A gourmet biscuit manufacturer in New South Wales has received significant social media backlash after seeking halal certification for its products.
Byron Bay Cookies, which turns over around $13 million a year, recently received a barrage of angry comments on its Facebook page for producing halal-certified Anzac biscuits.
One Facebook commentator lashed out at the business, saying: “What a disgrace. Halal certified Anzac biscuits?!! Seriously how disrespectful!!!” Another person wrote: “Shame on you. Don’t insult our boys by sending Halal certified Anzac biscuits overseas.”
However, other customers defended Byron Bay Cookies, with one person saying they were going to purchase more products in order to show their support for the business.
“I’m going to buy some extra cookies from you today in support of your decision to get Halal certification on your cookies,” one person wrote. “Mostly, I am disgusted by the racists crawling all over your page and trying to intimidate you. Keep up the good work!”
Another person wrote: “I can’t think of anything more ‘Australian’ than Halal Anzac Cookies. What an amazing way to show how respectful, multicultural and tolerant Australia really is.”
SmartCompany contacted Byron Bay Cookies this morning. However, the business did not want to comment and is seeking legal advice. It is understood the business has come under fire from a small but well-orchestrated anti-halal campaign for the past six to eight months.
A Facebook page called Boycott Halal in Australia, which has called for people to boycott Byron Bay Cookies, has more than 18,000 likes. It is understood a range of other businesses and products have also come under fire from the anti-halal group, including Cadbury chocolate and Coopers beer.
John Swinson, partner at King & Wood Mallesons, told SmartCompany in certain circumstances businesses can be liable for posts on their social media accounts made by other people.
“A social media account used for commercial purposes is regarded as advertising and marketing,” he says.
“So all the laws concerning advertising and marketing apply. If you’re aware of a post that is misleading or deceptive about your product and you leave it there, then you’re potentially liable. As a result of this a lot of large organisations are constantly monitoring their site, and not just for things that are offensive.”
In regards to the comments on Byron Bay Cookies’ Facebook page, Swinson says it was difficult to say whether the business would be liable because the comments looked “more along the lines of political speech than commercial speech”.
“The average person looking at the Facebook site would be unlikely to consider it to be Byron Bay Cookies speaking in this circumstance or endorsing this,” he says.
“An option for Byron Bay Cookies is not to remove the posts for evidentiary purposes, but to post a reply saying they do not discriminate on the basis of race or religion.”
Halal is food that is appropriate for Muslims to eat. Food that is not halal includes pork and animals that have not been slaughtered in the correct manner. To gain halal certification in Australia, businesses have to be inspected by and pay a fee to an endorsed body such as the Islamic Co-ordinating Council of Victoria.