‘Sale’ of panda meat, koala sausages part of endangered animals awareness campaign: honestbee

HUTOSH RAVIKRISHNAN Today Online 30 Mar 16;

SINGAPORE — Online grocery retailer honestbee’s offer on exotic meat, which has drawn flak online, has turned out to be part of the retailer’s campaign to raise awareness on the plight of endangered animals.

The grocer on Tuesday (March 29) started advertising the sale of exotic meats such as koala sausage, tiger’s tail and komodo dragon eggs on its website and social media pages. Users who placed orders were told that they would receive their orders on April 1.

The meats were supposedly from Explorer Joe Exotic Meats, which has its own website, with a fake company address and customer reviews.

Reaction on social media to the sale of such meats was swift and harsh, with some threatening to boycott the retailer and others criticising it as distasteful. Some others, such as Facebook user Jie Ling, guessed correctly that it was a joke. “What are the chances of them really selling (this) kind of meat in Singapore?” she said in a post.

As of Wednesday night, the group’s two posts about the "sale" of exotic meat had received 61 shares and more than 80 comments.

When contacted, an honestbee spokesman said the company had come up with the campaign “on the backdrop of April Fool’s Day, and rather (than) another meaningless prank or joke, we wanted to create something that is meaningful”. The campaign seeks to raise awareness on illegal wildlife trade, with specific focus on mink whales, snow tigers, sun bears and koala bears.

The retailer had been prepared for the backlash, and had, in fact, hoped that the campaign would be “controversial enough” to kickstart a conversation. “We knew it had to evoke attention, emotions and reactions from the concerned public to these endangered species. And it is also to bring awareness to the larger issues, like how sustainably responsible we are with our environment,” he said in a statement, noting that the company is not actually selling any of these meats.

Those who ordered the meats will not be charged. They will instead get a package of snacks resembling exotic wildlife and a card with information on illegal wildlife trade and what they can do to support the preservation of these animals. When asked about the number of orders placed, the spokesman declined to comment.

“When honestbee customers were able to order fake “curated selections” from the honestbee online stores, we received many concerned emails about what we are doing. Some thought it was a prank while others were completed angry with us, well who wouldn’t be, I would too,” he said.

“The emotions we evoked was real and raw, we hope this conversation can be taken further to drive that serious awareness to support these endangered species,” he added.

“I think we’ve been successful, because if you look at some of the forums discussing our campaign, (there are) users posting articles and information about endangered species,” said the spokesman. “(Conservation) is something all of us at honestbee are very passionate about, which is why we (went) ahead with the campaign, despite the negative reaction.”

Still, some customers remain unconvinced.

When told about the actual campaign, business development manager Kristy Wu, 28, said she still “found it quite distasteful” and that the campaign “didn’t make sense”. The animal-lover, who has been using the service twice a month, spending around S$100 each time, says she will boycott honestbee “for the time being”.

honestbee’s spokesman hopes that users such as Ms Wu will reconsider their decision. “We are just as passionate as they are about saving endangered animals and we hope that they can see that.”