Tag Archives: “Advertising Standards Canada”

Leave The Donkey Milk To The Donkeys – Advertising Standards Canada Responds To My Complaint

Standard

donkeyWritten by:  Heather Clemenceau

Advertisements have a huge influence on people. So it follows that advertisers must be careful about what they display to the audience in ad copy and on websites. Despite the number of laws to curb misleading advertisements to protect consumer interests, the public is often left to fend for themselves in the marketplace.

A few months ago I complained to Advertising Standards Canada about “exuberant” claims made about a donkey milk skin cream and soap, whose website suggested that the products “slow down the aging process,”  among other dubious claims.

The first red flag I saw when I began reading the claims on the Shamâne website was the logical fallacy of the “appeal to antiquity”– claiming that something has powerful properties because some ancient civilization used it. The fact that ancient Egyptians used donkey milk (if indeed they actually did) is irrelevant to the claim that the products are clinically effective, and we can’t determine whether something is good or bad just because it has ancient origins. Treating disease by ingesting animal feces or applying it to your skin is also an ancient remedy (that also helps to ward off bad spirits!), but I don’t see that catching on in the same way. We’re smarter now – we would not likely treat nosebleeds or cataracts with warm dung!

Now, in my opinion, there is absolutely no way that donkey milk was used in Europe during the Dark Ages for its anti-bacterial or disease curing properties. The germ theory of medicine was not developed at the time, and was not used clinically until about 1870, so the fact that a French naturalist supposedly used it in the 1700s is not proof of anything.  But let’s say we give the company the benefit of the doubt and say that donkey milk was used throughout the Dark Ages in Europe for its anti-bacterial properties. When you think “anti-bacterial” do you really think of the Dark Ages as a good example?  Back then, everyone pretty much had a life expectancy of around 30 years, so clearly whatever they knew wasn’t helping them much.  The whole of the modern argument by Shamâne rests on anecdotal evidence made by people who lived anywhere from 460 BC – 1804 (Hippocrates and Buffon, the French naturalist). The second they bring up modern research, though, they become vague and non-specific. Why not say “in recent years, researchers at Harvard have shown that…” or something like that? The reason is simple. There actually isn’t any modern research that supports the claims. There are lots of proposed anti-aging remedies, but as far as I know, no treatment has yet been proven to slow the aging process or extend the human lifespan.  People can and do find anecdotal evidence to support any product, even a harmful one. And studies are only useful if the methods are valid and the results have been reviewed (and hopefully replicated).

The real problems I have with products with donkey milk in them is the exaggeration of their effects and the use of an animal product that has no business being added. If the only claim that proponents of the product made was “this smells good, and makes your skin soft” (and it doesn’t harm any animals in the process) I wouldn’t be writing this at all. That’s not the case, though. The benefits of donkey milk cream and soap are exaggerated because exaggeration sells.

So……….Advertising Standards Canada wrote back to me:

“We carefully reviewed the advertising in light of your concerns and contacted the advertiser for additional information. We were informed by the advertiser that being from France, he was not completely aware of the Canadian regulations regarding Skin Care Non-Therapeutic Claims. However, the advertiser informed ASC that it would like to be in compliance with the Guidelines for Non-prescription and Cosmetic Industry Regarding Non-therapeutic Advertising and Labelling Claims and is ready to amend its advertisement accordingly. We have been working actively with the advertiser and provided assistance on how to appropriately amend its advertising to comply with these guidelines. We will keep you informed as soon as the advertisement in question is appropriately amended. “

So ASC made them remove the claim about “slowing down the aging process,” (it’s now gone from the website). Unfortunately,  I wasn’t able to get all the other dubious claims removed,  pinocchio-noseand I wrote back to ASC to ask why it was OK to claim a product was hypo-allergenic without providing proof, they replied with this qualificaton from the government’s consumer product safety guidelines:

“’Hypoallergenic’ is neither a legal nor a scientific term. It simply means that the manufacturer has chosen ingredients to produce a finished product with minimum potential for causing allergy. This does not guarantee that the product will not cause an allergic reaction in some individuals, since people are allergic to a wide range of substances. There are no non-allergenic cosmetics. If you experience an allergic reaction to a cosmetic, try switching to a different brand.”

I’m still unsatisfied with this response,  because it basically means that anyone can claim their product is hypo-allergenic without evidence. Nobody knows whether the ingredients in these products truly reduce the potential for reactions.

