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Vegans Are Pissed at This Meat Ad for Torching Kale

A new video advert from Meat & Livestock Australia features a bowl of kale being torched by a flame-thrower-wielding SWAT team—and the vegans aren’t happy.
Phoebe Hurst
London, GB

As our antipodean cousins will know, Australia Day is just around the corner. Celebrated on January 26, the sometimes controversial holiday commemorates the arrival of the first Europeans to Australia.

Colonial history aside, for many Aussies, 'Straya Day is a time to load the Esky with tinnies, fire up the Weber, throw down some steaks, and enjoy a day of backyard barbecuing.

It follows, then, that Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) would go for a barbecue-centric advert as part of its yearly, Australia Day campaign to get Australians eating more lamb.

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Taking the form of an action movie-style video, the ad sees a SWAT team "saving stranded Aussies" abroad from missing out on Australia Day barbecues.

Employing cultural stereotypes and playing up patriotism to market food? Nothing new there—but the ad soon takes a more unusual turn.

The SWAT team is seen smashing into the home of an Australian living in New York, telling him: "C'mon mate, in a few hours you'll be eating lamb on the beach." The Aussie expat protests that he is "a vegan now" but to no avail—a following scene shows the SWAT officer taking a flame-thrower to his bowl of kale.

Unsurprisingly, this torching of a much-loved Brassica didn't go down well with the vegan community. Australia's Advertising Standards Bureau (ABS) says it has received about 250 complaints, mostly from vegans.

Despite this outcry, the vegan-bashing ad may not technically breach advertising rules. Fiona Jolly from ABS told Australia's ABC: "What we have to do is look at complaints against the Advertiser Code of Ethics, and the Code of Ethics doesn't really have lifestyle choice or eating preferences as an issue that we will look at as being discriminatory or vilifying."

However, Jolly did say that the board would be reviewing MLA's use of a flame thrower in its ad which, as an act of violence, has "no place" in food advertising.

She explained: "Ads cannot contain violence unless it's relevant to the service or the product being advertised. Most complaints that we get about violence concern things such as ads for horror movies or violent computer games, and for those type of products, showing some violence from games is relevant, and so generally those type of ads won't be banned. But there is no place for violence in an ad unless it's relevant to the product, so what the board has to look at is the part of the ad complained about—is it actually violent?"

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If ABS finds that MLA's ad has breached these rules, it could be edited or even pulled.

Despite the plant-based outrage, MLA maintains that the video is "tongue in cheek." In a statement, marketing director Andrew Howie said: "Consumers are free to make up their own minds in relation to lifestyle choices, including what they eat. We appreciate that not all Australians eat lamb."

The ABS is also reviewing complaints that the MLA campaign may discriminate against indigenous Australians due to its slogan "Operation Boomerang," which refers to a traditional hunting tool. The organisation responded that it is "not our intention to cause any offence through the use of this term which is used to symbolise Australians returning home for Australia Day."

None of this would have happened if we'd all just stuck to the fairy bread.