ANIMAL RIGHTS activists have been slapped down by the Advertising Standards Authority for 'misleading' posters claiming that wool was 'as cruel as fur'.

The adverts, funded by pressure group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and displayed on buses seen around Glasgow in February of this year, read 'Don't let them pull the wool over your eyes. Wool is just as cruel as fur. Go wool-free this winter'.

Following 10 individual complaints from the public, the ASA investigated the PETA campaign and has now banned it from repeating the ads, ruling that their central claim about wool production was untrue because sheep 'were not killed for their wool as animals were in the fur industry'.

The authority also highlighted Government animal welfare guidance recommending that mature sheep should be shorn at least once a year by 'experienced and competent shearers' who take care not to cut the animals’ skin.

While it is now obliged to comply with the ASA ruling, PETA made it plain that its future campaigning would continue to target wool, but would be amended to say that its production involved cruelty to sheep.

In particular, the activists maintained that heavy fleeces were a result of 'genetic abnormalities' bred into sheep, and that wild sheep naturally shed their wool and therefore did not need regular shearing.

The charity also cited the 'numerous abuses against wool sheep' it had recorded around the world, including alleged fatalities and injuries due to rough handling by shearers. PETA director Elisa Allen said: “The general public now understands that the fur industry is cruel to animals in a variety of ways, including, but not limited to, gratuitous violence by industry workers, genetically manipulating animals in ways that cause them distress, leaving them to suffer from horrific wounds, and slaughtering them for human gain – and all this suffering has been documented in the wool trade, too.”

The National Sheep Association welcomed the ASA action, and said that PETA had been 'propagating the lie' that wool is cruelly obtained from sheep.

NSA chief executive Phil Stocker said: "The simple undeniable fact is that removing wool from sheep is necessary for their health and welfare. It does not harm them, and it does not exploit them. Wool is a by-product of their existence.”

Following widely-publicised reports of cruelty during shearing last year, NSA joined with several other industry bodies to create a clear set of guidelines for farmers and shearing contractors to follow to ensure they shear to the highest standard possible. NSA has also been a part of industry efforts to contradict misleading information about wool, including suggestions that wool is obtained by killing and skinning the animals, often represented visually by photographic mock-ups of dead bloodied lambs.

Mr Stocker insisted: “British wool is a wonderful resource with highly valuable properties. It is sustainable, renewable, and natural, and is also a stable store of carbon. The real scandal is that organisations such as PETA are dressing up synthetic alternatives as being better, and nothing could be further from the truth. It’s right that PETA has been called out for suggesting that UK farmers obtain wool cruelly and it is about time they realised that removing wool is in the sheep’s interests.”