Guidelines for Advertising

Guidelines for Advertising

While advertising plays an important economic and informative role, it can also be harmful if it distracts or dissuades consumers from engaging in sustainable and compassionate practices. Advertisers can be more socially and ecologically responsible if they:

  • Avoid “humane-washing,” i.e. misleading consumers about a company’s animal welfare policies, misrepresenting the extent to which it supports animal protection (such as concealing animal testing practices). If any animal welfare claims are made, be specific about which animals are benefited and how, in context (or proportion) to what business practices could be changed to create a truly cruelty-free product or service (where nothing is taken from an animal).
  • Avoid “greenwashing,” i.e. implying environmental benefits where few or none exist or exaggerating benefits of a company or product in order to jump on the bandwagon of sustainability. Keep green marketing claims in context to their actual level of costs vs. benefits to planetary health, understanding what could still be improved for the product to be fully sustainable from cradle to grave.
  • Have human characters in advertisements model sustainability, responsibility, respectfulness, and compassion (for all species). Even in sales messages, consider how it is possible to avoid suggesting that people need to consume new items more so than conserve (reduce, reuse, recycle).
  • In order to create a culture that identifies with helping others (including other species), try to incorporate charitable/altruistic appeals rather than primarily focusing on appeals to individual self-interest.[1]
  • If using nonhuman animals to associate a trait with a brand or product, consider the effect to the species in the real world to minimize harm. As traits and personalities can vary among individuals within a species, avoid stereotyping a species or simplistically reducing them to just annoying or disgusting pests, cunning threats, rugged warriors, majestic nobles, beautiful exotics, comic jesters, cutesy playthings, objects of prey, or tools for human use.
  • Avoid using wild animals (such as captive, trained animals) as performers, and instead use digital technology to represent them. Actors (of any species) should be participating of their own free will.[2]
  • Be cautious about portraying endangered species, as studies have shown that audiences tend to get the impression that a species is abundant and healthy the more they see them visually represented in the media.[3]
  • Avoid gendered messages that associate idealized masculinity (culturally and biologically) with animal use or abuse (ex: meat-eating, hunting, domineering over domesticated animals). Compassion and ecological responsibility should be gender-neutral traits.
  • Avoid sexualizing animals or using them as symbolic stand-ins for human sexual attributes (ex: equating chicken breasts with human female breasts).
  • Use language that acknowledges that animals are sentient individuals not objects. Refer to them as “he/she/them” not “it,” “who” not “that,” and “someone” not “something.” (For more on this, see Selecting Appropriate Terminology in the Journalism section)


[1] See the social benefits of altruistic or intrinsic appeals in the reports of Tom Crompton in his Common Cause project:

[2] Apes in media and commercial performances. Association of Zoos & Aquariums.

[3] Ross, S. R., Vreeman, V. M., & Lonsdorf, E. V. (2011). Specific image characteristics influence conservation and use as pets. PLOS ONE.

[4] Schroepfer, K. K., Rosati, A. G., Chartrand, T., & Hare, B. (2011). Use of ‘entertainment’ chimpanzees in commercials distorts public perception regarding their conservation status. PLOS ONE.


 For citation purposes, this page was last updated August 2014