Why do I think going after these product claims is important?  By not reporting suspect advertising claims, you allow businesses to continue profiting by misleading consumers with their exultant language, whether on purpose or by accident. Even if you were not fooled by a misleading advertisement, reporting false claims may prevent other people from being misled. Even though this is “just” a skin cream/soap, know that suspect claims devalue legitimate products, in particular, those with plant-based ingredients which demonstrate some efficacy and don’t require any animal breeding or suffering.

 

Advertisements

No Leaping Bunny Award For Donkey Milk and Horse Oil Skin Products

Standard
No Leaping Bunny Award For Donkey Milk and Horse Oil Skin Products
Madame Delphine LaLaurie is a character in American Horror Story: Coven portrayed by Kathy Bates.

Madame Delphine LaLaurie is a character in American Horror Story: Coven portrayed by Kathy Bates.

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

Hat Tip: Paola

The origin of the word ‘quack’ comes from the Dutch quacksalver, literally meaning “chatter salve” or someone who prattles or boasts about the efficacy of his remedies.

The next big wave in skincare comes straight from cottage industries in Canada and countries like Korea and Japan.  More paleo than vegan, some of these products are not for the faint of heart.  Instead of plant-based oils such as coconut or argan, oils from the rendered fat of horses and milk from donkeys are the new “natural” alternatives.  Dreams of soft, smooth skin are interrupted by visions of Black Beauty shedding a single tear.

Shamâne Cosmetics is a company located in Quebec and like another company in British Columbia that used horse milk in 15their skin care products, they are adding donkey milk to their skin care line. Like Spa Creek Ranch (who were forced to remove unsupported claims on their website by Advertising Standards Canada)  Shamâne have made some rather extraordinary claims about the supposed benefits of washing yourself with soaps made with donkey milk. Claims made by Shamâne were referred to ASC, who will referee their statements. I attempted to contact  the company to find out how many donkeys they had and what they did with the foals, but they did not return my phone call and their email is defunct.

Their website tells us that the product:

  • Contains protein and lactose proportions close to those of woman’s maternal milk (I say so what? Milk is species specific food for infant animals, not for washing your face with)
  • Is hypoallergenic (To determine if a product is hypoallergenic a company usually performs a patch test on 100-200 subjects and records how their skin reacts).
  • Nourishes and regenerates the skin deep down (Where is the proof that the product penetrates the skin or accomplishes “nourishment,” whatever that means?)
  • Slows down the skin aging process (It’s a pretty extraordinary claim to make that donkey milk does this, and extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence).

mam-14-kh0375-01pThe company makes additional claims about the powers of donkey milk, based on testimonials from the 1700s!  Back then microscopes were a very new invention, and the most popular methods of treating patients included bloodletting and blistering.  But the assertion that the product will slow down the aging process is probably the one thing that will get some of the statements removed from Shamâne’s website with prejudice, by Advertising Standards Canada.

According to the ASC:

Advertisements must not contain inaccurate, deceptive or otherwise misleading claims, statements, illustrations or representations, either direct or implied, with regard to any identified or identifiable product(s) or service(s).

Both in principle and practice, all advertising claims and representations must be supportable. If the support on which an advertised claim or representation depends is test or survey data, such data must be reasonably competent and reliable, reflecting accepted principles of research design and execution that characterize the current state of the art. At the same time, however, such research should be economically and technically feasible, with due recognition of the various costs of doing business.”

Although relatively unknown in Europe and the UK, horse oil is a popular and widely used beauty product in Asian culture. It’s the latest craze in Korean skin care. No, it doesn’t dsc_0001give you long, pony-tail like locks.  It’s rendered horse fat, quite likely made from American and Canadian  horses who were exported for live slaughter.  Horse oil products are sold/marketed by a variety of names – Guerisson 9 Complex Cream with horse oil is readily available at the Pacific Mall in Toronto, along with many other products containing horse oil from Korea. Horse oil is also sold as “Son Bahyu/Sonbahyu” on both Amazon and eBay. Once again,  miraculous claims are made about these products, none of which are substantiated.  There may be little we Canadians can do about products that are not produced in Canada and where claims are made on websites in Korean or Japanese languages.

dsc_0032There is no reason to assume that donkey milk or horse oil have any beneficial properties other than possibly as emollients,  and we have plenty of cruelty-free products that already accomplish this.  In order to satisfy some of these claims, the constituent ingredients in the milk and oil would have to be absorbed by the skin past the epidermis (the outermost layer).  The rule of thumb is that anything smaller than 500 Daltons can penetrate the skin while anything larger cannot.  A Dalton is the standard unit that is used for indicating mass on an atomic or molecular scale.

