My response to Lush’s controversial campaign

Last night, Lush Cosmetics came under fire for their new campaign which is for anti spy cops. These are police officers who go undercover to investigate situations that have been brought to light. Following a picture UK Cop Humour posted on facebook, many took to the LUSH UK facebook page to rate the company zero or one star ratings, meaning the ratings of the company has dropped despite normally having a five star rating.

Lush controversy
This is the display that rocked LUSH UK last night, with UK Cop Humour stating: “The latest “advertising” campaign by LUSH UK….. 🙄 You might now expect a 100% reduction in calls to the Police, given that they’re displaying their contempt in their shop windows…”[[[[
Many have stated that this window display is anti-police and serves as defamatory towards the Police force, with the “paid to lie” image visible to passers by of the franchise. However, I can see why people would think this at first glance, but I trust Lush as a company. They have helped many a time with charity events and their incredible ethical campaigns shed truth and light to many situations that go unnoticed in the world. Half of Lush’s target audience is young adults, who are mainly very passionate about some of Lush’s ethos such as Animal Welfare and fair trading. When I first saw this display, I didn’t think it was anti police, I was automatically confused. It seemed very shocking to have in a shop window so I had to pause, which I think was the intention of the campaign, but obviously it has backfired.

The box at the bottom that mentions the spy cop inquiry peaked my interest, and I immediately googled it, which again, was probably the point but It hasn’t gone accordingly. And what I learned was really quite shocking to read, and the whole point of this campaign was clearly to spread awareness of when spy cops can lead others into situations that aren’t fair on individuals.

This is what it says on the Lush website:

“Activists across the UK are living with the knowledge that they may have been spied upon by undercover police officers, with some even discovering that ex-boyfriends were in fact police spies. As the Public Inquiry into undercover policing continues, Activists are joining forces with Lush to ramp up an awareness-raising campaign, writes Lush Times reporter Katie Dancey-Downs

It sounds like an elaborate film plot. The man you loved and thought of as your committed partner is in fact an undercover police spy attempting to infiltrate your activist group.

You live together, you go on holiday together. Perhaps you even have a child together. You share intimate details with this man, who does not exist – at least not as the person you think he is. His name is not his real name – it is most likely the name of a deceased child, whose identity your partner is now using.

You believe you are in a loving relationship. In reality, your boyfriend is passing information about the activities of your activist group back to his handlers. When he’s not with you, he goes home to his wife and children. Eventually, he disappears without a trace, and you never hear from him again.

For the women tricked into sexual relationships with undercover police officers, stories like these are all too painfully real. They are the results of activity by units such as the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS), which was a secretive undercover branch of the Met police, designed to infiltrate British activist and campaigning groups. It was set up 50 years ago, in 1968, and groups like these operated nationwide.

In 2010, an environmental activist called Mark Stone was revealed as being none other than PC Mark Kennedy, an undercover policeman. He had been undercover for seven years, before his true identity was finally discovered by the activists he had been infiltrating, and he confessed when they confronted him.

Mark Kennedy’s is not the only case, and while the profiles of a further 20 undercover infiltrators have been discovered, the Undercover Research Group claims that in reality, hundreds of undercover police were deployed. Some of them were deployed before Mark Kennedy, some after.

Now, the people – most often women – left traumatised by what they call the “spy cops,” are demanding answers.

The Campaign

Behind the stories and allegations, a public inquiry first set up in 2015 by the then Home Secretary Theresa May is taking place into undercover policing. However, many of those who have been spied upon feel such a lack of confidence in the approach of the Inquiry, that they staged a walk out at a hearing earlier this year (21st March, 2018).

But they did not go quietly. These people are campaigners and activists – fighting for justice lies at the heart of everything they do and believe in and now, campaigning groups Police Spies Out Of Lives (PSOOL) and Campaign Opposing Police Surveillance (COPS) are working together to take a stand.

