Billboards promoting the message that 'Dairy is Scary' were put up in New Brunswick last week and Tuesday in Nova Scotia. The group behind them says the goal isn't to insult farmers, but to encourage a vegan lifestyle.
As a third-generation farmer, Veronica Vermeulen says the priority on her farm is always the cows.
That's why she says it's discouraging to see the billboards.
“It's really a misrepresentation of our character,” said Vermeulen. “It's not who we are as farmers, it's not who we are as people and, in a lot of ways, it feels like it's not fair.”
The billboards are being put up by the Vegan Education Group.
“Our purpose is to raise awareness about the inherent cruelty and injustice done to dairy cows and their babies so that people can drink their milk,” said Bill Wilson, who’s with theVegan Education Group in New Brunswick.
The billboards are based off a viral video by Erin Janus.
“I designed the video to raise awareness about common, standard practices in the dairy industry,” Janus said. “While that video contains many cases of animal abuse that were found from undercover organizations.”
The owner of Real Fake Meats -- a vegan restaurant in Halifax -- says the billboards are good advertising for the vegan food industry.
“This type of advertising is a little aggressive for some people, but, I think it puts an important message out there and gets people to understand the truth behind their food,” said Lauren Marshall of Real Fake Meats.
In fact, Marshall believes more people will be going vegan in the future.
“Once people educate themselves a little bit more about plant-based eating and the future of the world and how much we care about our animals and not just our dogs or our cats, I think we'll have a little bit better of an understanding,” said Marshall.
Sylvain Charlebois, a professor at Dalhousie University, isn't sure the billboards will get the reaction the group is hoping for.
“Honestly, I felt confused when I saw the ads, because, I don't understand what the objective is here,” Charlebois said. “There is momentum for them, there's more attention given to veganism, more so than ever before. Veganism is, to a certain extent, socially normalized now, and so they have the attention of the world. Why insult farmers and why dictate what is good and bad?"
The group behind the ads says it isn't against farmers.
“We understand we need farmers,” Wilson said. “We want government to redirect animal agriculture subsidies and financial help to plant-based farming and to help farmers transition to sustainable plant-based agriculture.”
As for Vermeulen, she encourages people to visit a farm to see first-hand what happens.
“There's so many open-farm days and so many farmers that have an open door on their farm all the time and the best way to make up your mind, is to go to a farm and see it for yourself and decide for yourself what you believe or what you wanna do,” Vermeulen said. “Don't believe me, don't believe the billboard.”
In addition to the billboards in both New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, the Vegan Education Group says there will also be some bus ads put in place across New Brunswick.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Natasha Pace.