If the milk and oil molecules in question were small and permeable (under 500 Daltons) they would be uptaken into the skin cells and possibly into the bloodstream. If not, the ingredients may just penetrate through the top layer of skin only and will just be sloughed off as part of the dead skin cells. Even if they can be absorbed there is no evidence that they will have any sort of positive impact or that they will suspend the aging process. Myths that your skin absorbs large amounts of chemicals are NOT true.

Even people who eat animals often realize it’s ridiculous to add them to skin care products.  We already have the option of plant-based products that can be crueltyfreelogo_jpgabsorbed into the skin and may even provide some protection against essential fatty acid deficiency. We don’t need milk or horse oil or other animal products added to soaps or lotions.

Always remember that oftentimes these claims about skin care in particular have little to no research behind them and they may be based in superstition, popular trends, or “traditional medicine.”  Please buy cruelty-free products wherever possible. And Pubmed is great for advanced reading to help substantiate claims.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Activism – The Measure Of Our Success

Standard

Written by: Heather Clemenceau ©

How can we gauge success in our activist efforts? Obviously,  there are the public successes,  as we’ve seen with the Dorian Ayache/Three Angels Farm case – where three private citizens provided evidence and filed a formal complaint with the USDA OfficeKeep Calm of the Inspector General that he had violated the 28 hour USDA regulations. The regulations prevent horses intended for slaughter from “being on a conveyance for transport” for over 28 hours. These are the regulations that exist and are intended to provide a minimum acceptable standard for transporting animals,  but never seem to be enforced.  As a result of this citizen effort,  Ayache has now been hit with fines for violation of the 28 hour rule,  which  amounts to $5,000 per horse, or $185,000 for 37 horses.  One can only speculate how long this operation has flouted the law and caused terrible suffering to horses while perpetuating this cruelty at the expense of the taxpayer.

Obviously,  the citizen activism in this example required a significant investment of time coupled with the element of risk – what might have happened had they been discovered? To end the mistreatment of horses,  and indeed all animals,  we must inform people that is is happening AND ensure that reporting in the news is fair,  accurate,  and given the priority it deserves.  Handing out leaflets, flyers, brochures and booklets in public is one way to have a powerful impact and reach people who might otherwise never know about these issues – this happens every week in front of La Palette in Toronto, as part of the ongoing protest against the restaurant’s decision to serve horsemeat.

Through this form of direct activism, advocates can expose masses of people to challenging new information and perspectives. However,  not everyone can make a commitment of several hours per day or week,  nor may they be able to travel long distances doing field-work.  But we can all help prevent injustices against horses (or people, the environment etc.) by taking action on the internet and ensuring that what is published and reported is accurate.  It’s a daily challenge.I can't believe we still have to protest horse slaughter

We know  is that success is not measured only in large-scale social reform but is also found in moments of connection — in building relationships and raising awareness,  in correcting information and assumptions that we know are wrong. We have seen the power of  social media coverage that has been devoted to the Boneless Lean Beef Trimmings (BLBT), better known as “pink slime,” which can be chalked up almost entirely to the attention of countless activists across the United States. The phrase “pink slime” was first used by a former USDA microbiologist, Gerald Zirnstein.  The current debate began after celebrity chef Jamie Oliver drew attention to the product. This ultimately pushed a few hundred thousand Americans to sign a petition online which demanded a complete stop to the use of pink slime in school food. AFA Foods, a leading American processor of ground beef, has filed for bankruptcy, citing the wave of negative media coverage surrounding their so-called “pink slime” product.

Haters Gonna HateWe need to take the lessons-learned from the “pink slime” debacle and transfer them to the horsemeat issues. There are certainly some corollaries – Slaughterhouse Sue Wallis has also proposed that horsemeat be used in schools.   The “pink slime” issue is an example of what happens when “clicktivists” are galvanized into action without the necessity of leaving their homes.  I have a few recent examples of how this works on the small-scale,  and how a small number of people,  even one person,  can elicit change and create awareness without a significant investment of time.

