UK's #Knifefree Chicken Boxes Called 'Offensive' and 'Racist' By Some

The Home Office in the U.K.'s latest attempt to tackle knife crime has been branded by some as "offensive" and "racist." On Wednesday, more than 321,000 #knifefree chicken boxes have been sent to more than 210 outlets in England and Wales.

We are rolling out our #KnifeFree chicken boxes in over 210 chicken shops in England and Wales, including Morley’s, Dixy Chicken and Chicken Cottage. They use real life stories to show people how they can go #KnifeFree.

— Home Office (@ukhomeoffice) August 14, 2019

The boxes, which will replace standard packaging in chains such as Morley's, Chicken Cottage and Dixy Chicken, are printed with real-life stories of people who have chosen to no longer carry a knife —and opted to pursue pastimes such as boxing or music instead — in an effort to dissuade young chicken-eaters from carrying the weapon.

The office's research shows 67% of chicken shop customers are aged 16 to 24, with participants in focus groups saying fast food outlets are one of their favourite places to meet friends.

The department has been criticized by opposition MPs over a scheme. Policing minister Kit Malthouse said on Wednesday that the 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."

As soon as #KnifeFree began trending on social media, many responded noting the stereotypical nature of the program. One user said, "Low key racism?where are the #knifefree cups at Starbucks?" Another tweeted, "Is this aimed at a certain ethnic group? #racismmuch?"

Putting to one side the very idea of knife-free chicken boxes for a moment, the messaging inside is problematic. Are we really limiting the aspirations of young (let’s be real black) people to boxers/musician/actors/basketball players? Why not academics/scientist/doctors instead?

— Tina Daheley (@TinaDaheley) August 15, 2019

Labour MP David Lammy also responded saying the government was merely stereotyping black people.

Is this some kind of joke?! Why have you chosen chicken shops? What's next, #KnifeFree watermelons?

— David Lammy (@DavidLammy) August 14, 2019

"The Home Office is using taxpayers' money to sponsor an age-old trope," he told the Guardian on Wednesday. "Boris Johnson has already called black people 'piccaninnies with watermelon smiles.'

He continued, "I know it might cost a bit more time, effort and money, but I would love it if you would announce a program of investment in our local communities instead of spending five minutes on a harmful gimmick."

The shadow home secretary Diane Abbott echoed this criticism of the government tweeting on Wednesday, "[The Home Office] would do better to invest in our communities not demonize them."

She offered an alternative method on Thursday:

Public health approach involves police working closely with schools, NHS, social services & the community. Also a lot of emphasis on offering young people alternative paths & mentoring. But you can’t mentor with a chicken box.

My piece for @MetroUK

— Diane Abbott MP (@HackneyAbbott) August 15, 2019

However, new Home Secretary Priti Patel defended the campaign, accusing Abbott of "playing politics with knife crime."

Both independent and branch-owned chicken shops will carry the new boxes, and many will also house digital screens highlighting the campaign, according to the BBC.

Knife crimes have been on the rise in England and Wales, and were at a record level last year. Police recorded almost 44,500 offenses involving knives or sharp weapons in 2018, up 6 percent on the year before.

"The volume of knife crime offenses has increased by 33 percent since the year ending March 2011," the Office for National Statistics said, the earliest year for which there is comparable data.

The #knifefree chicken boxes follow a series of Government announcements this month to tackle serious violence, including the recruitment of 20,000 new police officers and confirmation that all 43 police forces in England and Wales can use enhanced stop and search powers.

Fried Chicken
Crispy fried chicken breasts with spicy sauce and cole slaw from the Mobi Munch Ludo truck at South Point Arena on November 5, 2011 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Arun Nevader/FilmMagic)