The poster ads, which went on display around London two days ago, featured a picture of a cow together with the caption: ‘They eat grass so you don’t have to'. Another read: ‘You always remember the time you gave up being vegetarian’, with a third depicting one of their burgers, with the caption ‘Vegetarians, resistance is futile’.
In a statement GBK said the ads had been created with 'light-hearted intentions' but after receiving complaints had decided to pull them to avoid further offence.
"We've been serving beef as a core part of our menu for the last 15 years and whist we’re carnivores at heart, we have an extensive range of vegetarian options available," it said. "We value our vegetarian customers and their views, and have therefore made the decision to remove three out of our five ads."
The Vegan Society said the ad campaign had 'backfired tremendously' after so many people had taken to Twitter to express their outrage with the parody #gourmetmurderkitchen hashtag trending.
Jasmijn de Boo, CEO of The Vegan Society, said GBK had seemingly been unaware of the 'size and strength of the vegan community'.
“GBK has shown itself to be totally out of touch," she said. "These outdated and highly offensive ads were completely misjudged and smacked of both naivety and ignorance. Were they not aware of the growth of the vegan movement?
"If they wanted to bring in new custom to boost a slow January, they ought to have embraced Veganuary rather than alienate a growing section of society and offered some more vegan options. That's what their competitors, Handmade Burger Co, have done this month with enormous success."
GBK offers several vegetarian options on its menus, including veggie burgers and falafel. Within a number of Tweets sent out today, it said that would continue to welcome vegetarian customers.
4. While we've served beef at the core of our menu since 2001, we've always catered well to the veggies out there, & always will.— GourmetBurgerKitchen (@gbkburgers) January 18, 2016