Bates County Horse Slaughter Poll Cancelled due to "ballot stuffing"

Bates County Horse Slaughter Poll Cancelled due to “ballot stuffing”

The Internet is at its best when communities develop based on a vigorous and open exchange of views. While robust disagreement is generally accepted (or perhaps just tolerated),  deceptive behaviour is not. The Bates County Blog (Missouri),  which normally features news articles such as “Employee of the Month”  and “Circuit Court News,” decided to host a poll about horse slaughter.  They probably never had so much traffic at their blog site after it was discovered by pro’s and anti’s!  The poll apparently passed cookie and IP information from the user’s computer to the polling application server-side as a way to ensure authentication,  but it was subject to abuse and multiple voting by some.

To that end,  a couple of anti-slaughter advocates decided to enlighten the editors of the Bates County blog by simply forwarding the postings from that “petulant pony “ blog,  where the author gloated (a little prematurely,  I might add) at the duplication of the votes by the pro-slaughters,  who deleted cookies,  used IP-concealing proxies and who knows what other “black hat” techniques in order to vote multiple times.  Clearly  the editors had no choice but to suspend the  poll after relaunching it late last week.   Of course,  the pro-slaughters will rationalize the closure of the poll any way they like, but the posting on the website speaks for itself – what are the chances that they will take a breather from the hysterical responses and read what was actually written? “We have investigated and found that the poll received multiple votes from the exact same locations,  indicating that the overall results will not be accurate.” Please take a moment to thank the editor for his honesty.  Spin it any way you like, pros,  because we know that you live in a world where verifiable facts are considered mere opinion.  It was a hot mess and you got caught confessing to stuffing the ballot box.  Pwned.

ActivismMy second example involves the Viandes Richelieu slaughter plant website.  Some months ago it was noticed that the  Massueville Quebec slaughterhouse had been taking liberties and running with the truth about the horses they slaughter.  Their stock of horses was,  according to them,  bred in beautiful surroundings and fed natural products.  Of course Richelieu is not a breeding farm, but a slaughterhouse,  so they don’t do any horse breeding,  much less in pastoral surroundings (you only have to look at a Google map image of the plant to see this).

To investigate their claims of organic horses frolicking in bountiful pastures, I wrote to Advertising Standards Canada,  a non-governmental body made up of advertisers, representatives from advertising agencies and the media, and consumers. It discourages false or misleading advertising by its members through codes of conduct. While they do breed horses, elk and bison at Bouvry in Alberta,  they certainly aren’t breeding horses at Richelieu,  and can hardly attest to what the horses have been fed in their previous incarnations as privately owned pets and performance animals.  I asked Advertising Standards Canada to help me understand exactly what “breeding” was going on in this “happy-horse” slaughterhouse,  and where they kept these horses that they bred specifically for slaughter,  you know,  the ones where they had evidence of traceability ::rollseyes::.  Here’s the original website:

Viande Richelieu False Advertising about horse slaughter

Not too long after sending the letter in 2011,  I received a response from ASC,  and I was advised that Viandes Richelieu had revamped their website to remove the misleading claims.  Perhaps it was as a result of the inquiry,  or perhaps they decided that their generally sucky website needed an update.  In any case,  a few minutes of writing likely lead to the removal of misleading language that has given life to the verbiage we hear over and over again from restauranteurs in Toronto serving horsemeat – “our horsemeat is organic.”  Here’s the response from Advertising Standards Canada:

Letter from Advertising Standards Canada/Les normes canadiennes de la publicité

Letter from Advertising Standards Canada/Les normes canadiennes de la publicité

OK,  so that’s one problem solved,  more on Richelieu and their new website later in the blog.  In our internet travels we also come across more examples of either accidental errors or deliberate attempts to mislead the public.  It’s important to take time to EDUCATE editors, bloggers,  and writers whenever we notice that they have either misunderstood information provided,  or have been deliberately mislead.  There seems to be a lot of this happening with Big-Ag E-zines for some reason.  Case in point – the US has not,  in any given year,  slaughtered anywhere near 9.2  million horses,  nor has the slaughter industry provided 400,000 jobs, as evidenced in this next example.  And what’s up with the comment about beef, pork, and poultry etc?

