Use of animals in ads gives wrong public perceptions

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Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM) is totally opposed to the use of animals by advertisers for the promotion of various brands of products.

Companies and businesses producing their products have mastered the use of animals in their adverts as a way to get people’s attention. This attraction to animals has been exploited by marketing officials to entice consumers to purchase the products/services they are promoting.

From primates, fish, birds to tortoise - they have been used as common marketing tools because portraying animals with anthropomorphic behaviours were found to be effective in product sales.

Likewise, the presence of animals in advertisements places the persuasion process in motion and lessens consumers’ resistance. Animal mannerisms can also reflect the characteristics of the product/service, as well as imply human personality traits.

SAM is duly concerned about the usage of animals to create eye-catching ads - especially where animal welfare is concerned; whether they are treated humanely with the respect and compassion they deserve, where the animals are sourced from, and what happens after the filming of the commercials.

Ethical considerations

Are all these ethical considerations and reviews taken into account by the marketers to ensure that a high level of care, safety and well-being are provided to all animals used?

A goldfish in a glass bowl; children surrounding a tiger cub which was later seen running off; a tortoise pacing across the road only to have a car braking within inches of it; and apes featured with clownish facial expressions in a communication advertisement.

For instance, such ads are giving wrong and cruel perceptions to the public - and particularly children - that it is alright to keep a goldfish in a bowl.

Goldfish need a lot of oxygen, and in a bowl they are often seen gasping for air at the surface - often mistaken for begging for food. Due to the lack of surface area, the water in a bowl can easily become de-oxygenated, thus causing the fish to gasp for air at the surface. This is no way to keep a fish.

Meanwhile, a tiger cub surrounded by a large number of children may feel threatened, giving the wrong impression that vulnerable animals can be used according to one’s whims and fancies.

Furthermoe, in the case of the tortoise crossing a road at a snail’s pace, what message is the advertiser trying to convey, and how many tortoises have possibly been killed in that ad? That it is alright to drive at breakneck speed regardless of animals crossing the road?

How many drivers bother to break in time to spare the life of an innocent creature? At a time when roadkills are occurring throughout the country’s highways and roads, this car advert does not seem to show any sense of responsibility towards our country’s wildlife.

On another note, the portrayal of apes and animals in the media seriously hinders conservation efforts and increases the demand for animals as pets - despite the danger such ownership poses to both human and animal safety.

The animal trade is horrid, and many animals suffer in homes because of it.

How many exotics have ended up in zoos just because of public demand, lured by animal cartoons and real life animals only to find that they can no longer manage them, or have outgrown their fetish for them at a later stage?

Hence, SAM urges advertising professionals and all those involved in the process of commissioning and disseminating advertising to eliminate its use of animals. Animals are not tools to be exploited, dramatised and create an impression that is simply not true.

SM MOHAMED IDRIS is president, Sahabat Alam Malaysia (SAM).

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