Knife Free Chicken Shops

16 August 2019 | Jess Holder

In light of the drastic rise we’ve seen in knife crime in the past 12 months, the Home Office have stepped in with a new creative campaign as an attempt to tackle the violent crimes that have spread across the country like wildfire. And, boy oh boy, do people have a lot to say about it.

They plan to issue new packaging for chicken shops… stay with me, I’ll explain.

Soon more than 321,000 boxes used in chicken shops across England and Wales will feature warnings about the dangers of knife crime. Real life stories of those who decided to make a change and go knife free, that is.

Upon reading this I can imagine your first thought: "Chicken shops...really?!" It was certainly mine, anyway.

Did the Home Office really not learn anything from their 2013 ‘Go home or face arrest’ van campaign?! And it appears we’re not the only ones to be shocked by the Home Offices focus on chicken shops for the campaign. MP David Lammy immediately took to twitter to share his disgust “Is this some kind of joke?! Why have you chosen chicken shops? What’s next, #knifefree watermelons?” and it wasn’t long after that Music and Culture journalist, Nicolas Tyrell, labelled the campaign as ‘insensitive’ and ‘laced with racism’.

Despite the slurs about the campaign being racist, it seems that chicken shops were in fact targeted for a more specific reason than just a little racial stereotyping about current affairs. The problem of ‘chicken shop grooming’ was recently highlighted in written evidence submitted to the Youth Select Committee, in which criminal gangs are recruiting children to deal drugs with the offer of free food, making chicken shops the prime target for such a movement.

PR boss Paul Nezandonyi further backed the choice of targeting the particular fast food chains, he said “I'm black myself and people do say racist things about black people eating chicken but I think their intention is to target young people.” And, you know what, I can give him that. Chicken shops are a cheap and cheerful place for young people to socialise outside of school hours, why shouldn’t they take advantage of this to maximise the reach? 

Well, im glad we’ve cleared that one up. But people are still picking the campaign apart beyond all of this. A mother of three, from Streatham, has spoken out about her opposition to the boxes for another reason. She’s stressed concern over young children viewing such graphic content, after working hard to protect her children from such tragedies. Is it fair for a family to have to be shown such graphic content over dinner? Is it going to open up a lot of unwanted fears or questions? Or could it be a positive step to influencing children even from a young age?

Wherever you may stand on this, I think we can all agree, there needs to be a bigger step than just throwing together some #knifefree fast food packaging. It seems like a bit of a cop out to me. The focus needs to be on the bigger picture, with further education provided. But, until then, lets just hope these real life stories make people think twice when they’re tucking into their chicken and chips.