I wish someone would ask Charlie Stenholm if he has monsters under his bed,  what with all this fear-mongering.  It’s more than a touch unreasonable.   The people prepping these PR pieces should be giving a side-eye to these numbers,  because,  while I don’t live in the US,  they sure made me do a double-take.  400,000 people working in three slaughterhouses?  That would make horse slaughter a larger industry than health care!  Those numbers actually refer to the TOTAL number of living horses in the US and the TOTAL number of jobs in all equine related businesses.  So that leaves us to wonder – who’s responsible for these grievous errors?  Meat spokes-whore Charlie Stenholm?  The E-zines?  Or someone working in Charlie’s office?  Is it accidental or deliberate?  And how many more are out there waiting to be discovered?  And who might be reading all this bogus information and making decisions based on it?  We saw more than one example of these exact same numbers provided to other Pro-Ag websites,  and asked the editors of one such site to correct their information.  Looks like groups on the receiving-end of Charlie Stenholm’s PR machine need to run all his comments through FactCheck.org before publishing.  Just sayin’

To put that into perspective,  it took only a handful of activists who sought to correct this misnomer in a polite and diplomatic fashion,  and it was accepted and corrected.   The resulting post was a mere shadow of its formal self.

False Information Charlie Stenholm horse slaughter

And below is a very similar proclamation from another Big-Ag website,  that started out with almost the exact same wording as above,  but with the inaccurate information removed,  which pretty much eliminates half the text in the article.

False information Charlie Stenholm horse slaughter

And then,  there’s this,  for which I have few words.  But it’s the “Beat our Meat Trade News Daily,”  where you can read about masturbation, homophobia,  and America-bashing along with industry news and food safety issues.   I guess the editor must like Canadians though,  because we will slaughter anything that can’t outrun us.  I almost feel sexually harrassed just by reading this.  This is not a blog,  but a supposedly professional publication catering to several countries.

I’ve written to this wanker,  oh s’cuse me, editor before,  and in response to one polite email,  received 5 or 6 pervy responses back before blocking his ass.  Is this the way  professional editors govern themselves?  Can you not make reference to your trade without calling your readers wankers or bastards or referencing an act of sexual gratification?  And can you think of any reason why you’d want to read this E-zine in future or believe anything they publish?  Rather than complain about this,  I think it’s funnier and more damaging to the organization to leave it up.  No doubt someone other than myself will see fit to give it a well-deserved mocking.  Soppy wanker!

meat trade news daily - false information horse slaughter

So now we come back almost full-circle to Viandes Richelieu and the latest incarnation of their website.  Of course,  their new website is a whole new breed of offensive,  what with the recommendation that pregnant women eat their untraceable horsemeat – am I the only one that thinks that they are tiptoeing dangerously around giving health advice to pregnant women?  Pregnant women of all people should NEVER consume raw meat,  which is often how horsemeat is consumed.  When you think of it,  what other products can you buy at a grocery store that come with the recommendation that they should be eaten by pregnant women (aside from vitamins)?  And what’s with the comment that customers enjoy “thoroughbreds and half-breeds?”  Aren’t they supposed to be declining thoroughbreds?  And what’s the point of emphasizing any breed of horse?  Once they’re dis-assembled and converted into slabs of meat,  an appaloosa is indistinguishable from an arab.

Truly,  I think that the business of slaughtering horses is governed by people possessing a degree of intelligence that is far below the mean for the rest of the population.  We can’t by shy about going after these purveyors of dis-information.  So with the launch of their new website comes the re-launch of my old complaints about their providing misleading information.

new Viandes Richelieu site - questionable information

easy buttonWe do need to be careful that social media doesn’t foster “Clicktivism,” which may also create a “diffusion of responsibility.”  Many legitimate causes get lost in cyberspace because in this age of information, because someone is wrong on the internetwe sometimes feel that all we need to do to “get involved” is join a fan page, or “like” something our friend has posted. Certainly people are more informed, but what are they doing with that information? I have seen several on-line petitions that absolutely did achieve their end result – 100% verifiable success (not related to horses though),  but by signing on-line petitions or forwarding links we must always ask ourselves what exactly are we accomplishing? It’s sometimes misleading us because it lets us off the hook from actually doing something that we can see or measure directly.  Be authentic – be a real voice for horses.  Personally,  I always make comments elsewhere on the internet using my own name because I want pro-slaughter advocates to know that I am always “on” for horses.  It can be very gratifying to follow-up and  see what became of our on-line efforts,  which sometimes takes as little as one email or phone call. As long as someone is spouting bullshit about horse slaughter, someone else should point it out.  And I’d love to hear other examples!

You just need to be a flea against injustice. Enough committed fleas biting strategically can make even the biggest dog uncomfortable” – Marian Wright Edelman