Why Is Toronto Transit Blocking All PETA Ads?

Legal Counsel Demands Explanation for Longtime Refusal to Display Ads That Urge Commuters to Skip Meat and Dump Canada Goose

For Immediate Release:
May 23, 2018

Audrey Shircliff 202-483-7382

Toronto – Pattison Outdoor, which sells ad space on behalf of the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC), has repeatedly refused to respond to any of PETA’s inquiries about running ads within the Toronto transit system—so today, PETA’s legal counsel sent a letter demanding an explanation.

The letter notes that all the ads proposed by PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to eat, wear, or abuse in any other way”—comply with Canadian advertising standards, so as a public transit agency, the TTC can’t lawfully refuse to display them. These ads include one that shows a chicken’s face next to the words “I’m ME, Not MEAT” and another that shows a horrified goose wearing a Canada Goose–like jacket below the words “Horrific Animal Abuse: Are You Really Down With That?”

“There’s no excuse for rejecting ads that alert commuters to the agony of chickens whose throats are slit for nuggets and geese who are suffocated for Canada Goose’s coats,” says PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman. “This blanket refusal even to respond to PETA’s inquiries violates our right to free expression, and we’re prepared to take the issue to court if necessary.”

For more information, please visit PETA.org.

The letter from PETA’s legal counsel follows.

23 May 2018

Pattison Outdoor

Toronto Transit Commission

Legal Department
1900 Yonge Street

Toronto, ON,  M4S 1Z2

Re:      Refusal by Pattison Outdoor and/or the Toronto Transit Commission to display advertisements from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

Dear Sirs/Mesdames:

We are counsel to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (“PETA”).

We write in regards to the apparent refusal by Pattison Outdoor (“Pattison”) and/or the Toronto Transit Commission (“TCC”) to display advertisements proposed by PETA. PETA has on multiple occasions emailed proposed advertisements to Pattison at the designated email address for advertising on the TTC, being [email protected]. PETA has received no response to its inquiries.

For example, on March 23, 2018, Matt Freeman, Senior Media Placement Coordinator for PETA, sent a proposed advertisement to the designated email address, and stated: “We’d like to pay to run the below ad within the Toronto Transit System ASAP.” Having received no response, on March 28, 2018, Mr. Freeman sent a follow up email.

On March 29, 2018, Mr. Freeman sent four more proposed advertisements to the designated email address, and stated: “I am submitting these ads to run on Toronto Transit.” To date, no response has been received to any of Mr. Freeman’s email inquiries. The relevant emails from Mr. Freeman, along with the proposed advertisements, are appended to this letter as Schedule “A”.

Given that no response has been received to PETA’s inquiries, we do not know with certainty whether it is only Pattison that has determined not to display PETA’s advertisements, or whether both Pattison and the TTC have made this determination. However, given that section 6.1 of the Advertising on TTC Property Policy (the “Policy”) provides that if, in Pattison’s opinion, a proposed advertisement does not comply with the relevant guidelines in the Policy, then Pattison “shall” forward the proposed advertisement to TTC staff for review, at present we assume that both Pattison and the TTC have determined not to display PETA’s proposed advertisements.

As you know, section 3.0 of the Policy specifically notes that, as a public transit agency, the TTC is subject to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as a result of a 2009 Supreme Court of Canada ruling. We presume this is a reference to Greater Vancouver Transportation Authority v Canadian Federation of Students – British Columbia Component, 2009 SCC 31.

In our view, all of the advertisements proposed by PETA comply with the Policy and the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards (the “ASC Code”). Further, and irrespective of whether the proposed advertisements comply with the Policy and/or the ASC Code, in our view existing law concerning the right to free expression set out in section 2(b) of the Charter directs that Pattison and the TTC cannot lawfully refuse to display the advertisements that have been proposed by PETA. That is, in our view, the apparent refusal by Pattison and the TTC to display the advertisements that have been proposed by PETA unreasonably violates PETA’s right to free expression under section 2(b) of the Charter.

Accordingly, we request that you respond to the undersigned at your earliest convenience, and in any event by no later than June 1, 2018, to explain the apparent refusal to display the proposed advertisements. Based on that response, or if we do not receive any response, we may determine to challenge this refusal in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice.



Arden Beddoes


For Media: Contact PETA's
Media Response Team.


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 Ingrid E. Newkirk

“Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights?” READ MORE

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind