A BILLBOARD poster challenging the eating of meat which was put up opposite a butchers has led to increased sales for the shop.

Simmons in St John’s has had more customers buying its products since the message from a vegan charity appeared last week.

And the poster, in Hermitage Road, will be replaced by one promoting the butchers, courtesy of the advertising company which owns the hoarding.

The poster is part of a campaign by Viva, which promotes a meat-free lifestyle. It says the choice of the site in St John’s was not deliberate, and Simmons is not being targeted by protesters.

The shop was opened two years ago by Paul Simmons, who said: “We’ve had a significant number of new customers coming in and saying they think the poster is bullying and it’s completely wrong to put it there. It’s done wonders for us, to be honest.

“I haven’t personally got a problem with anything people eat and those who don’t eat meat. I’m confident that my meat comes from a quality source, and that the slaughterhouse we use is humane.”

The poster pictures a lamb, a piglet and a calf. It asks “When did you last kill an animal?” and adds “Probably at dinner time yesterday.”

Roisin McAuley, the head of communications at Viva, said a member from the Woking area had seen the poster in the Midlands earlier this year and inquired if it could be sited locally.

“We asked the advertising company if they had any billboards available,” she said. “There was a cancellation at St John’s so we took it for two weeks for our poster, which has been very successful elsewhere. It’s a complete coincidence that it’s opposite a butchers.

“The site wasn’t chosen by us and there is no intention to carry out any sort of campaign against the butcher.”

Mr Simmons said he had asked the billboard owner, JC Decaux, why the Viva poster was put up on the site.

“They were a bit embarrassed and are going to replace it when it expires with one advertising my shop,” he said. “They are working on a design and slogan, which could be something like ‘Nice to meat you’.”

His poster could be one of the last to be sited on the plot of land. It was sold at auction on Tuesday last week – offered with development potential – for £90,000.