Veganism, Masculinity and Aussie Culture: The Australia Day Lamb Ad

cute lamb

I’ve been wanting to put my thoughts down about the latest lamb ad filthying up our screens at the moment, but when I saw my old friend James say everything I wanted and more on Facebook  I decided he needed to do a guest post stat! I’ll get to his thoughts in a minute but first….

Some background of the Australia Day campaigns

Each Australia Day Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA) spends big marketing dollars to convince Australians they need to eat lamb on Australia Day. In fact, they want Australians to think they’re ‘Un-Australian’ if they don’t consume baby lambs at least once a year on this day.

Their previous ‘lambassador’ Sam Kekovich clearly hasn’t been doing them any favours – lamb consumption has decreased every year since he has been their spokesman. Their 2016 ad, which cost $1.2 million to make (yep!), replaces Sam with the charismatic Lee Lin Chin.

As they no doubt planned, the ad has received a lot of media attention. Some for appropriating an Indigenous term to celebrate the arrival of European settlers and some for the growing number of complaints for the treatment of vegans in the ad. See for yourself below.

The Aussie Male Perspective

James went vegetarian in 2011 and vegan in 2015. We previously worked together as young school goers at… KFC. Yep… you read that right.

Vegan reaction to Australia Day lamb ad

“My masculinity has been called in to question many times because I bring soy sausages to BBQs”

Most of us share an inbuilt compassion for other living things; if we saw someone beating a dog or a cat in the street, most of us would intervene and be upset by this behaviour. So why then do we accept and even celebrate far greater injustices being committed on animals as part of our ‘Aussie culture?’

Australia Day is that special time of year where every vegan becomes even more outspoken against the meat industry and Sam Kekovich, and every passionate ‘meat eater’ tells them to bugger off. I’ve seen the ad and I find it completely inoffensive. I view it more as a desperate attempt to undermine the vegan message, which is the fastest growing social justice movement of our time.

What I do find disgusting, is the vitriol and hate spewed at vegans all over social media. Veganism is viewed as extreme and opinionated. What is more extreme, gruesomely taking the life of an animal that doesn’t want to die, to serve a nutritional need that doesn’t exist, or choosing to acquire this nutrition from plant based sources?

Some vegans can be passionate about their beliefs and this rubs people the wrong way. ‘How do you know someone is vegan? Don’t worry, they’ll tell you.’ Yes, every vegan on Earth has heard this. It has lost what little appeal it ever had, if it ever had any. I guess all I can do is try and explain this passion and perceived arrogance from my personal viewpoint.

how do you know if someones vegan


The core of veganism is compassion and justice for all. Vegans have researched the statistics on animal slaughter and environmental degradation. They’ve watched videos of slaughterhouses, animal cruelty and live export atrocities that most turn away from as ‘out of sight out of mind’ or ‘too hard to watch’. They have spent their weekends publicly campaigning against the mistreatment of Australian ‘livestock’.

Vegans don’t do these things because they are easy. They don’t do them for any ounce of self-interest. They do these things because they care about their fellow earthlings. Vegans tend to be well informed because they are passionate about their beliefs and lifestyle choices.

Consider all of this. Then consider having your values system put in to question, often by people who are as informed on the issue as a brick wall. Sometimes it’s pointless piss takes, sometimes it’s absolute hatred. If I only had a dollar for every time a person engages me in the issues, abuses me then call me ‘extreme’ for being a vegan… Oh how many beach houses I could buy.

When someone sends me a Meme about vegans having protein deficiencies or vaginas, you can expect little respect back from me. I understand it might be all in good humour, which to my credit I tend to feign interest in, but when you align my belief – that we shouldn’t forcefully inseminate cows and steal their babies, we shouldn’t slit throats for the taste etc – with being less of a man, you’ll excuse me for thinking that deep down you’re either a dickhead or you have a shit sense of humour.


“When someone sends me a Meme about vegans having protein deficiencies or vaginas, you can expect little respect back from me.”

At some point it seems that male Australian culture became synonymous with meat eating and betting. My masculinity has been called in to question many times because I bring soy sausages to BBQs, I refuse to go to the races or I won’t go fishing. I’ve never been bothered by this, because I have never been ashamed to stand up for my beliefs, but geez it’s a dark day when this is what represents our culture. People consistently rant on about ‘Aussie Pride’ and being ‘Un-Australian’. The older I get, the more I’m content to detach myself from this culture if it continues down this path of alcoholism, over-supplies of testosterone and most importantly cruelty to other living things.

While most will enjoy their lamb chops this Australia day, I’ll enjoy devouring a meal that probably tastes better, is healthier, is cruelty-free and won’t give me early onset heart disease or bowel cancer. If you want to know more about animal ethics and agriculture I would strongly recommend ‘Earthlings’ and ‘Cowspiracy’. I used to think veganism was extreme, until I became one…


  1. newcountrygirl says

    Great article, James. And it’s helped me settle down a bit having seen the Australia Day ad – once is enough. I have been fulminating about it – featuring that person ‘who shall not be named’ any more in my household! I’m none too happy with her news reading either. I long ago stopped being drawn into arguments with aggressive people about animal rights and veganism because it’s proved not good for my health and sanity. But I work hard for animals and true friends seem to respect my passion and commitment.

