A government-backed campaign to stamp out spiraling rates of knife crime through the medium of fried chicken boxes has sparked a backlash from MPs.
The fast-food packaging takeover began life in Brixton earlier this year when diners were served a side order directly from the Home Office instructing them to go #knifefree. Since then, the campaign has been extended to over 200 individual chicken shops.
Over 320,000 striking all-black boxes have been imprinted with real-life stories of young people who have chosen to pursue positive activities rather than carry a knife.
However, some MPs have been left angered and bemused by the marketing approach. Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott said: “Instead of investing in a public health approach to violent crime, the Home Office has opted for yet another crude, offensive and probably expensive campaign. They would do better to invest in our communities not demonise them.”
Labour MP David Lammy also said: “The Home Office is using taxpayers’ money to sponsor an age-old trope. Boris Johnson has already called black people ‘piccaninnies with watermelon smiles’.
“Now his government is pushing the stereotype that black people love fried chicken. This ridiculous stunt is either explicitly racist or, at best, unfathomably stupid.
“I know it might cost a bit more time, effort and money, but I would love it if you would announce a programme of investment in our local communities instead of spending five minutes on a harmful gimmick.”
However, policing Minister Kit Malthouse defended the campaign: "These chicken boxes will bring home to thousands of young people the tragic consequences of carrying a knife and challenge the idea that it makes you safer.
"The Government is doing everything it can to tackle the senseless violence that is traumatising communities and claiming too many young lives, including bolstering the police's ranks with 20,000 new police officers on our streets."
The Home Office has long sought to discourage knife crime through advertising, having first launched its #knifefree campaign last year in order to relay the real-life experiences of those who carry the weapons.