I once wrote a blog post for my buddy JL in which I explained how mainstream media and advertising made me feel like an outsider as I grew up in Australia.
You can read that original post here, but the main message was that the perpetuation of eating animal flesh as normal was inextricably woven into other hegemonic themes such as sexual identity, male virility and body perfection. The media worked to make me feel like a failure or not the best ‘man’ I could be. That’s right, the name Fat Gay Vegan was created as a counter to these negative and damaging forces.
Fast forward four years since I penned that post and how have things changed in Australia?
Well, watch this recent television advert and spot how many ways I (or anybody) could be offended.
Many of my readers are of course vegan so the attempt to portray the vegan as the non-sporty person, cowering on the floor on their own, will be the part of the advert that confronts on first watch. I’m not sure how to begin unpacking the scene where the military use a flamethrower to set the vegan’s coffee table on fire. Is that violence as a comedic response to someone saying they don’t eat animals? I’m struggling to see the humour.
The vegan is also the only person not ‘Australian’ enough to be considered worthy of being airlifted back for the national celebration. That’s some straight up bullshit.
OK, so we have the vegan-shaming out of the way. Let me get some other things off my chest.
The most excruciatingly offensive and upsetting part of this advert is the appropriation of Indigenous terms and language to promote Australia Day.
For those of you who don’t know, Australia Day is ‘celebrated’ each year on January 26. The date remembers the 1788 arrival of the First Fleet of British ships at Port Jackson in what is modern day Sydney. This marked the beginning of the systemic brutalisation of the Indigenous people of the landmass that came to be known as Australia.
Not sure what I mean by brutalisation?
European forces took ‘ownership’ of an already populated land by poisoning, shooting, hanging, starving and massacring Aboriginal people who resisted (and many who didn’t). Women and children were raped and killed. Families were torn apart in the belief that Aboriginal children would never have a good life (or possibly as a deliberate genocide tool to force the ‘dying out’ of Aborigines). This forced removal of children from families came to be commonly referred to as The Stolen Generations and it is estimated that approximately 100,000 Aboriginal children were separated from their family unit. This happened officially until c. 1970.
So how does this all fit into the lamb advert you watched above?
The campaign to bring Australians back ‘home’ so they don’t miss out on eating dead animals on Australia Day is jokingly referred to as Operation Boomerang. Yes, that’s correct. A celebration of the arrival of murderous invaders that immeasurably altered the lives of generations of Indigenous people has been given the Indigenous name of a hunting and ceremonial weapon. A boomerang returns to the thrower, just like these Australian are returning home to eat lamb. Get it?!
Many Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians refer to Australia Day as Invasion Day and this ad campaign makes a mockery of the Aboriginal experience. It has completely disregarded Aboriginal perspectives, apart from stealing a term to serve its own message.
How many other ways can I take offence by watching this advert?
- to my eye, every Australian being ‘boomeranged’ back for Australia Day presents as white.
- there are no overweight people being brought ‘home’.
- sport is woven into the entire theme and the explicit link between eating meat, maleness and being Australian is undeniable. No women sportspeople were involved, because sexism is rampant in Australian culture and the contributions of women in sport is seen as negligible.
- the advert is racist in it’s portrayal of Japanese people as business experts wrapped up in ceremony. Did you see that goofy, white Australian ‘bloke’ not able to get his head around their kooky custom of bowing? He didn’t know when to stop! LOL. Quick, get him some lamb to eat.
- the militarisation of national identity is complete in this advert. The army/special ops are seen as enforcers of a narrow view of Australian identity. They will ‘rescue’ you if you are a white, sporty, lamb-eating man with a fit body… or a women who fits these characteristics but doesn’t rock the boat too much.
I often talk about the way in which multiple prejudices work together to perpetuate domineering and dominating forces.
This advert is almost comical in its outrageous attempt to paint a picture of what being Australian means. The advertisers are using anti-veganism, body shaming, racism/white-dominance, nationalism, sexism and military worship in order to sell a product that is violent at its core.
This is why we as vegans need to resist and challenge all forms of oppression. They are all connected and it is common for them to be used in tandem to perpetuate animal suffering, dominance, and privilege.
Extra note: it is somewhat heartening to learn that this advert has rapidly become the most complained about advert in the history of modern Australia.