Kiwis bleedin' furious

05 July 2018 | Aaron Wise

Normally, when we look at PR campaigns and stunts in these blog posts we can sum up whether they are bad, as was the case in Jo’s blog yesterday on Samsung’s misfiring shenanigans, or good, like in Lloyd’s recent post on Paddy Power raising money for LGBT rights at the World Cup.

But, not very often, we stumble across a campaign that has caused a split opinion, with some condemning it and some praising it.

There’s a fine line between love and hate and I think this controversial campaign has struck the perfect balance…

It all started well, very well in fact. Air New Zealand, which is known for its effective PR campaigns, recently announced it was to serve the ‘Impossible Burger’ on its flights to the USA.

The ‘bleeding’ vegan burger, which is made from synthetic meat using wheat, coconut oil, potatoes and heme (ahem, yeah, whatever that is), uses 95% less land and creates 87% less greenhouse gas emissions compared to cows, according to the company's website.

Brilliant right? You can save the animals and the environment all whilst chowing down on a burger that bleeds and tastes just like beef…but isn’t! I’m sure veggies, vegans and environmental activists are praising Air New Zealand for creating the Impossible Burger.

But, truth is, if you’re a native Kiwi, you’re probably not a fan. It’s no secret New Zealand’s economy is built on the dairy and meat industries. In fact, it’s how many New Zealanders make their livelihood.

So, it wasn’t long before this innovative plant-based burger was heavily criticised by Kiwi MPs and even the acting Prime Minister Winston Peters, as being an ‘existential threat’ to the nation’s beef industry.

The decision to serve the burger, which was created by American company Impossible and offered to business-class passengers on the airline's Los Angeles to Auckland route, was described as a ‘slap in the face’ to the country's $6bn red meat sector.

The rapid rise of veganism and improvement in environmental awareness would make most applaud an international brand offering a ‘cleaner’ alternative to beef, but when the nation’s government ‘utterly oppose the fake meat’ in fear of a detrimental knock-on effect to its exports, it makes you stop and wonder if it really is a good idea, especially in today’s fragile economic times.

I’m a meat eater but like to consider myself a bit of an animal rights activist and an environmentalist, while I also have friends who work on farms for a living, so I can see both sides of the story here.

As I’m writing this, we’re debating in the office whether a vegan would want to even eat a burger that bleeds and tastes of meat anyway…which just shows how potentially divisive this campaign is.

Overall, I think this is a bold, innovative campaign by Air New Zealand and it’s certainly got people talking. But because it’s been carried out by an airline that serves a nation dependent of meat exports, it’s probably unsurprising it’s not getting much love back home.

I suppose that’s the good thing about being an international airline though, you can just fly away from your problems when the going gets tough!