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“We were stuck between a rock and hard place”: Dairy manufacturer drops halal certification after social media backlash

Kirsten Robb /

A South Australian dairy manufacturer has been forced to drop its halal certification and a major deal with Emirates Airlines after it copped abuse on its Facebook page.

The decision comes in the wake of a series of businesses targeted on social media for their halal products.

The Fleurieu Milk and Yoghurt Company was forced to respond to a flood of criticism on its Facebook page over its halal certification, including the suggestion the fee it paid to become halal-certified was being used to fund terrorism.

Sales and marketing manager Nick Hutchinson told SmartCompany the decision was not made lightly.

“It got to the stage where I was trying to delete [abusive] comments and I couldn’t delete them as quick as they were coming in,” says Hutchinson.

Hutchinson says Fleurieu has since removed the page because of the “worldwide war” being played out on the timeline.

He says Fleurieu Milk and Yoghurt Company’s products are naturally halal and the company only paid for a halal certification because it was required by their supplier deal with Emirates.

Hutchinson says Fleurieu made the decision Friday to axe the certification after weighing up the revenue it earned from the Emirates deal compared to the online backlash.

“We decided we didn’t think the Emirates deal was worthwhile,” he says.

“We’re a very small South Australian company with a strong local following, but then we started to get calls from our loyal supporters.”

Hutchinson says he felt some of these supporters had been “brainwashed” by the anti-halal movement.

But Fleurieu has since faced a backlash from halal supporters and its own farmers for bowing to the pressure of the social media campaign.

“The farmers were extremely angry, they feel like they’ve been bullied into making the decision,” he says.

“It feels like we’re stuck between a rock and a hard place.”

Hutchinson says accusations of racism have since been levelled at Fleurieu.

“There’s people who think we’re making a stand against halal, and we are not, that’s not why we’ve done it.”

He says the company is now working with Emirates to see if they can continue the deal without a certification.

“If they come around, then nothing has changed, we haven’t lost any business.”

“We were open and honest the whole way because we thought it was the right thing to do. We just hope people support us for the company we are. We are not supporting terrorism; we are not supporting racism… We are just trying to sell our products.”

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Kirsten Robb

Kirsten Robb is a former journalist at SmartCompany. Previously, she worked at News Corp as a property reporter for Leader Newspapers and the Herald Sun, and holds a Masters of Journalism at Melbourne University.

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