Cannabidiol (CBD) is the second most common ingredient of cannabis. While eminently healthful, it doesn’t get you high. A company that makes CBD oil has used the name and image of famed documentarian Sir David Attenborough, 94, to hawk its wares without securing his permission.

A company that makes CBD oil used the name of David Attenborough to promote its products despite not having his permission. Photo: Steve Bowbrick

A company that makes CBD oil used the name of David Attenborough to promote its products despite not having his permission. Photo: Steve Bowbrick

Sir David was “appalled” and “furious”

Sir David first came to hear of the matter from a fan who had purchased CBD oil from the company’s Facebook page and been overcharged; she groused that she had been “misled by the adverts.” Sir David supposedly invented the product himself. The company claimed that he had remarked that he “wouldn’t be here” without this CBD oil. He was left “appalled” and “furious”.

Lotsa false quotes

Via the Daily Mirror, Sir David’s spokesman declared, “These are not genuine endorsements, and Sir David has had no involvement whatsoever with these products.” To make matters worse, the company also used Facebook to link to an article on www.medium.com that contained quotes falsely attributed to Sir David. It alleged that he was going to “put his career on hold to pursue him [sic] CBD line”. There were also false quotes for esteemed actresses Dame Helen Mirren and Judi Dench, comedy actor Rowan Atkinson and pop star Ed Sheeran. The English of the article is dreadful, so it was clearly the work of someone who either wasn’t a native English speaker or just didn’t put much effort into it.

He doesn’t even have a Facebook account

Sir David’s spokesman added that he has no Facebook account, although “there are many false accounts on Facebook claiming to be his.” The spokesman mentioned that the affair was the subject of a report to Facebook, and Sir David encouraged anyone who sees “these fraudulent adverts” to also report them to Facebook. Per the spokesman, Sir David only permits use of his image to promote his books and TV programmes, like the series Planet Earth and Blue Planet, two of his most recent works. There is still some work to be done: if you put “David Attenborough” and “CBD” into your search engine, several such pieces of bullshit appear on the first page of results.

More of the same

This isn’t the first time a CBD company used a false celebrity endorsement. In February 2020, big-name actor Tom Hanks was abused in this fashion, leading him to tweet, “Come on, man!” Pop star Alicia Keys was also struck. On this side of the pond and at the other end of the celebrity scale, one-time This Morning presenter Fern Britton tweeted that she doesn’t represent any CBD companies after hearing that one was using her likeness. Mary Berry, formerly a judge on The Great British Bake Off, made the same complaint.

In July 2020, Dirty Harry actor Clint Eastwood took legal action against 20 CBD companies for using his name and inventing quotes by him. It looks like the same people are at it again: endorsements by both Sir David and Eastwood included the line “Big Pharma in Outrage”.

Last month, Sir David was targeted by the pressure group Extinction Rebellion after he criticised some of its tactics.

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