and that refusing their request constitutes an infringement on their Charter rights.

PETA then warned the TTC and Pattison that if they failed to respond to their request by June 1, they would pursue legal action.

Stuart Green, a TTC spokesperson, said the transit system was not aware that PETA was trying to run the advertisements in its subway stations. 

"We contacted Pattison and we said, 'What's the issue here? Is there a concern with the imagery?'" said Green. 

One of PETA's vegan ads at Castle Frank station. (Chris Glover/CBC)

Green says TTC then promptly directed Pattison to work with PETA to get the advertisements up.

CBC Toronto reached out to Pattison for comment but they have not replied.

Amber Canavan, spokesperon for PETA, says she was confused by the whole situation. 

"Sometimes we get some very colourful denials and those are because we have some fairly colourful ads that we're trying to pass by and get approved.

"This one was quite baffling, because as you can see they are very beautifully done and they are very basic," she said. 

Veganism on the rise, PETA says

Canavan says the advertisements have been featured all over the U.S. and have just begun being featured in Canada.

"This is our first massive ad buy," she said. "We are trying to remind people that these are individuals. We want people to take a look in their eyes and just give them a thought."

Canavan believes the recent gain in ad space shows how veganism is being looked at positively.

"I think it's a sign of the times changing," she said. "These are serious issues and we need to get our message up and we can't be ignored any more."

Along with PETA's campaign, there have been a number of vegan protests in Toronto. 

Antler Kitchen & Bar, a Toronto restaurant whose menu includes game meat—wild boar, duck and rabbit—caught international attention in late March after its owner carved up a deer leg and ate it in front of protesters.

It came at the end of a series of protests led by activist Marni Ugar, who told CBC Toronto earlier this year she was protesting against the restaurant because she wants to debunk the myth about humane meat.

"Animals don't care that they are being served in a small restaurant, " she told CBC Toronto in early April. "That's their life, not ours to take."

With files from Chris Glover