Controversial campaign raises the baa


In what has become something of an annual January tradition, the Meat and Livestock Association’s advertisements promoting lamb are bound to cause controversy.

Since 2005, when former footballer Sam Kekovich labelled people who don’t eat lamb as ‘un-Australian’, the ads have been accused of sexism, racism, colonialism and even promoting violence against vegetarians.

Last year’s ad, starring SBS newsreader Li Lin Chin, prompted more than 700 complaints to the Advertising Standards Board.

Released in the lead-up to Australia Day, the advertising campaigns have also been caught up in the debate surrounding what many Indigenous Australians refer to as Invasion or Survival Day.

This year’s campaign is perhaps the most controversial yet.

You Never Lamb Alone presents a potted tongue-in-cheek representation of the history of Australia.

A group of Indigenous people on a beach welcome people from Holland, Britain, France, Germany, China, Italy, Greece, Serbia and New Zealand, mostly arriving by boat. Then they notice another vessel arriving – the ‘boat people’.

“Aren’t we all boat people?” celebrity cook Poh Ling Yeow asks to general assent.

The celebration is joined by another group, the ‘float people’ made up of people from the LGBTI community.

Some have hailed the ad as a brilliant satirical take on the traditional white history of Australia.

Writing in Mumbrella, Alex Hayes suggests the ad makes an important contribution to a national conversation.

“This two-and-a-half minutes of entertainment presents one of the most nuanced perspective around the Australia Day and immigration debates I’ve seen,” Hayes writes.

Others feel the ad is a cynical attempt to ignore the racism and violence of the past two centuries. In an opinion piece for NITV, Luke Pearson accuses the ad of reinforcing long-held stereotypes.

“I would give it a bonus point for accuracy if the meat the English gave to the Aboriginal people was poisoned with smallpox or strychnine, but I guess that would distract from the core purpose of these ads: getting people to confuse eating meat with being patriotic,” Pearson said.

The campaign excludes any mention of Australia Day. This has infuriated some conservative commentators, who have accused the MLA of political correctness and pandering to minorities.

The comments section of an article in the Daily Mail reflected this view.

“If they refuse to name the day as Australia Day, then I will refuse to eat the meat that they name as lamb. I for one am extremely offended by this pc stupidity,” wrote one reader.

Do you think the ad contributes to the conversation about what it means to be Australian?

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