The campaigners have laid out their demands, and are now joining together with Lush to get their message spread further.

PSOOL and COPS have already launched a petition asking the UK’s new Home Secretary, Sajid Javid, to make some major changes to the current public inquiry.

In addition, Lush stores across the UK are now stocked up with postcards addressed to him, which members of the public can sign. The postcards call for a panel of experts to be instructed to assist the Chair of the Inquiry, and for the Inquiry to be extended to include Scotland. They also ask for three things to be released: the cover names of the officers, the names of the groups they spied on, and the personal files of victims.”

I think personally it’s a campaign that has its heart in the right place, but people are taking offence because they are only seeing it at face value. It would take two minutes to google about spy cops or even to ask a Lush employee to realise this isn’t an anti-police campaign. What I am finding particularly alarming is that a lot of the negative comments came from an online photo posted by UK Cop Humour stating their opinion, but at home, on the internet, is where we all had the time to google the campaign. But instead, people have chosen to spend that time writing nasty reviews of Lush, even though they have probably never shopped there before or understand their ethics. Comments such as “I don’t see what a bath bomb shop has to do with this” makes it clear that these are not loyal Lush customers, but instead people who have jumped on the bandwagon of negativity because it is something that is trending on Twitter.

Any every day customer of Lush will know that Lush gets involved with a lot of ethical things from animal welfare to fair trading. They do a lot for charity and for humanity, and their book clubs involve a lot of non fiction books that sheds light on LGBTQ issues and even to things such as Trafficking. A lot of the proceeds from their cosmetics go to charity, for example with their product charity pot.

I can see why people are angry, if you are seeing that image for the first time you are bound to be taken a back, but I don’t think the company and it’s employees deserves the amount of hate that is being thrown at them, for an idea that was probably down to a few people in the head office. I’ve seen people on twitter asking people to shop lift in stores, break the windows and scare the employees, which in my opinion is a lot worse than a misunderstanding of marketing.

Those Lush sales assistants, supervisors and managers work to earn a living and have nothing to do with the decisions made higher up- they are out of their control. Anybody who works in retail should know that a lot of the decisions are made by the head office and the shops have to comply. So it is disgusting that the employees are facing unfair backlash.

I know there are many parents concerned that their children will be afraid to speak to police officers after seeing these pictures, but what about when you go into a shop and see hard images on the front of newspapers? Explain to your children that it is a campaign for GOOD police officers, and that it is helping women and children for good reason (you don’t have to explain the details, as a child they probably do not care for them anyway.) But also think about the Women who are struggling with looking after the children of Spy Cops, who will ask questions about their father and won’t be able to get them. As a woman, any one of us could have been THAT woman. So please think with compassion that this is a good cause.

I think Investigative officers are needed. There are a lot of issues that are hard to tap into in the world if services are suspected, it’s a way of knowing what you are dealing with and being able to handle that situation. But the truth is, some of these spy cops are not efficient and instead, end up destroying the lives of people who are already victim’s. Females get raped, children get left behind. And people would rather accept Lush as an anti police company instead of accept them as a company trying to show the truth, but it’s clearly a truth Society isn’t ready to accept.

I know that this post is going to recieve criticism, but that’s okay, I’m not expecting everybody to respond to the campaign the way that I have, and I have already recieved nasty messages and threats from people who disagree via social media. But we have to think about the deeper messages, as with all things. And I know Police Officers are going to be upset about this, but maybe it could be turned positive if they could get involved in the campaign too. Lush did not mean to hurt anybody, that would never be the intention of the company and I think maybe the image was a bit too much for people to handle. It is very shocking at first, but it does make you think if you are willing to after having seen it. I think a poster should be outside all shop windows explaining about the campaign so that it is clearer, and any misunderstandings can be immediately cleared up to protect the employees who are trying to earn a living.

That being said, this is a Lush vs Police Officers situation or the other way around, this is Lush spreading awareness of victims who have been effected by SOME spy cops.

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