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Europe rights court upholds ban on animal rights advertisement

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] in Strasbourg held Monday in a 9-8 vote [judgment; press release, PDF] that a ban on an advertisement by an animal rights group did not violate freedom of expression under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights [text, PDF]. In 2005 Animal Defenders International (ADI) [advocacy website] submitted to the UK Broadcast Advertising Clearance Centre (BACC) a television advertisement [video] with images of a girl in chains in an animal cage juxtaposed by a chimpanzee in the same position. The advertisement was part of ADI's "My Mate's a Primate" campaign against the keeping and exhibition of primates in zoos and circuses, as well their use in television advertising. The BACC refused to clear the advertisement, because the Communications Act 2003 [text, PDF] prohibited broadcasting advertisements possessing the political nature of ADI's objectives. The BACC's decision was upheld by the UK's high court in 2006 and the House of Lords in 2008, both holding the the Communication Act 2003 was not incompatible with Article 10 of the European Convention of Human Rights. In EHCR's judgment, the court balanced:

[T]he right to impart information and ideas of general interest which the public is entitled to receive, with, on the other hand, the authorities' desire to protect the democratic debate and process from distortion by powerful financial groups with advantageous access to influential media.
The court found that because ADI had access to alternative media, such as radio and television discussion programs of a political nature and print advertisements, the ban did not amount to a disproportionate interference with ADI's right to freedom of expression. In response to the ruling, ADI stated that it was "a profoundly sad day for democracy" [press release] and that it deserved the right to refute companies' advertising campaigns.

In November the ECHR upheld [JURIST report] a German injunction preventing the activist group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) [advocacy website] from using Holocaust [USHMM backgrounder] images in an animal rights poster campaign. The campaign featured pictures of Holocaust victims alongside images of animals kept in mass stocks. PETA argued that the use of the images was governed by article 10. Under article 10 debates concerning public interest, such as animal rights, are afforded particular protection. The ECHR rejected PETA's argument, upholding the decision of a German court to bar use of the images in the campaign. In 2010 the US Supreme Court [official website] ruled [JURIST report] 8-1 in United States v. Stevens [Cornell LII backgrounder] that a federal law [18 USC § 48 text] banning depictions of animal cruelty violates the First Amendment [text] of the US Constitution.

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