Ospri stands by disputed possum facts in ad

By Andrew Stone

Ospri claimed possums were responsible for around half of new TB infections in cattle and deer herds. Photo / Getty Images
Ospri claimed possums were responsible for around half of new TB infections in cattle and deer herds. Photo / Getty Images

A company which gets millions in public funds to eradicate tuberculosis says it stands by a nationwide advertisement found to have breached the advertising industry's code of ethics.

The Advertising Standards Appeal Board this week ruled that a claim made by Ospri, a private company fighting the disease, that possums were responsible for around half of new TB infections in cattle and deer herds "was not supported by the evidence".

The board said Ospri had not produced material to back up its claim, and ruled the ad breached the industry code of ethics requiring truthful presentation and social responsibility.

Ospri said yesterday that "we stand by this statement on the basis of the sound science published on disease-carrying wildlife species".

The company said while it could have provided more detailed scientific evidence in the advertising and in its response to the appeal board, "often communicating this technical detail dilutes the messages intended.

We will amend this approach for future validation of fact where references to literature and other published works may be provided in the communication."

Wairarapa environmentalist Bill Benfield, who complained about the Ospri ad as being "false and misleading", said the company was arrogant.

"They hide behind this 'sound science shield' without telling us what it is because we will not understand," Benfield said.

In a statement, Ospri said independent studies and work by its vets had "established that approximately 44 per cent of bovine TB infections are considered to be a consequence of infection by wildlife." Possums, the company said, were the main disease carrier.

It also noted that the TBfree programme, designed to eradicate the disease by 2050, had the backing of industry, government and farmers.

Benfield said Ospri put out a lot of a of "plain spin encrusted with big words designed to confuse." He also suggested the goal of total eradication was an "impossible dream."

"Total eradication is a job forever -- and that I think is their purpose," he said.

- NZ Herald

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