    And the irony is that it’s men like you who are the real deal for women like me (in my late middle age, I mean that more in a motherly way!). If the so-called ‘real men’ understood how attractive kindness and compassion are … but that’s not going to happen anytime soon. Have a great Australia Day, knowing that you are doing the right thing by your conscience and the animals.

    • James Burford says

      Thanks for your kind words. It is often a frustrating and exhausting path that we have chosen, although we wouldn’t have it any other way. At the end of the day, Veganism is on the side of justice and morality as opposed to violence and oppression. Take solace in the fact that you are never alone in this fight for compassion and equality for all Earthlings 😊…

  2. Mareon says

    Unfortunately, you miss the whole point of the add. The add is a joke, and it’s been running for years. It could go either way, to say for example, a from vegetarian poking fun at meat eaters. It frustrating too see many people missing the whole point of the add, which is about satire, comedy and just to have a laugh. It’s not condemning vegetarians and all other political groups, who believe they own some sort of moral superiority then the rest of society. If you do believe it is attacking these particular groups, then the problem is not the commercial, it’s you. (Yes it does poke fun at them, however, it’s not to be taken seriously). This could stem from psychological to self es-teem problems, and there are many organisations that can help you with this.

    It has “NOTHING” to do with equality. Perhaps, yes, it could have a strong influence on young children to choose lamb on Australian day, and possibly… maybe…. barley associate this with their masculinity. However, if you’re a fully grown adult you should be able to see past it’s, indoctrination of lamb, and enjoy it for it humorous take.

    Even though this article is very well written, it lacks experience and education, foresight of how society and media work. Also, James, you should get some new friends if really do feel uncomfortable with them. Or maybe they’re just having a “joke”.

    • James says

      Hi Mareon. Thank you for your constructive criticism on my piece. I always welcome feedback on my writing.

      I’ll start, in no patronizing way, by suggesting you read the article again. Much of what you have written refers to the ad being a piece of satirical humor. I’ve acknowledged this and also added that I find the ad inoffensive, if not extremely off the mark. The issue I do raise within, is my concern for the shift in Australian male culture and values – particularly when it comes to Veganism. There is an undeniable presence of masculinity which coincides with meat eating, BBQs, racing, fishing etc… Alongside this is an underlying belief amongst many that if you don’t conform to these things then you are less of a man. On this note, while I appreciate your relationship advice, I have many friends – both vegan and non-vegan – who steer well clear of these values, not because they don’t partake in these things, but mostly because they’re bullshit.

      I’ll address the ad anyway. I FULLY understand that this ad is meant to be a piece of humor. Despite this, you don’t have to be a Vegan to see it’s just an expensive waste of money. Meat eater or not, I, and many of my lamb loving mates, just don’t find it that funny – not $1.2 million funny anyway. I guess that’s why lamb sales have steadily declined since this campaign began. That, and I think most people cottoned on to the fact that lamb is traditionally a Middle Eastern and Mediterranean dish, and has never actually featured as a corner stone in the history of Australia.

      I’m not sure Vegans think they are ‘morally superior’ – perhaps some do. If they do however, they’d have a pretty good case to put forward – after all, the fundamental belief of the Vegan is compassion and justice for all. Surely choosing not to kill things and eat their flesh makes them solid candidates. With this in mind, like any group of people, there are always those who represent their belief well and those that do not. The core philosophy however is near morally and ethically indestructible.

      The only thing that bothers me about your comments Mareon, is that you claim that what I have written lacks ‘experience and education’. Aside from the irony of me being a teacher, I believe I am extremely well versed to be giving opinions on this topic. I’m well educated on both sides of the argument and I have read and researched extensively on this industry. Further to this, my experiences in animal welfare and my extensive travel have taught me an awful lot. I’d be interested to know exactly what you mean by this.

      My move to Veganism didn’t happen overnight. Like many, I was addicted to the taste of animal flesh and animal products. I refused to think about how my meal got from A to B, because it was easier that way. When faced with the horrific realities of where our animal products come from, I couldn’t, morally or ethically, justify my choices anymore. The harder I tried to convince myself that consuming these products was okay, the more I realized I didn’t have a leg to stand on supporting an omnivorous diet.

      At the end of the day, humor or not, this ad is designed to do what all ads are designed to do – sell the product. With this in mind, it’s the product which I find morally reprehensible. You’re right in suggesting that the driving force of this campaign is humor, although if you take the time to unpack what they are selling, no one of sound mind should find it at all humorous… and if you do, well perhaps they need to take the advice you gave me and ‘seek help from organisations for their psychological or self-esteem issues’. How can one attach humor to killing a baby lamb? I dread to think about what those last moments are like as those poor souls, pleading for their mothers, are lead up the gangway to their impending death. The terror of seeing the blood soaked butchers blade and the feeling of having this painfully pressed against your neck before you are sliced and slowly bleed out whilst hanging by your leg. So Mareon, on behalf of every vegan who has been told, ‘It’s only meant as a bit of fun; a joke’… What is funny about this product and should it be driven by a campaign based on humor? If the campaign was changed to ‘Eat Puppies on Australia Day’ and we were serving up a two month old Golden Retriever, would it still be a ‘joke that I’m missing the whole point of?’

      All this aside, it is the industry I detest most, not the ad. Happy Australia Day.

  3. Christine Riding says

    I loved your article James (my thoughts exactly) and your reply to Mareon’s criticism. I’m sharing it and also saving some of your choice comments the next time people call vegans extreme.

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